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?

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 =)