Lose weight, tone your body, get fit, get healthy, become “beautiful”, stay young. There are literally thousands of diet and quick-fit programs out there. A lot of people seem to be on the never-ending quest to drop weight, gain muscle, conquer smaller dress sizes, and even return to a body of old. For many people, this is a constant roller coaster of emotion, energy, frustration, anger, deprivation, gluttony and failure. Let us then talk about WHY we struggle to succeed because attaining a lasting body is impossible without losing emotional weight!
FYI: there is an industry/culture around you that is sabotaging any gains you make. There are far more fast food places than grocery stores. Healthy food costs significantly more than unhealthy food.
Here is why food is physically so appealing: when you are in the midst of feelings (whether you are aware of them or not), your body is in a state of stress/tension. When you eat food, your body transfers blood from your tense muscles to your digestive system. As such, you experience fake emotional relief, because you are feeling your emotional tension ease. There are other chemical reactions that allow your body to feel more relaxed, but that is all not real. The truth is that, although there is temporary relief, there are two very negative disadvantages: a) the feelings you had before you ate return after you have eaten since the issue has not been dealt with yet, and b) you are now adding unhealthy and stressing substances to a body that already has to deal with your emotional stress. You may not always feel these negative effects immediately, but they add up.
Remember, if your goal is to modify the way you eat, then you deserve to be successful without sabotaging behaviour. Emotional eating is also a cultural trait. Have you noticed how many food commercials are paired with emotions like happiness, joy, fulfilment, connection and so on? The economic science is that they cater to your emotions, NOT your hunger. If you FEEL like eating, you will eat.
Here are some signs of emotional eating that you can track for yourself: a) hunger shortly after meals, b) needing to eat while being entertained (i.e. TV, movies, attending sports events), c) eating when sad, angry, hurt, or other major emotions and d) feeling great hunger when others are eating – regardless of when you ate last (i.e. visiting friends, food courts in malls, driving by restaurants or fast food establishments). The point is to give yourself a chance to give your BODY what IT NEEDS and to know that if you emotions need something that you “feed” THEM. The key is that the body requires food and emotions require emotional work.
Enjoying food is fantastic. Stuffing your feelings is harmful. Next time you feel hungry, ensure that you have nothing else going on other than hunger. Try, for one week, to eliminate watching TV while eating. If you feel hungry late at night, think about how you are feeling, and keep a “hunger” journal. Next month, I will talk more about how to manage this successfully once and for all. If you have any questions or comments, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you need help, please reach out. Your happiness depends on it.
Until next time, be kind to yourself and others.
Geoff Ayi-Bonte MA RCC
Registered Clinical Counsellor