Find your purpose

Food is symbolic. You may well choose to eat something because it gives you a particular feeling as well as a particular taste—a Happy Meal, for example, isn’t just a burger, fries, and toy, but 15 minutes of peace and quiet for parents.

Your weight loss journey needs to have a purpose beyond just dropping kilos: it needs to stand for something meaningful to you, such as regaining control of your life, giving you back your confidence, or being able to kick a ball around with your kids.

The meanings you ascribe to particular foods can help you define your purpose and stay motivated. Choosing to eat something—and choosing not to eat something—isn’t just about losing weight, but about being in charge of your health and your life.

The next time you need to make a decision about what to eat or what to cook, as yourself the following questions:

  • 1

    How do I feel when I contemplate eating this food? For example, is it going to make me feel happy, guilty, or virtuous?

  • 2

    What does this food mean to me? For example, is it part of a personal ritual or habit, such as a chocolate biscuit with my afternoon cup of tea?

  • 3

    How do I feel when I contemplate not eating this food? Think about this in relation to its impact on your weight loss efforts, and on your attempts to form new, healthy habits.

  • 4

    Consider your answers to the above questions. Now think about what other rituals or habits you can form that don’t involve eating unhealthy foods, but that still give you the emotional satisfaction you need. For example, if you normally reach for the chocolate when you’re feeling stressed, why not call a friend instead, make a pot of herbal tea, or go for a walk on the beach?