The Emotional Impact Of Food

Breaking up in a toxic relationship can sometimes be hard can’t it? Leaving behind someone that has left us feeling good, stroked our emotions and feelings, been there for us in tough times, yet somehow has not always been the best thing for us.

Why do we struggle to leave when we know, really, it’s best for us?

Yet we continue on day after day allowing ourselves to be dragged through it because its comfortable, familiar, and makes us feel good. Sometimes really good.

Now, imagine if you will, that’s our relationship with food.

Of course we can’t totally break it off, but we may need to set some clear and healthy boundaries with it.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all have some type of relationship with food in our lives.

Of course those relationships and how they look largely depend on alot of things.

How we were raised.

I’d say that is most likely one of the biggest factors. How was food treated in your home while you were growing up?

Was it healthy and nutritious? Were you taught balance and good eating habits?

Were there the usual times of holidays and celebrations where it was expected you’d eat another piece of pie? ( cause hey Thanksgiving!) And that’s allowable 😄

Or was it the complete opposite with eating in excess and indulgence the norm? Eating way past the point of your hunger being satisfied until you were “stuffed “?

Perhaps it was somewhere in between.

Where ever you land, don’t underestimate how that has shaped your behavior with food today.

We’ve trained ourselves.

Like anything in our lives, we train ourselves in routines of habit.

Times we get up or go to bed. How we brush our teeth, prepare for our day, how we organize things…..it’s all set habits and routines we’ve formed.

Our eating and food choices are no different…..good or bad.

You’ve trained yourself to get snacks at the convenience store or trained yourself to load your shopping cart with fruits and veggies. Or you make a stop for morning coffee with or without a donut.

Perhaps it’s the drive thru coming home from work for a “snack” before dinner.

Whatever it is, you may have built habits with food to help you cope with emotional issues.

To do things differently will mean an intentional, purposeful, act to rebuild new positive and healthy habits.

Awareness leads to success

It hit me like a ton of bricks a few years back on this journey I’m on.

I had grown up in and with a household of emotional eaters.

Food was used for everything.

Happy? Sad? Celebrating? Angry? The weather changed? Boredom? Loneliness?

Comfort food wasn’t just a vague description….it was used to feed emotions.

Becoming aware of that made me even more mindful of my eating habits. Although not to the extreme of many family members, I had my own Achilles too.

If I found myself roaming looking for something I’d first think ” am I hungry?”

If that was a solid no, I removed myself and tried to assess what the reality was that I did need.

As I got further down the road of understanding myself, and being more mindful, food had a lot less pull to do it.

To this day, I still need to be mindful. Ingrained habits can take a long, long time to retrain, but it can be done.

You simply have to be real with yourself about those weak areas and then be willing to discipline yourself in new ways.

Oh. And don’t quit just because you don’t “get it right” immediately. Small daily steps lead to big victories

The mental shift

My brother and I were talking recently about similar things. He has been on his own journey. He’s lost a ton of weight and been faithful to strength training and learning to embrace cardio a bit more 😁

I’m super proud of his efforts. But it hasn’t been without his own struggles along the way too. His weakness for sweets, eaten often in secret, was a huge thing to work at overcoming.

He has had to take huge steps in the mental awareness area to continue being successful.

We talked about people who had lots of weight to lose ( like 100s of lbs) and the modern day quick fixes of surgeries and extreme diets….and how the majority failed and only regained the weight lost.

Why?

There was never a change in their mental behavior. There was never a shift in their relationship and behavior with food.

Whatever underlying problems drove them to eat and use food as an emotional coping tool were still there.

Without that being changed, you will continue in all the negative behaviors and patterns that led to becoming over weight.

The same is true for all of us. We have to know, recognize and understand why we do what we do with food.

Eating to ease the things inside of us is a negative way to deal with life, yet for many it becomes a coping mechanism for deeper issues.

If you struggle, here are things to consider.

Know your triggers. What causes you to reach for food? Keeping a notebook might be helpful to look back at to help you see patterns of behavior.

Are there times of day you feel weaker or less likely to make better choices?

What are your personal family dynamics with food? Healthy or not so healthy?

Do you mindlessly eat? Do you eat food without being present and enjoying it? Or do you just go through the motions?

Are you always thinking of food? Really, we shouldn’t be. If you eat adequate food ( enough to satisfy your appetite without over eating) and it’s nutritionally dense healthy food you won’t be hungry. Putting food in a proper position in your mind is important to success too.

Be patient and kind to yourself on the journey! Know you won’t change over night but be willing to keep moving forward and not give up.

These are just a few suggestions, you may think of others.

For any diet or weight loss program to be succesful, leading to a permanent lifestyle change your mind must be on board to a healthier you. You must deal with and let go of negative behaviors and build in new positive ones.

If your mind is not changed, you will keep repeating the cycle over and over again.

Would you agree or disagree our minds play the most important part of weight loss?

That Stupid Scale

20150311_170859-1Let’s face it…. truth time…..

In our lives we’ve all had relationships with scales… and it’s usually a love/hate relationship.

THE SCALE – our judge, jury, condemner, slammer of our self-esteem and worth. The “thing” that has the ability to take our good, happy day and turn it to crap based on what numbers dial up like a slot machine in Vegas. Those numbers can make us feel like a million bucks or a huge failure.

If the numbers are “good” we allow it to stroke our self-esteem… like our personal value is hinging on those numbers.  If we determine they are “bad” then it can single handedly take us down, making us feel instantly bad about ourselves. Might as well paint a big loser symbol on our chest and send us out into the world.

Let’s establish this right now… you are not “just” a set of numbers… ok ?? There is far more to you than a set of numbers.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The scale does have a value, but it’s a tool, and there are times we need to use that tool, but use it wisely.

When I started my fitness journey, I needed to lose weight, and my weekly weigh in’s were important to my progress.

Did you note the key word here?  Weekly.  Not many times in a week, a day, or several times a day, weekly… once.

I won’t lie. I was in the same boat.

Some weeks,  I loved the damn thing. Other weeks, I had to resist throwing it out the window. I understood for my progress to be successful it needed to be slow and steady, which it was. Some weeks there was more, some less, but it was forward movement.

You know what that scale didn’t tell me ? What it doesn’t tell you?

How awesome you are no matter your size, even as you are seeking to be less of you. It doesn’t take away that amazing feeling you have finishing a workout. Before I’d lost any weight worth mentioning, I mentally felt great after coming in from my walks (that’s where I started in the beginning before, the sickness started, you know, the sickness that is making me run a  50K 😉

The scale also doesn’t show all the cool stuff that is going on INSIDE you. It doesn’t show your lab tests improving, your heart and lung health getting stronger, your resting heart rate getting lower (and a whole lot of other scientific stuff)  or the way you think of yourself, your growing confidence and stronger self-esteem, or the way those workouts help you feel less stressed.

Nor does it show how empowered you are becoming with each workout and positive step forward.

No. It won’t show you any of that.

Being a certain number doesn’t make you “healthy”…. nor does striving to just be “thin”….. it can make you skinny fat which basically means you have more body fat percentage than lean muscle mass. Ah, the benefits of building lean muscle mass… another topic to be pursued….

The goal shouldn’t be to get “thin”.  Oh, years ago when I was starting to lose weight that WAS my mentality.

“I just want to be thin and fit in size 10 jeans again!” at that point that’s all I knew….all I wanted.  Make the scale say less… life would be good.

I didn’t realize it could be so much better than just a quest to be “thin” and trying to achieve some perceived number of “perfection.”

But then…. things happened along the way. Yeah, I was losing fat. But other cool stuff was happening too.

Losing fat let my muscles start showing up. Lifting weights wasn’t just giving me some muscles but making me stronger for ALL  of my daily living. I went from cute 5lb weights to the 35lb I currently use.

Running was shaping me in crazy ways. My legs are not only wildly strong but have awesome muscles. I can’t tell you the times total strangers stop me to comment my legs. My abs leaned out.  Actually I can’t tell you a single area that running hasn’t improved on me.

I got faster. I could lift more. I tackled projects in life without needing someone “stronger” to help me.

I got mentally stronger….tougher.  My confidence grew. I was empowered and didn’t ( and don’t)  consider that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do.

Oh wait…… hold on ……. do you see my numbers at work here ? Defining me ?  No, I don’t either.

You see now days I’m more concerned about what my body can do, and how it can perform doing the things I ask of it, rather than if my numbers are bouncing around on any given day. Today I can’t think of a better compliment than when someone tells me I look strong.

I honestly get on a scale maybe twice a year and it’s at the doctors office. Total freedom.

You see the scale was a “tool” to get me moving. I used it for it’s purpose. It allowed me to see my efforts of eating better and moving more were having results.

Today, all my clothes  are single digit sizes. Remember me mentioning all I wanted was to get back into my size 10’s? I never thought a day would come they’d be two sizes to big. As long as my clothes fit well, I don’t concern myself over numbers hopping around on any given day.

I mean, why ?  Don’t we have enough in our days to trouble us ? Enough negative to potentially bring us down? Do we need to give something like …a scale… that kind of power ??

Ok…. the take away for you my lovely 1.5 readers….

The scale is a tool. Use it as one ( wisely) on your weight loss journey.

It is not your moral judgment.

If you are at the weight you desire to be, how your clothes fit should be a good indicator of your weight, however, if you check in with it, once every week or two is probably enough.

Remember, you are not defined by a number! It’s doesn’t give you value or take away your value.

Focus on all the cool things that make you feel strong, empowered, and confident.

Celebrate your body and what it can do. There’s only one of you in all your awesomeness.

Most of all, love yourself, on the journey to your destination =)

Approval Not Needed

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So with the big hoopla in the media this week about Kelly Clarkson and her (gasp) weight (is it anyone one else’s business but hers?) it really stirred up a topic that’s been rolling around in my head for awhile to write on and this was just the catalyst to let it out.

No, not her weight. Not yours or mine or the family dogs. Actually, this has nothing to do with that topic.

I was more impressed and high fiving her for her ” I don’t care what you or anyone else thinks, I’m awesome” attitude and comment over that issue.

Approval. She pretty much thumbed her nose at the idea she needed someone else’s approval to be happy and be herself. Kudos to you Kelly.

Approval.

We come into this world almost wired for it. In the beginning it’s our parents/ family, we get in school it becomes our peers, later it becomes our boss, co-workers, friends, still family, sometimes even perfect strangers.

If we’re fortunate as we grow up and mature becoming more comfy in our own skin and who we are, we become less concerned over the need for approval of others.

I mean really, at the end of the day, approval given is based on personal opinions, values, beliefs, how we were raised, and even what our personalities are.

I was recently chatting with a young friend who was expressing to me the idea of doing something and I said… “well, just do it”.

His response was… “yeah, but I just worry about what other people are gonna think”… I laughed and told him I didn’t care anymore….

He responded with… ” yes, but you’ve had more life experience to get to that point” and he’s right. I have lived enough life to get to that point. I’m grateful for that ’cause honestly, it’s total freedom.

My “approval needed” list is tiny, one digit, small now days.

I reminded him that approval can be subjective, or it can be a “control” thing with some people. Withholding approval, not giving it, can often be a silent way of expressing personal displeasure, which is then projected onto the person.
Basically, their way of saying they don’t like what you’re doing or have done or that they wouldn’t do it . As stated above, that would be based on personal feelings, beliefs, values, etc.
I reminded him that it can be those closest to us who might withhold it but if he wanted to grow and move forward, he’d need to live his own life and pursue his own dreams.

It can be a hard step to move into. But it’s also seriously freeing. You have your own life to live….. to be yourself.

You don’t need approval to embrace your life and live it to the fullest being who you are.

So hat’s off again to Ms. Clarkson for reminding the rest of the world to smile and say “I don’t care what you think, I’m awesome”

You…. go be awesome.

No, I’m Not Eating My Emotions

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Food. I like that stuff.

Now days, my food choices are vastly different than those pictured above.

I’ll freely admit that I’ve had to get it in it’s proper perspective over the last few years. Growing up food was the “thing” that you celebrated with, gathered on Sundays for, had extra helpings of, and most importantly, you always, always cleaned your plate. It didn’t really matter you weren’t hungry anymore…  just ignore your bodies natural signals of being full and clean your plate.

Happy, sad, angry, depressed, bored, restless, frustrated, holidays, bad weather, stressed, whatever……. all opportunities to eat.

My grandmother and mom were great cooks, and it needs to be mentioned, bakers too. I freely admit to being a baked good snob and can often pass on  store bought goodies and cake mix cakes and bagged cookies. I mean, no offense, but when you’ve had a made from scratch 3 layer German Chocolate cake, anything else is simply an imposter.

They ruined me.

I mean, not totally, ’cause I’m a pretty good baker myself and can make cakes that grown men offer marriage 😉 and my sons friends immediately sought to raid my cookie jar because ( according to them) I was the “only” mom who baked real cookies haha

So yeah, food, it was a big deal…. used on many levels in a completely improper way.  I hadn’t come to the knowledge (yet)  that food was to primarily be fuel for my body.  Not a sporting event.

As I got older, I realized that my family definitely was a family of “emotional eaters”. My grandmother was very over weight as was my mom.  Actually, if I’m being honest with you, they were considered obese. My brother struggled with his weight most of his life. I had steadily gained weight for a few years when I finally got the kick in the butt to make some changes before I might too have to deal with health issues that plagued my mom, grandmother and brother.  I had watched my family use food for comfort and a distraction from boredom for years but was fortunate to have my eyes opened to that.

I often referred to it as mindless eating.

It might look like this: constant grazing while cooking, continuing to eat and pick food from bowls after the meal was long over (and large seconds had been had) eating during the clean up process, basically just consuming food without any thought of what was being done…. or an awareness you’re eating when you aren’t even hungry.

I knew I needed to make myself intentionally mindful of this process to avoid the downfall of a lifetime of emotional eating.

It wasn’t easy. I became aware of the weak part of my days/nights where I’d look for food and not be hungry or when I thought about grabbing something ’cause I might feel stressed, angry, or bored.

Over the past few years I’ll say I think I’m pretty on top of it now…. and I’m very conscious when I let myself do it.

I remember one night after a rather stressful day my husband walked into the kitchen… I had a bag of BBQ chips out on the counter (for the record… I LOVE BBQ chips… but I’m pretty sure they have crack in them) and I was standing there just munching them down… I looked at him and said….

“I want you to know that I’m fully aware I’m totally emotionally eating right now”

I was being kinda silly about it but I was serious too. I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t need to eat them.

It’s a huge step to identify things in your life that are a stumbling block to your health and fitness goals. Once you know your triggers you can make those slow steady changes to freedom.

To break free you must first:

Be real with yourself. Stop making excuses for eating what you don’t need.

Call it what it is… emotional, mindless eating. An unnecessary and unhealthy habit.

Remove yourself from temptation. And that means…get outta the kitchen.

When it was evening and I had eaten and wasn’t hungry, I just brushed my teeth. I knew I wouldn’t get anything after going through that process.

Write down times you feel most vulnerable, or things that drive you to eat when you aren’t truly hungry. Doing this for a week or two will show you patterns that you can then use as a defense strategy.

You love your family… but look at ways you may be influenced to participate in doing this just because it’s always “what you’ve known”. You can still be a part of the fam without engaging in this 😉

Finally, be kind to yourself as you move through this. Awareness is the first huge step to success. Press on and use each day to move forward to freedom =)