I thought I came up with the word foodstravangza when I first used it a couple of months ago but then found out that I wasn’t as clever as I thought, and should have searched for it first. Google really is my friend. So now that I know I’m not the creative super genius I had hoped, I’m still using the word because I like it. And it works here because sometimes your strongest cravings for food happen when you’re under stress, facing difficulties, sad or when you’re bored. To deal with these situations, you may turn to food for comfort, consciously or unconsciously.
In the short term, stress can reduce your appetite. A part of the brain produces a hormone which suppresses it. But if stress continues, another hormone is released that increases your appetite and may boost motivation in general, including your motivation to eat.
Research has shown that there’s a potential bridge between emotional eating and early memories. For some, their earliest memories connect food with feelings of being loved and nurtured. Often family eating patterns reinforce the connection. Food is sometimes used to reward children for good behavior or to reduce anger or disappointment. Or they’re praised if they eat all the food on their plate. Some adults may continue to feel they must eat whatever’s on their plate when food is given to them, like at a restaurant.
Because food can symbolize love, some people eat to feel better when they are feeling depressed, angry, guilty, anxious or lonely.
Decide to make a change
The key to dealing with feelings is to recognize them. Decide how to cope. While it may seem like reaching for food happens automatically, it only happens if you don’t give yourself any other option. So, if you’ve trained yourself to eat chocolate every time you argue with someone, the next time it happens, you’ll find yourself automatically reaching for chocolate. Only you can make this change by choosing to do something else.
When you feel like eating, pay attention to your mood. Are you angry, lonely or anxious? Before you eat, take a minute to write down exactly how you’re feeling. Is there something specific causing the feeling? What can you do about it?
Some options to deal with feelings
Comforting yourself with food only masks the problem. Make a list of alternatives to eating that might help you cope with the feelings you have when you’re reaching for food. Here are some examples.
Resolve the problem
If there’s a particular issue that’s causing these feelings, it’s important to work through it, especially if it’s something that’s lingering or keeps recurring. If you’re afraid to deal with the problem, talk to a professional to give you some advice.
Talk to someone
Friends, family and other people you trust can help you through stressful situations and encourage you to meet your goals. They can offer you advice, be your champion, or even just be there for you to listen to you talk. If you don’t feel you have someone to confide in, speak to a professional to help you work through your concerns.
The benefits of physical activity on how you feel, to combat stress, and for overall wellbeing are far too well documented to be ignored. A range of exercises such as strength training, cardio, martial arts, cross-training, Pilates, yoga, and walking can all help. If you can’t get motivated to do anything, see if a friend or family member will go with you, or if it’s in your budget, work with a personal trainer.
Taking time to relax helps to reduce stress, calm you down when you’re angry and can help you think clearly. Think about a time you were in an argument with someone and left the room before things got too heated. Did you calm down once you removed yourself from the situation? Some things you can try to help you relax include meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, deep breathing, reading, taking a bath and doing some stretches.
Do something for yourself
Make it a goal to pamper yourself; do something that you always wanted to do. If you don’t have a lot of time or if it isn’t in your budget, try a workaround that you can do at home. For example, if you’ve always wanted to go the spa, create a spa day at home. My post Feel like a million bucks with this all natural DIY Spastravaganza has instructions.
When you’ve finished making your list of alternatives, make a conscious decision not eat when you’re experiencing your trigger feeling(s) and do something on your list instead.
For other tips or support, ask your healthcare provider.
Do you have any other suggestions for dealing with things without reaching for food?