Regardless of culture or religion, food (and eating) plays an important role in our lives. We use food for sustenance, to celebrate birthdays, weddings and religious holidays and for the pure enjoyment of the experience.
Our relationship with food can be complicated and for many not all food experiences are happy. Often when we lose control we convince ourselves that we are “comfort eating” while in reality is it isn’t comforting at all. After overeating there are feelings of guilt, and frustration because of a “lack of willpower and self-control”. So we “give-up”, because we “don’t care” or because “it’s too difficult”, and we eat more which makes us feel worse. This leads to a cycle of weight loss and weight gain and can negatively affect our self-worth and self-esteem.
So how do we break the cycle?
Recognize what emotions trigger your eating –
In my book “Low Fat Food for your Mind, Body and Soul” I suggest people keep track of what emotions trigger their eating. Examples are:
- Low self-esteem, self-loathing
- Fear of failure
- Fears about sexuality
- Anger (towards others or yourself)
- Fatigue – low energy levels
Keep a journal to track your emotions and what food you chose / craved e.g.
- Under what emotional conditions do you crave carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and potatoes?
- Next time you crave diary products eg cheese, yoghurt, milk – work out how you are feeling emotionally.
- When your energy levels are low, what type of food do you reach for?
- Do you crave chocolate?
Find other ways to deal with your emotions.
What else can you do instead of eating. Can you go for a walk around the block? Can you phone a good friend / family member to discuss how you are feeling? Do you need to make an appointment to see a professional that can help you deal with the problem?
Become mindful of what you eat, how much you eat and how often you eat.
Support yourself with healthy lifestyle habits
Exercise – it doesn’t have to be a gym, go dancing, walk your dog
Relaxation – have a regular massage, go to yoga, mediate, listen to music
Spend time with people you enjoy and that make you laugh
Acknowledge thoughts that sabotage your success.
e.g. Do you think slim people don’t have fun?
Use affirmations, rethink the “ tapes” you play in your head and reword what you say to yourself.
Set up new patterns of thinking and behaviour.
e.g Eat smaller meals, get enough sleep
Know the difference between Stomach (i.e. physical) hunger vs Mouth (i.e. emotional) hunger.
Don’t think you can do it? The good news is you can train your unconscious mind to think about things differently.
Try this exercise which can be used as a start to changing the perception you have of yourself about not being able to lose weight.
Start by making a list of all the things you have done successfully, then think of any areas of your life (parenting, career, work within the community, etc. where you have been successful or achieved something that you set out to do. Write down all the characteristics that you currently have, as well as all the skills and knowledge, which you have acquired in an area where you have been successful. Looking at the list, what skills, knowledge and characteristics do you have that you could apply to losing weight?
Now paste the list up somewhere where you can see it and look at it every time you think that you cannot achieve your weight loss goals.
And lastly next time when you think you’re going to give in to comfort eating, stop and ask yourself how comforted you feel afterwards?