There are many things in life that can throw us into a positive or negative emotional tizzy. Recently, for example, after witnessing a particularly lengthy and tough campaign battle, Americans voted and received the stunning outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election. The result, Donald Trump beating out Hillary Clinton with the Electoral College, left some folks ecstatic and others mortified.
While holding vastly differing views on how the country should be run, and who's the person to do this, the one thing Donald and Hillary supporters have in common recently is mindless eating. Fast foods, packaged foods, snacks, desserts, etc., all high in sugar, fat, and salt, are being swallowed whole. In fact, I continue to see photos of the "bad" foods people are about to eat posted on social media, i.e., goppy desserts, fried food, and more, while referencing something about the election results.
Unfortunately, this happens all too often for so many of us. We use/ abuse food to celebrate highs, as well as to drown out our sorrows. It’s incredibly common for us to eat when we’re bored, anxious, sad, thrilled, happy, etc., etc. So, what exactly is going on? Why in the world do we reach for food even when we’re not hungry?
Addictive & Emotional Eating Go Hand-In-Hand
Eating an excess of highly palatable and brain excitable foods, (read addictive foods containing a perfect ratio of sugar, salt, and fat as engineered by the giant Food Corporations), happens all the time. Honestly, processed food is the perfect "frenemy". It tastes great. And, whether our emotional status is up or down, the junk food, in the short run, makes us feel better.
The concern though, is in the long run. It’s no secret that chronic, mindless addictive/ emotional eating for most brings with it problems including weight gain, self-esteem challenges, additional negative emotional challenges, and potential health issues.
Reaching for food as a way to bring us pleasure or relief happens chronically throughout the year. Today it's the election, tomorrow it's the holiday season. Next, it's time to celebrate a birthday, a promotion, an anniversary, etc. As a community, we're on a wild roller coaster ride gone out of control with non-stop junk food eating.
Guess what? When something happens that's great, or something else doesn't happen that's a catastrophe or mildly hurtful, we don't need to go into auto-pilot and reach for food mindlessly. We have choices that most of us simply haven't considered because our poor, highly addicted brains to sugar, fat, and salt are sending us messages to eat more and more.
What Else Can You Do?
Start cutting back on the processed foods in particular when things are going relatively well. It really helps to get the goodies out of the house. The more you eat of this stuff, the more you'll want. Once you begin to consume less junk, you give yourself a chance to literally re-gain your senses.
Look deeper inside yourself for what isn't making you happy. Are you frustrated in your career, relationship, or lack there of? Rather than stuffing feelings down with food, talk about what is truly bothering you. Talking works wonders and gives you a chance to put what's really going on inside into words.
Here is an Options to Eating list with alternatives worth considering when you are experiencing a pull to overeat junk.
* Go for a walk alone, with a pet, or a trusted friend or loved one.
* Write in a journal.
* Smile - even if you have to fake it! ( Simple smiling increases our happy hormones.)
* Take a class on anything of interest to you. Photography, acting, history, Spanish, painting, and cooking to name just a few.
* Move your body in a way you enjoy including yoga, bicycling, running, swimming, tennis, dancing, stretching, etc. All are excellent and effective.
* Go to a movie.
* Tend your garden.
* Read a great book.
* Get a haircut.
* Visit a museum.
* Take a bubble bath.
* Sing or play an instrument.
* Call a friend.
* Get a manicure or massage.
* Mediate or deep breathe.
* Get into Heart-Coherence.
* Write an old-fashioned letter to a loved one you haven't heard from in a while.
* Volunteer your time to a cause you find meaningful.
The above list may seem to offer simple and obvious alternatives. I can't tell you though how many clients I've worked with who have never considered options other than overeating to express their mood. In fact, many times people eat and have no idea why they're eating. It's just something they do without thinking.
So for 2017 and beyond, bring awareness and mindfulness into your picture and daily life. Think ahead about what you can do other than eat when you're feeling great or down. Get rid of all the junk from your kitchen cabinets and refrigerator. Write out your own Options to Eating list and pin it to your fridge so when the time comes and you need to do something to self-express, you won't be stuck with the same-old solution, i.e. overeating or binging.
I leave you now with this wonderful and very apropo motto. If hunger isn't the problem, eating isn't the solution. You can create your very own alternative solutions. You can!
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