March 21

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Food Beliefs Can Make You Gain Stress – and Weight

We all have beliefs about food that don't serve us. The can be based on fact but many are based on what we hear from friends, family or society. For instance, all carbs are bad. That's simply not true. Keep reading to learn about food beliefs, how they affect you, and how you can overcome them.

By Amy Vespa, MS - Integrative Clinical Nutritionist

March 21, 2022

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Hashimoto’s can be reversed with food and lifestyle changes, we know this for sure. But the needed changes can be difficult…and stressful. They require making new choices about food and daily habits that might have been in place for years. And when we start to focus on our food choices, our deeper thoughts around food come to the surface. These thoughts come from ingrained beliefs that we’ve acquired at some point during life.

A belief is thought that we consider to be a fact. Sometimes we create these beliefs based on experience and sometimes we get them from people around us. Either way, once a belief is established it becomes deep-rooted in our mind. Certain beliefs can be so ingrained that we don’t even realize we’re thinking, acting, and feeling based on them. Beliefs can be empowering or limiting.

When it comes to food and health, there are many limiting beliefs that keep people from reaching their health goals. These beliefs also add more stress to your Hashimoto’s journey. And more stress means difficulty losing weight and potentially adding more to your body.

In this article, we’ll talk about what these limited beliefs are, how to find yours, and how to change them so they support your goals. 

FOCUSING ON BELIEFS WILL HELP YOU MAKE CHANGES

So many of us hold beliefs around food that we are barely aware of. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Carbs are bad
  • Eat low fat to avoid gaining wait
  • Avoid all sweets
  • Eat salad for lunch because that’s what healthy people do

Statements like these determine our food choices and they cause a lot of negative emotions. What happens when we ’break’ one of our food rules? We feel guilt, shame, anxiety, and stress. Many times these reactions lead to more ‘rule breaking’ and increasing stress..

Thoughts like these hold us back. They make it difficult to listen to our body and make a decision about what our body needs at the moment. They also make it harder to enjoy our food. When it comes to reversing Hashimoto’s there are already enough changes, we don’t want them to be stressful!

Interestingly, most of these beliefs do not even come from our own experience. They come from the media, the people around us, that coach in high school, that one person who used all the food rules to get skinny, the packaging on food products, and so on. When you start to analyze your own beliefs, you’ll likely find that many are not even true for you!

FIND YOUR FOOD BELIEFS

The first step is to find your most limiting food beliefs. This can be tricky because they are so ingrained but paying attention to your thoughts will make this easier. Take a look at these questions:

  • What areas of your food and health are not changing the way you’d like? 
  • In what areas of food or health are you unhappy? 
  • Are there areas that make you feel unhappy, weak, frustrated, etc?
  • Does thinking about certain foods make you feel restricted, anxious, annoyed?

Spend some time writing out the answers and reflecting on why you wrote the answer. Don’t just think of your response, actually write it out to be able to truly analyze your thoughts.

Here is a real-life example:

It’s frustrating to still be at my current weight. I do everything right. I eat well and I exercise most days. I don’t go out for lunch with my coworkers anymore. My husband and I rarely go to restaurants. I haven’t even made my homemade bread in months!

Now, understanding the why behind each statement is important. 

Why doesn’t this person go out for lunches or dinners? Do they enjoy making their own food, or is it fear of making a ‘bad’ choice while out, eating the bread or chips on the table, or feelings of being judged for food choices?

Why haven’t they made their homemade bread? Is it a healthful change because of a documented sensitivity or allergy, or is it a concern about carbs?

Taking the time to fully answer these questions and write about the why behind your response will be enlightening. Finding your stress-inducing food beliefs and moving towards changing them will help you feel ease around food.

HOW TO CHANGE YOUR BELIEFS

After finding a few limiting food beliefs, now it is time to change them. Of course, this part takes time. Those beliefs have likely been around for a while so it will take time and repetition to change them. For each of the limiting food beliefs you found above, answer these questions:

  • Where did this thought come from?
  • Is it true?
  • What emotions does it bring up?

Now it’s time to reframe the statement into a positive or empowering thought. Do this by asking yourself the above questions. Here are some examples:

Limiting: Carbs are bad and I should avoid them to lose weight.

Questions

  • Where did this thought come from? When I did the Atkins diet in high school I lost all the weight I wanted to.
  • Is it true? Carbohydrates are a major fuel source for me. My brain needs glucose (from carbs) to function well. Vegetables have carbohydrates and I enjoy eating them. Rice, quinoa, and whole wheat are good for me and I like them.
  • What emotions does it bring up? Fear – that I will gain weight by eating carbs.

Empowering: Carbs are not bad. They give me energy for my day to take care of my kids, to do my best at work, to move my body. Listening to my body will help me choose the best foods for me.

It takes time to do this! Each time you have the thought consciously stop mid-thought and repeat your new, empowering thought.

Working through the emotion of fear will be the most important part of releasing this limiting thought. Using the empowering thought and experience of enjoying carbohydrates without gaining weight will eventually retrain your belief. And for extra support – try tapping.

TRY TAPPING FOR CHANGING FOOD BELIEFS

Beliefs are frequently tied to emotions. Perhaps a fear of eating fat (such as cheese) came from classmates making fun of your weight in school. Now your thought about ‘eating fat makes me fat’ is tied to emotions around embarrassment and shame. Releasing these emotions is the root of that limiting belief. 

A great tool for releasing emotions and reframing thoughts is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), or tapping.

EFT is a short exercise where you use your fingers to tap certain points on your head and chest while saying affirmations. This technique helps you release stuck emotions and replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

There are many sources that will guide you through the process. Once you are comfortable with the process, you can create your own affirmative statements. To begin, try out one of these videos:

Tapping with Brad Yates

Reversing Hashimoto’s is a journey that brings about many changes. Any food or lifestyle change you make should feel positive- for your physical body and emotions. If it doesn’t, give yourself the time and space to reflect and dig into your beliefs. Reframing limiting beliefs will make your Hashimoto’s journey much less stressful. And then you’ll have these positive beliefs for life!

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