Food and comfort. Two things I love. Two things that have been an incredible roadblock for my wellbeing.
I’ve struggled with my relationship with food since I was 8. I felt broken after a move our family had to make and I quickly realized food was always there for me. When bad news greeted me or stressful situations arose, I ran to food or restricted from eating altogether. 17 years later I finally had to say, enough, and wanted to change that toxic behavior. I decided to get to know the real me, the person who dealt with her emotions rather than overeating or starving. Slowly, I was able to calm the storm that surrounded my relationship with food.
How did I begin to change? I read a fantastic book by Dr. Susan Albers called Quit Comfort Eating, Lose Weight by Managing Your Emotions, the first self-help book that actually seemed to understand my roller coaster ride of eating habits. Losing weight was hard. I’d get on board with a diet and a trendy workout and do great for 10 days then say screw it all. I’d convince myself I deserved a pint of Ben & Jerry’s + a sandwich + a bag of chips. Coming down from the act of eating, I’d hate myself and I’d starve myself the next day as punishment. This book helped me realize I can take create healthy habits surrounding my food choices instead of using food to comfort my emotions.
How to implement healthy habits:
1) Take a mindful pause. Question why you are reaching for food as comfort. Maybe you need a walk, a cup of tea or a phone call with a friend rather than food.
2) Raise awareness of how food makes you feel. I love ice cream but it doesn’t always agree with me. I will heighten my awareness of the discomfort I’m feeling when I wake up from a mucus-y rage because the sugar/dairy combo aggravates my sinuses. I ask myself if it’s worth the discomfort that is inevitable. Sometimes, yes, yes that sundae is worth it! But most times I am able to choose feeling vibrant over a short-lived sugar high.
3) Are you are eating for fuel or for fun? Close your eyes and begin to scan your body, starting with the top of your skull traveling to the tips of your toes. Inhale deeply bringing the breath back up your body, toes to the top of your head. Did this moment of breath awareness help you feel something other than hunger? Maybe you have a heavy heart that needs mending – food will not help you. Maybe you are feeling self-conscious and you could care less what eating an entire carton of ice cream will do – you need to learn how to nourish your body, your only true home.
Dr. Albers states, “There is still a lot to learn about the complex reasons people eat comfort foods…just know your patterns. Identify what kind of unique stress response you have when you get overwhelmed. This can help you prepare and find strategies for eating more mindfully and curbing emotional eating.”
Let’s work to make our relationship with food a better one. Yes, food is 100% the best medicine you can give yourself. But if you are eating clean and hate the taste, curse those veggies or resent your nutritionist that you paid big bucks to ‘fix’ you, you’re not learning, growing, or changing your body and mindset.
Create healthy habits because you deserve a better life. You deserve to be happy and fulfilled in this body that is your home for your literal lifetime. Always remember, you are a beautiful work in progress.