By Carol Crenna
You may have good excuses for why you’ve gained weight, but sometimes it’s less about what you’ve been eating and more about what’s been eating you.
YOUR BODY WASN’T MADE TO DEAL WITH THE CONSTANT STRESS in our world, and it’s often a root cause of emotional eating. Food has been linked to strong emotions since you were born. A few minutes after birth, you were given your mother’s breast and cuddled, immediately connecting food with love and comfort.
If you don’t get nurturing from yourself and others as an adult, you find temporary substitutes for oral gratification that become addictions.
IF EATING IS OFTEN TRIGGERED BY CRAVINGS OR EMOTIONS, rather than a conscious effort to nourish your body, you need to discover exactly why you’re seeking comfort.
In Kristina Sisu’s book Food and the Emotional Connection (Seraphine Publishing 2002), she states, “Understanding your relationship with food can be an amazing path of self-discovery, an opportunity to know your deepest secrets and your greatest strengths, and to unravel the chaos that dwells within us all.” It will not only help you to lose weight, but to live a healthier, happier life, and to enjoy food much more.
WHY DO YOU EAT?
Is it due to hunger, boredom, lack of sleep, worry, loneliness, or to temporarily avoid having to do something that you don’t enjoy? The next time you reach for a snack, ask yourself three questions: 1. Am I hungry? 2. Am I trying to avoid or ease or energize? 3. Is there something better that I could do to relieve the feeling
“STRESSED” SPELLED BACKWARDS IS “DESSERTS.”
Taking control of stress takes thinking ahead. Consult this to-do list the next time that you want to put something in your mouth:
1. Wash the dishes. When you become constructive your mood changes, and that’s the goal.
2. Pick up the phone instead of a bag of Kringles, and talk to a friend.
3. Take your dog for a walk…or at least walk into another room to change your environment.
4. Give yourself a pedicure or hot bath. Caring for yourself banishes the munchies.
5. Drink water or herbal tea. Cravings are often caused by dehydration, and drinking something soothing satisfies your need for comfort.
6. Paint, doodle, or just mend something. Creativity lifts your spirit.
7. Keep an inspirational book or motivational CD close by for when your mood sinks.
8. Relax by doing stretching exercises or 10-minute yoga, even at your desk.
9. Do you eat too much because you always have “too much on your plate”? Unload a task onto someone else, mend a broken relationship, or schedule that holiday you’ve been putting off.
10. Breathe. When you’re feeling stressed, tired or your mind is preoccupied, your breathing is very shallow. Oxygen re-energizes your brain.
11. The fastest way to change your emotions is by changing your body. If you put a big smile on your face and stand with shoulders proudly back, it’s literally impossible to be in a bad mood! The next time you want to comfort yourself with food, jump up and down like you just won the lottery!
12. Maybe you just need to have a good long cry or laugh or hug.
HIDING SOMETHING BEHIND YOUR FAT?
It’s often a safety blanket or a suit of armor that keeps you from having to deal with the outside world. It’s easier to wage war on fat by going on a strictly regimented diet or exercise crusade than to confront unmet needs and unresolved emotional issues.
In Sisu’s book, she says that we tend to be unconscious of the effects of the food we eat, and the vicious cycle of craving foods with little nutritional value, and then the negative self-image that follows eating them can be overwhelming, making us feel trapped by an inner demon. Let go of “good” or bad” labeling of foods and moral judgments placed on yourself when eating. Instead ask, “what will serve my body?”, and then feel the effect that a food has on your body after eating it.
SPIT IT OUT TO GET SLIM!
Become completely honest with yourself (and everyone else), and stop hiding your feelings. If you stuff something into your mouth, you may actually need to get something out, but can’t say it. “Swallowing” negative thoughts doesn’t get rid of them.
If the food of choice is something crunchy, you need to relieve anxiety, boredom or anger. If it’s a comfort food like ice cream, you need conscious comforting and to openly express your sadness or frustrations. Learn to ask for what you want from others and say “no” to what you don’t want. And when you’re finishing off that tub of ice cream, think “short-term pain, long-term gain!”
Carol Crenna will be teaching “Why Weight?” – a personalized weight loss course – through Vancouver School Board Continuing Education beginning October 1, 2012 (six Mondays) http://www.continuinged.ca. This article originally appeared in VISTA Magazine by Carol Crenna.