Learn to Break Free From Emotional Eating
The saying, “eat to live, don’t live to eat” is just one way to describe a problem that many people struggle with. Emotional eating, food addictions, mindless eating, living to eat: they’re all related. Am I eating in such a way that allows me to live my life to the fullest, or do I simply exist? Is eating my only purpose in life?
With summer right around the corner, you don’t want to be stuck inside sapped of energy and confidence. You want to be able to enjoy being active: going hiking, swimming, playing outside with your kids. But we often let our addiction to food keep us from living our lives the way we want to.
We’ve all gone through this mental tug-o’-war. It’s evening time, and we’re walking back and forth between the TV and a fridge stuffed with popsicles, summery ice cream treats, and leftover barbecue and potato salad.
The rationalization begins in our mind that the stress of what we are trying to accomplish in life justifies comforting ourselves by eating more than we need.
Eating For Your Health
The saying “eat to live, don’t live to eat” truly impacts my quality of life. I don’t know how many of you can relate, but I have several serious health issues.
In 1999, I was diagnosed with ADHD. In 2007, I was diagnosed with neuropathy in my feet (nerve degradation that causes my feet to feel like they are burning). Around that time, I was also diagnosed with skin cancer (basal and squamous) and currently, I am fighting bladder cancer.
I call these my “big three,” and if I choose to “live to eat,” these issues get dramatically worse.
- When it comes to my ADHD, poor nutrition can bring out the negative side of my brain. This means that I struggle to focus and become hyperactive.
- Eating too much sugar aggravates my neuropathy and makes the burning in my feet more intense.
- Studies show that poor nutrition will speed up the spread of cancer cells.
Being the CEO and Co-founder of IdealShape has helped me focus on decreasing this pain. In my brain training series I talk about how, when making a food or beverage choice, you should ask yourself this mental question: “Is it worth it or not worth it?”
Every day I meet and work with people who are overweight or obese and miserable with their lives as a direct result of choices they have made in regards to eating. These people are not happy and are not living their lives to the fullest.
Hunger vs. Emotion
When we start our binge or comfort eating, are we really hungry? Is hunger a feeling or an emotion? Based on my 13 years of weight loss research, it does not appear to be.
Hunger isn’t a “feeling” like happiness or anger. It is the physical symptom you feel when your body is signaling to your brain that it needs more fuel. A growling sensation in your stomach is one of these signals. Some of us get a lightheaded feeling. My daughters tell me they get headaches that alert them that they’ve gone too long without nutrients.
We think we’re hungry because our brain is alerting us that we are. However, most of the time, actual physical need didn’t lead to that thought.
In reading the research by many amazing scholars and nutritionists, I began to believe that there was a disconnect between eating to live and how we are training our brains.
During the summer it’s easy to go for the fast food and sugary dessert stores in malls and strip centers because summer is a time for fun and letting loose. But when we do this we are training our brains to live to eat. Walking down the aisles at the grocery store or at baseball games, we are bombarded by high calories and unhealthy food choices that further train our brains to live to eat.
Overcoming Emotional Eating
We can overcome our culture that has led to the obesity epidemic. Research shows that when eating with people who are consuming big portions, we overeat ourselves. It becomes much easier to overeat at a barbecue when surrounded by family and friends who are eating plate after plate piled high with salty, fatty foods.
This kind of sabotage can be avoided, though. I have shown thousands of individuals how to train their brains to visualize their ideal bodies and overcome sabotage both from themselves and others.
You can break out of the vicious cycle of emotional and social eating by listening to a powerful visualization exercise every night when you go to bed.
Last year I had back surgery that fused my lower vertebrae (S1-L5-L4). My number one concern was gaining weight. Why was that? It takes six months to heal from that kind of back surgery, which meant that I couldn’t work out for half a year (ride my bike, lift weights, etc.).
For a while I could only walk, and at first I couldn’t even walk that far. What concerned me most was the possibility that my appetite would increase from boredom and I’d engage in mindless eating.
Six weeks after the surgery, I started feeling depressed due to my inactivity. Depression can create increased appetite for salty and sugary foods. I chose to retrain my brain so that hunger didn’t have to be an emotion, but a need to put in the foods and beverages to fuel my body properly.
Because of this I was able to overcome temptations and prevent my fears from becoming a reality. I knew that I would have temptations regardless, so I made sure that I always had the good types of snacks around me.
Trust me, I have to fight bladder and skin cancer. If I succumb to the motto, “living to eat,” I increase the likelihood that my cancer will not allow me to live my life to the fullest.
So what will your motto be? “Eat to Live” or “Live to Eat?”
Start building good habits. Surround yourself with good, healthy snacks.