“I just can’t believe he said no running for six months” she half mumbled, half sobbed through her spoonful of froyo topped with more candy than I remembered seeing on the grocery store shelves.
Sometimes emotional eating is just that obvious and we know that we’re doing it. Other times it’s the subconscious mid-afternoon can’t think about work anymore grab a piece of candy from that co-workers desk kind of stress eating.
Reaching for food as a coping mechanism is extremely common – and of course worst of all we’re doing it when we aren’t hungry and usually aren’t coping with a big ol’ carrot.
We all handle our emotions differently – some days we go for a long run or go to a yoga class to relieve the stress. Sometimes we just want to lay around and watch a movie, and other days we keep opening up the fridge or heading to the pantry without even realizing it.
We’re taught early on that food = love.
It’s how we celebrate big moments. It’s the comfort food mom serves when we’re sad. It’s the dishes we bring after a funeral to care for a family. That’s part of what makes quitting any food so tricky, right along side the fact that sugar is addictive.
How is it that my body craves vegetables and yet also wants cake? In fact my veggie preference is probably the one thing that drives people nuts when we travel! But I love something sweet to finish it off. This is where emotions play such a huge part in driving our eating habits. As stated by Dr. Barry Sears:
If you are depressed… or are physically or mentally stressed (which increases cortisol levels), you are likely have cravings for carbohydrate-rich comfort foods like mashed potatoes, candy bars, and pizza. These foods do provide temporary emotional comfort by increasing blood sugar levels and serotonin levels in your brain. Two or three hours after eating these foods, however, your insulin levels will soar, causing your blood sugar levels to plunge.
This forces your body to increase cortisol production to maintain adequate blood sugar levels to the brain. Thus, you’ll wind up increasing your production of cortisol, which will, in turn, generate more depression and require another cycle of self-medication with carbohydrates.
Let’s look at a typical change to our eating habits…
Day 1 – Awesome I’m going to give up sugar and feel so good!!
Day 2 – Oh gosh there’s cookies at the office…they really look good, but I won’t.
Day 3 – Man someone brought in my favorite chocolate, I really shouldn’t.
Afternoon of Day 3 – GAHH I had a piece, I suck at this, I’ll never be able to quit eating sugar, I’ll never lose the weight, I’ll never….WOHOOA did you see how quickly that spiraled.
Does this mean we’re doomed? No, I think it means we need to work on our thoughts to be successful.
Just like you have to trick your brain to run a little farther when you’re tired, you have to give it something else to focus on with food.
What if you had a conversation with yourself that said:
Yes I know I want that cookie and I’m really frustrated right now that I can’t have it. I deserve to have the things that I want, I work hard. That’s true you do deserve to have whatever you want, so if it’s worth the trade off of calories and won’t make me feel bad tomorrow for breaking my word, then let’s enjoy it.
Sometimes the act of permission is all it takes to change our path or at least realize 1 treat is not Earth shattering.
Other ways our emotions play a role in eating:
- Food is love – we celebrate special occasions with cake or big dinners
- Eat all your veggies and you can have dessert – don’t we learn as kids that dessert is the good part?
- Sugar is cheap – in hard economic times sugar sales always increase. It’s a way for people to to feel like they are treating themselves when pinching pennies.
- Food is comfort – when someone is sick or there is a death, what do we do? We bring soup or casseroles! We don’t know how else to help so we try to provide comfort.
- Avoidance – We’re surrounded by Instagram quotes about being happy and it’s too easy to believe you shouldn’t ever feel bad…not true! Gotta feel all the emotions.
Are You An Emotional Eater?
What is your emotional relationship with food – do you ever really think about it? Ask yourself these questions and you can better understand if you cave into those emotional cravings or not.
- How do you handle stress?
- Do you eat more when you’re stressed?
- Do you eat past the point of being full?
- Do you eat when you aren’t full and just bored?
- How does food make you feel?
- Do you eat to feel better (like to take away stress, or when you’re bored, sad, etc)?
- Do you feel out of control sometimes around food?
- Do you reward yourself with food?
Sugar Detox Series
Be sure to check out the other posts in this sugar detox series!
Kickoff: Defining your why for success with kicking sugar
Day 1:Understanding sugar is an addictive substance
Day 2/3:How to handle emotional cravings
Day 4:Managing detox symptoms
Day 5/6: How to change when change is hard
Day 7:Running is not a free sugar card <<not if you want to run for life!
Confessions of a sugar free failure
Plus importantly how I finally conquered sugar by not going sugar free >>
Any tips you have for fellow emotional eaters?
Other ways to connect with Amanda
Instagram Daily Fun: RunToTheFinish
Facebook Community Chatter: RunToTheFinish
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