Source:  FoodMatters

Should you have that cookie, or shouldn’t you?

Your best friend’s birthday party is coming up next week and you should be excited, but…the only thing you can think about is how you’re going to stop yourself from losing control at the buffet line. Sandra from work stopped eating carbs and lost 10 pounds last month—should you jump on the carb-free bandwagon too? All the diet confusion and resulting anxiety is driving you bonkers. All you want to do is eat in a way that helps you lose weight, feel balanced and get healthier.

So, what do you do?

Here are 5 strategies that will get you there if you start putting them into action right now:

Know That Mistakes Are Not Permanent 

You don’t need to compensate for eating behavior that you consider ‘bad’, like picking a burger over a salad for lunch or caving in to that extra-large cookie, with habits like starvation, over-exercising, food restriction or purging, all of which don’t benefit you physically or emotionally in any way. Instead of beating yourself up and falling into a negative, downward spiral, get into the habit of practicing self-compassion by acknowledging why you slipped up and get back on track as quickly as you can. No mistake is permanent and you have what it takes to do what it takes to succeed.

Have A Bounce-Back Strategy in Place

If feelings of fear, anxiety or anger stemming from food and eating are holding you back from being with the people you love, something’s not right. You’re human—it’s not possible to be 100% perfect 24/7 and there’s no shame in experiencing the occasional bout of overeating, which often happens at social events. What’s more important is that you give yourself permission to make mistakes now and then, and have a strategy in place that not only minimize the chances of these mistakes happening, but also helps you bounce back into your healthy zone when they do happen. If you mess up with one meal, acknowledge it without judgment and move on quickly by deciding how you’re going to make your next meal a more nutritious one.

Pick Solutions That Empower You

Turning to food when you’ve had a bad day can soothe you temporarily, but if you’ve been doing it for a while now, you’d know that it can have not-so-great effects on your physical appearance, health and well-being. Rather than depend on food for comfort, try focusing your attention on healthier and more productive ways of dealing with the difficult situations that life throws your way: Talk to a friend you trust, work off all that pent-up energy in a kickboxing class or just go for a mind-clearing walk. Pick a solution that offers you the same reward that the food otherwise would, whether it’s stress relief, feeling good about yourself or wanting more control over a situation where you feel helpless.

Know How Food Affects Your Health and Fitness

When it comes to weight loss, a calorie is just a calorie so it doesn’t matter what you eat, right? Not quite. The energy you get from say, a salad, is very different from that from a Twinkie, and can affect whether you lose your excess weight and keep it off in the long-term, say health experts. Arming yourself with science-backed information like this will allow you to choose the best food options, and tweak what and how you eat as your lifestyle, circumstances and health situation changes throughout your life.

Focus on Living a Rich, Fulfilling Life

People who have a healthy and happy relationship with food see it as a source of both fuel and pleasure. What you’ll never find them doing is over-thinking food. This means that they pay just enough attention to the every-day tasks involved in putting their meals together, like shopping for their groceries, deciding which restaurant to head to or where to buy their take-out. They’re too busy exploring and enjoying every other aspect of living to spend more time than necessary thinking.