Food and Emotion

Take a look at why you are eating, what you are eating, and when you are eating. How do you feel emotionally before you eat? What is your relationship with certain foods? Take time to analyze your food habits before you start to make changes in your lifestyle. If you don’t understand your current lifestyle, the fitness and weight-loss
strategies that you employ may not work, or the results won’t last long-term. How you relate to food is just as important as what you eat.
One of my clients, a healthy and fit executive who had exercised his whole life, struggled to reach his fitness goals, regardless of his dedication in the gym. He was a healthy eater: he always ate whole grains and fresh vegetables, he never smoked, and he didn’t drink alcohol or even carbonated drinks. He shied away from anything resembling junk food. Yet, as he had approached his mid-forties, his waistline continued to
In exploring his nutrition and food habits we identified two important issues. First, while he only ate healthy
food, he ate a lot of it—often 3,000 calories a day for someone who should have been eating no more than 2,200. Second, he had a strong tendency, when stressed, to snack on (although healthy) high-calorie foods like almonds and pistachios. I had to explain to him that the only difference between a man who consumes 3,000 calories of good food each day and a man who consumes 3,000 calories of junk food, is that one guy feels a lot better than the other.  However, both individuals will be overweight.

Identifying triggers and causes for his weight gain helped him better control his eating habits.

For many people like my client eating can be a way of dealing with anxiety and stress. This isn’t just a mental or emotional issue, it is a physiological one: food has the power to influence how we feel. Sugar increases serotonin levels, and serotonin makes us feel happy. When we are stressed, we want to feel happier, so we crave sugary
foods to increase serotonin. This makes you much more likely to eat unhealthy foods, even though logically you know you shouldn’t.
Keep in mind as you work to make changes in your diet that feeling stronger through eating well also increases serotonin. As you work to make yourself healthier, you will also be making yourself happier. You can create serotonin on your own without turning to the sugary food to do it for you.
Another client told me the personal struggle she had with food addiction because of certain traumatic losses in her life. The easiest way to deal with the continuing feelings of guilt and anguish caused by these losses was to eat. She felt that food was the one thing she could count on to be there for her.
Because food was such an emotional hot button for her, no amount of diets or personal trainers could change her weight. She had to work on solving the underlying issues that caused her overeating before she could make real changes to her eating habits.

It wasn’t until she sought help from a licensed therapist that she began to see real progress with her fitness and weight goals.

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