We are all trained at a very early age about the connection
between food and comfort. The “Food is Love” concept
is continually reinforced throughout our lives: We are
offered candy for a scraped knee, we celebrate birthdays with
cake, holidays with cookies and visiting home or a social event
always seem to be associated with baked goods of some sort.
Food is also prevalent at so many of our favorite activities, like
watching a movie or a baseball game. We rely on meals for their
social aspect, such as spending time with family and friends. By
the time we are adults, we learn that food makes us feel better. So
if we don’t like how we are feeling, we eat.
“Food is the No. 1 mood-altering substance used in the
United States,” says Marilyn Migliore, R.D. and author of The
Hunger Within. “That’s because in the moment, food gives you
something pleasurable to focus on instead of the problems that
you are facing in your daily life.”
Feeling lonely or bored? Eating gives you something to do.
Stressed or angry? Eat and you’ll surely relax! Feel happy?
Celebrate with dessert!
Although we know that exercise relieves stress and anxiety,
eating is easier and provides instant gratification. Emotional eating
is defined by using food to avoid feelings of sadness, stress,
anxiety, loneliness, anger, body dissatisfaction, etc. Unfortunately,
it’s not broccoli that you crave when you’re feeling and emotional
need, it’s fat and sugar.
Emotional eating can keep you from reaching your weight
goals and leave you feeling like a failure. An emotional eater may
even turn to destructive behavior, such as fasting or purging
(anorexia and bulemia) to try to offset the extra calories.
The way to break the cycle is to start by learning when you’re
eating for hunger or when you are eating based on emotions. You
can remove a lot of the guesswork by planning ahead. Schedule
three regular meals a day with a snack late morning and midafternoon.
Don’t eat in between those times, not even a grape!
When you take care of your body by building a structure of
nourishing food into your day, you’re less likely to succumb to an
emotional eating episode. Keeping a food journal is another way
to accept more accountability for what you eat. You can note the
foods that you turn to and try to come up with alternate choices
to help you with control. Look for a pattern when you seem to
sabotage your diet goals so you can attempt to correct it.
Exercises is always important because when you are putting
effort taking care of yourself, you are less likely to undermine your
efforts by eating poorly. Taking care of yourself physically by staying
active and making good choices at mealtime will help you
stave off the emotional food rollercoaster.
Despite these steps, we all still overdo it from time to time.
But rather than beat yourself up afterwards, just resolve to do better
next time. As briefly mentioned above, exercise plays an important
role in helping you stay on track when you are attempting to
take on a healthier lifestyle through proper nutrition. When you are
involved in a regular exercise program, such as meeting regularly
with a personal trainer, you are more likely to stay on track with better
food choices. It’s easier to avoid that chocolate chip cookie if
you just pushed yourself through three sets of lunges!
As we mentioned in the last article, and the motto that we
share with our clients on a daily basis “Health = Happiness.”
If we were to break that motto down one step further, we
would tell you that health = lifestyle. In order to have total health,
you have to take it on as a lifestyle and incorporate into how you
think, how you eat, how you exercise and how you feel about
yourself. Health never tasted so good.