Food, mood, emotions.
Any connection there for you?
If you say no, I won’t disagree with you, but I might inwardly raise my eyebrows in a questioning manner. Why?
Because among the thousands of people I have interacted with over the years who are concerned about their weight , there are very few who have no emotional issues with food. Those few people whose weight issues are not influenced by emotions are often ones who have unshed pregnancy weight or have gained weight due to medications or injury. And even among those people, there still is often an emotional component to their weight issues.
Setting those people aside, a large percentage of people who struggle with their weight often do have an underlying emotional reason for their obesity. A 2008 study done at the University of Alabama and published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that people who reported eating from emotional upset or stress were more than 13 times more likely to struggle with their weight than folks who did not report eating from emotions and stress. .
I can totally believe that. For years I denied that my weight issues had anything to do with my emotions or my stress level. I blamed my obesity on poor food choices, and that certainly was the strongest reason for my weighing in at 300+ pounds, but the bigger question was this:
Why was I constantly making such poor food choices?
That’s the question I want to ask you today. What is behind your food choices that got you to the point where you struggle with your weight? What is your why?
Is it stress? Is it family issues? Is it depression? Is it the need to please other people? Is it financial? Is it ___________________. (You fill in the blank here.)
For me, there were a variety of emotions that triggered an unhealthy eating response. I ate from boredom or sometimes baked (and ate) treats just because I didn’t have anything else to do at the moment.. I often turned to candy or cookies when I was stressed. I felt compelled to stuff my face with Quarter Pounder with Cheese hamburgers from McDonald’s if I was sad or angry. My own personal list goes on and on, and yours may too.
You notice I used the present tense in that last sentence. My own personal list goes on and on – still.
The emotions are still there. They didn’t leave just because I lost 158 pounds 15 years ago. Losing weight was not the cure to emotional eating, but rather losing weight and dealing with the emotional reasons for my obesity in the first place has allowed me to avoid most forms of emotional eating.
The key was dealing with the emotional reasons for my obesity at the same time that I was losing weight. Other people may deal with the emotions prior to embarking on a successful weight loss experience, while others may finally deal with the emotions after completing a weight loss journey.
To identify the emotions and stressors that send you running for comfort foods is a process that requires inner work on your part and quite possibly the aid of a therapist. Never be ashamed in seeking help – whether it is from a therapist, a pastor, or a trusted coach.
I did it by paying close attention to my bad food habits and seeing if there were common emotions that were associated with overeating. I found that stress kicked my appetite into high gear and I would just eat mindlessly, boredom sent me to the kitchen to cook or forage in the pantry, and I often hit the fast food restaurants when I was out shopping. (I think that was mostly a habit.) Of course I am generalizing a bit here, but you get the idea on how I tried to identify the emotions that were affecting my food choices.
Once I identified the emotions, I paid very close attention to my tendencies to push down emotions with food. That took a lot of work and practice. It did not come overnight or even after a year. But continued diligence and awareness, it did come. And your awareness and success can come as well.
How important do you think it is to figure out what role emotions play in your weight struggles and successes. Diane