Is food your only source of pleasure?
Food is a source of pleasure for us. It's normal and desirable (because it drives us to eat, which we need to survive).
However, if food is the ONLY source of pleasure in your day, you may rely on it more than your body actually needs, leading to overeating, emotional eating, binge eating.
Which, soon after the food has passed your lips, isn't actually pleasurable at all.
I see many women deny themselves pleasure.
Like emotional eating, emotional dieting is a coping mechanism. It just doesn’t get talked about, because we've been brainwashed to think that achieving a certain physique and eating in a particular way is the ticket to a happier, more successful life.
Emotional dieting as a coping mechanism has far worse implications than emotional eating, because dieting leads to a tense relationship with food and body, disordered eating and even eating disorders for some.
Here are some of the reasons why we ‘emotionally diet’ in order to cope.
If you’ve spent any time in the dieting or well-being space, you’ll have come across the term ‘emotional eating.’
Remember the movie ‘The Diary of Bridget Jones’ or Miranda in ‘Sex & The City?’ Those women were shown to eat when they felt sad, lonely and disappointed with their love life and careers, eating cake and having a glass (or several) of wine.
Our culture sees emotional eating as ‘funny’ at best (like in those movies/shows) but ultimately as ‘bad’ and ‘wrong’. As something we have to overcome by learning to deal differently with our emotions.
I believe that emotional eating is a coping mechanism that has its place – most people engage in it from time to time, especially anyone who has a history of dieting or eating for intentional weight loss (research studies show this).
It only becomes an issue if it is the only emotional coping tool we have and if we do it all the time.
Most importantly, emotional eating becomes an issue when we judge ourselves for it, feel guilty, and try to avoid it at all costs. This is when I see women really veer into the diet-binge cycle and struggle with food and body.
My approach to improving your relationship with food and body is not ‘getting rid’ of emotional eating.’
I advocate ‘adding in’ other coping strategies alongside emotional eating, not ‘instead of.’
Read on for three steps you can use if you’re someone who eats emotionally.
It’s the weekend, you’ve just woken up and you feel good about staying in bed a little longer. You pick up the book you’ve been reading and finish another chapter. You make plans to go to the local pool with your child, meet a friend for coffee, get a take away meal in the evening and watch good film.
You feel at ease, relaxed and you look forward to the day. You give your body a good stretch, and then get out of bed to go take a shower. When you’re in the bathroom, you step on the scale. You look at the number. Suddenly, all those good vibes you were feeling – gone.
The number isn’t what you expected. It’s several pounds higher. You don’t understand. You’ve been eating as usual.
You start to feel anxiety. Even panic. Where will this lead? Your jeans are tight already. It’s summer soon, beach and pool time. Those extra pounds are going to be noticed by everyone you know.
Next up, you feel shame. Maybe you shouldn’t have eaten dessert yesterday. After all, you didn’t need it. What about the chocolate squares you allow yourself every night after dinner. Gotta stop that. You vow to skip dessert for a month half your portion sizes and no longer keep any chocolate in the house.
This time, you say to yourself, you really will keep that promise. You won’t fall off the wagon, you will stick to it. But both you and I know, this new plan isn’t going to last.
Eventually, you’ll feel deprived and find yourself in a pile of chocolate and sweet wrappers or finishing the frozen dessert you kept in the freezer for a special occasion.
Stop weighing yourself. Below are three reasons why.
Do you have moments when you ‘feel fat’? And when you do, you resolve to go on a diet or paradoxically, eat a bunch of food to feel better in the moment?
Fat is not a feeling.
Fat is a substance, either in your body, or in food.
When you experience ‘feeling fat’, you are probably experiencing another emotion underneath.
‘Feeling fat’ often means you feel:
Anxious about being judged.
Disappointed about how you performed.
Rejected by someone whose opinion you value.
Ashamed because you think you’re not good enough.
Sad because you suffered a loss.
These emotions can be very uncomfortable, so you don’t want to feel them.
One way you may have learnt to deal with these emotions is to cover them up with what you call ‘feeling fat.’
If you have a history of yo-yo dieting and/or binge eating, if you go from being ‘supergood’ with your eating to finishing the entire cake really fast, standing by the fridge when no one is looking;
You likely tell yourself:
I can’t trust myself around food!
You think that because you can’t trust yourself to only eat a certain amount of certain foods (cake, biscuits, chocolate), your only option is to stay away from them. Keep them out of the house. Don’t even have a bite.
You monitor and control your access to these foods like you are the food police.
But policing your food in this way isn’t building real trust.
It’s saying – I’ll only be OK with myself as long as I eat a particular way.
This puts a lot of pressure on yourself – and this pressure ironically often leads to out-of-control eating.
Real trust is to decide that no matter what you eat, you’re not going to beat yourself up, shame yourself, be mean to yourself.
That kind of self-trust will serve you, now, and for the rest of your life.
You will begin to relax around food.
Eating will become easy. As it should be.
Trust me on this one. ;-)
As a family of five, we drive an eight-seater van. The three children fit, the grandparents fit, and all our kit (bikes, beach toys, camping gear) fits. We bought it because we wanted something that would enable our active lifestyle and delivered on its promise: Safe, comfortable, reliable transportation.
Several months into driving our new van, we noticed a strange noise every time we drove downhill. Concerned about our safety, we took the van to the garage. We were told a few days later that there was a fault caused by a manufacturing error. Immediately our van was sent for repair, of course at no cost to us. In the mean time, we were given a replacement car. A few days after the fixed car was returned to us, we received a letter of apology, and we’ve been driving it without problems since.
We weren’t blamed for the car not working. It wasn’t our lack of willpower that caused the problem, or not driving correctly, or that we didn’t manage our emotions while driving … The manufacturer took responsibility and fixed the fault with their product, at no cost to us so that it would deliver on its promise once repaired.
Now let me tell you a different story. The one about the diet industry.