Does how you feel affect the way you eat? Does what we eat affect the way we feel?
Hectic schedules, readily available convenience and fast foods, and large portions present challenges every day. In many subtle ways, our environment tempts us to eat poorly. We constantly hear and see tantalizing messages designed to sell food and encourage us to eat.
Biologically, it is normal to experience a fluctuating appetite over the course of a day, and over the course of weeks. In addition, it is also normal for some people to want to eat more often, while others prefer to eat less often. However, the longer the time between eating, the more likely you’ll overeat. If you restrict your intake, you might experience the following consequences: pre-occupation with food, impaired concentration and memory, depression, mood swings, irritability and anxiety.
We spend decades developing our own unique relationship with food. As with any other relationship, there are ups and downs. Cultural factors such as traditional foods, family factors such as family meals, and social events and habits all have an effect on what and the way we eat.
Eating for Comfort?
Below are four strategies that help you get back in the driver’s seat and eat with confidence.
Make a list of non-food related activities that you could do for a few minutes instead of eating. For example, you might work on a crossword, brush your teeth, take a look around your garden, have a shower, or do some deep breathing and stretching. Keep a list of quick distractions on the fridge. Commit to doing at least one activity when you are trying to control your eating behavior.
It may help to plan a more involved activity for an especially challenging time of day. Choose that time of day to call friends on the phone. Plan to go for a walk or take an evening course that interests you.
Most urges tend to peak rapidly, stay for a while and then gradually decrease. Sometimes allow yourself to eat what you are craving, but only after you have waited for a while. Start with short delays of a few minutes and gradually work up to half an hour. Even if you end up having something you would prefer not to eat, if you delay the event for a while you successfully weaken the link between the trigger and your response. Try using your list of distractions while you wait.
Change Your Thinking
Be aware of “all or nothing” thinking. Do you tend to look at food as right/wrong, perfect/failure, a good/bad or love/hate? How about “I’ll start again tomorrow/Monday?” This extreme style of thinking can lead to bingeing and over doing it, feeling de-motivated and worn down emotionally. Be sure to allow all foods to fit and realize that eating should be flexible.
Manage Your Environment
It is normal to treat yourself to the foods you enjoy such as chocolate or chips, etc. However if your cupboards at home and desk at work are full with your favorite junk foods, it makes it an even bigger challenge to control how much and when you eat them. When you decide to treat yourself, make yourself work for it. For example, go for a walk, purchase the treat, then walk back home and REALLY enjoy it! Stock your home and work with plenty of healthy foods!
It’s ok to eat for other reasons than feeding our body. Eating FULLY is a balance between eating HEALTHfully and SOULfully. The goal is to recognize when you’re emotionally eating, and over time find balance and flexibility in your choices.