Eating and our love for food roots from our early days, from when we were a baby or a toddler. Every time a toddler cries, an adult pacifies the child with a candy or something sweet. This is something we have seen and been taught, experienced to regulate our emotions from our childhood by means of food. Invariably, we have learnt to attach deep emotions to food. But, point is what do we need to do to detach emotions from food, especially when it becomes an alibi to seek comfort by over eating?
Eat to Live or Live to Eat
It is a deep rooted belief that food gives us comfort. We feel good when fed. We live for food so why not. It certainly is acceptable. Point is when we take it to the next level and assign this feel good factor to food, every time. Many a time, we don’t eat to live but rather live to eat. This could be the comfort we get every time we eat something, we feel loved, like affection received, or just giving hospitality to others.
We celebrate over food and we sulk in the comfort of food (Remember that ice cream bowl as a consolation for some disappointment). Researchers have studied and proven it time and again.
Yes, we can celebrate food- have a champagne for those happy cheers and positive vibes. Eat well. But the point is, when quantity goes out of control; meaning, we eat more than what is required.
What has been noticed by research is that, usually when we have feelings of helplessness, increased stress, hopelessness, feeling stuck or just bored, we have more indicators of binge eating or eating more than needed. We often look for something sweet, usually, to bump up that lack of energy or to get some form of motivation or externally seeking for that feel-good factor.
Detach…de-attach deep emotions from food
So, question is what we do when we have the inclination to eat, for other reasons beyond hunger.
How to minimize eating due to false hunger pangs?
Here are some tips to keep in mind, which may help to certain extent:
1) Explore other activities beyond eating that you may enjoy.
- It could be a hobby such as painting, writing, counseling others, cleaning up your room to divert your clogged up energies.
2) Be conscious of your food quantity intake.
- Every time we perceive any prompts of casual eating, stop and think- when was your last snack or meal? Do you really need to eat that other snack? Can you drink something instead….something healthier? We may not be perfect, but assessing and analyzing food intake helps to a great extent.
- This step will help us become accountable to some extent or the other, since we are trying to be conscious about our food intake.
3) In social events, be mindful of what you eat and how much you eat. Don’t get caught up in the socio-food-comforting factor.
- Often in the flow of conversations, we tend to keep munching on something or the other. It is more a socio-food-comforting factor. We love our family and friends, so like to mimic them and eat along as long as they eat. Be mindful to balance out your quantity.
- Decide on what all you want to eat (one off cheat day is alright, especially in a festive season), how much you are going to eat and respect your decision.
- You do not have to inform others about what analysis is going on in your head, it is personal to you (and in all probability they may not understand!).
4) Get those high calorie junkies, out of your pantry.
- Don’t keep any food which you would want to avoid. In any situation, should you want to eat them as one off treat, keep the quantity minimalistic.
- This will help you stay in control of your food intake.
5) Keep your healthy foods more in stock.
- If eating healthy gets boring, club them with some nice sauce you love or your favorite seasoning.
- There are different ways to eat healthy food as snacks in an interesting way, which is unique to your tastes. Explore and discover more.
6) Instead of dealing with bottled up emotions via food, try talking it out with someone.
- Get to the bottom of your emotions. Observe yourself as a 3rd person, it helps you suspend being judgmental and suspends your ego. View with a helping attitude. Observe what you want to do, when you are upset. Or if not upset, observe your behavior with food around you. Observe how respectful are you to your bodyweight and health, by deciding on what you feed your body.
- Observe, the consequences of how would you want to feel after eating? Often, we see that after a fun eating session and enjoying your favorite foods, we do you feel guilty. If you have no guilt, then you have not yet been led to a conscious situation, when it comes to food (which is OK for some of us, while for some of us, a little bit of extra binge means a few extra pounds of weight added).
- Talk to someone you trust and is a good sounding board. If not, talk to an nutritional expert to guide you.
7) Keep a journal, write your heart out- on food, emotions, things stressing you or helping you.
- Often, pent up emotions or thoughts tend to cloud our logical thinking. Logical thinking to assess our quantities, strength to say ‘no’ to some foods, composed enough to rationalise why you’re saying ‘no’, without having to explain to anyone but yourself.
- By writing a journal, what you’d be doing is clearing up your mind and creating more space for constructive thinking. This will help in venting out, silently, respecting your emotions and giving an acknowledgement to yourself that yes..you know what you’re going through.
- Acknowledge, analyze and resolve.
- After acknowledging what is troubling you, you analyze why is it troubling you. Get to the bottom of it.
- Sometimes we may not have immediate solutions but you would be on a good path towards it.
- Your mind understands that you are paying attention to yourself. Long after you have stopped writing your journal or stopped thinking about challenges, your mind and sub-conscious will tend to prompt to you solutions or better approaches to deal with the things stressing you.
- You must try it, to see how it works. It is a unique experience to everyone.
- This approach of journaling will clear your mind and that way, you will not constantly seek food only for immediate comfort or temporary taste-bud relief, with longer weight gain affects.
Journaling helps in compartmentalizing your thoughts and feelings, becoming more aware of your actions, since you have now acknowledged them.
8) Talk out loud to yourself, vent it out.
- Often when we speak things out, our head gets clearer and our emotions better balanced.
- As crazy or silly it may sound, self-talk is often underestimated.
- When you self-talk, it is like a non-judgmental friend or a caring friend instructing you or telling you what is good for you.
- When you talk out aloud, even better. You are your audience and often, your audience itself guides you towards the correct options.
- It may not be perfect but it is a constructive path towards clearing your head, guiding yourself.
- Guiding yourself to manage stressful situations, or simply to guide yourself to eat better- more quality over quantity.
While food helps us nourish ourselves, as the body needs nutrients and vitamins, the key is to balance it out. As we are aware, too much of anything in extreme, may tip off balance and harmony.
As long as we are conscious enough to observe ourselves and establish guardrails or take steps to regain balance, we should be good to go.