Quit feeling your food (emotions and eating pt. 2)

A quick recap

In my last blog post, we covered how we’re all emotional eaters in some way, shape, or form. I offered up tips for overcoming the emotion-eat-emotion habit chain. We even covered how to fight back against the clock by plugging up your time leaks so your day no longer gets away from you. Today I’m sharing with you the follow-up, as promised.

In today’s post we’ll look at the following:

  • Filling up that dam sweet tooth (dental humor, boom).
  • How to not let cooking for others derail your health goals.
  • What to do if you’re always (or never) hungry.
  • Dealing with a refusal to eat certain foods.
  • Occasional bits of humor that make me laugh as I’m typing them.

It goes without saying that I’m a mere fitness and nutrition professional. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a psychologist – although most health professionals can attest we¬†may as well have our own couch and office. I point this out to say that if you find yourself dealing with serious mental stress or dilemmas, please seek out a qualified mental health professional. Their services can be invaluable. If the voices in your head haven’t told you to stop reading yet, let’s get to it!

I just have to have something sweet

I hear this so often. As a reformed sugar junky, it occasionally makes me think of this. But the possibilities of sugar being addictive and toxic have been covered time and time again. I’d like to look a little deeper. Obviously, if we eat something that tastes great, our brain wants more of it. I’ve heard the “Sugar is more addictive than heroin” lines. Heck, I’ve even believed them myself.

Again, whether that is true today is not important. After all, I don’t think there’s ever been a hardcore drug addict alive that upon hearing their chosen chemical was addictive said, “Oh! Really? Wow, I should really quit!” By now, we know sugar isn’t great for us, but we continue to consume it in large amounts. It’s time we start thinking about the why.

Is it time for dessert?

In the previous blog post, I covered how important our habits are to our well-being. I explained how they basically govern every move we make, every decision we choose. I believe our sweet tooth is developed in much the same way. How so? I mean, none of us set out to challenge ourselves to eat an entire gallon of Chunky Monkey, right?

Simply put, I blame our childhoods. Yes, we thought it was all fun and games – until we got our pies poked out (hey, you try coming up with a sugar substitute for that line). Think of all the situations where sweets became a reward or a special occasion and you’ll soon realize that I may be more than simply dabbling in the truth.

After dinner, what comes next? Dessert. So we’re telling our family that if we eat the food on the table, we’ll bring out a special prize, one that tastes way better. Honestly, who out there can remember saving room for dessert? That act alone signifies that it’s something special. Nobody ever said, “Eat more broccoli so you don’t have to eat any ice cream!”

Did you parents ever take you for ice cream if you got good grades or gave something all of your effort? It’s a simple, quick, and inexpensive way to reward our loved ones for a job well done. Again, when is the last time you heard, “Wow! You got all A’s! Well, I guess somebody’s getting grilled asparagus tonight, you lucky dog.”

Now, I’m not saying we should ban kids from sugar. (cough, we should, cough…what? Me? I didn’t say anything.) But perhaps we can find other means to reward our loved ones. And be careful about simply replacing the sugar with some other purchase. This can then simply take the effort-sugar reward habit and replace it with effort-shopping instead. But how about replacing it with an experience? How about going somewhere and actually doing something? Take your kids to a movie. Go on a hike. Go zip lining. What the activity actually is isn’t important. Offering up an experience instead of a sugary reward is the point.

What about dessert, you say? A few ideas. Instead of making dessert a special event after dinner, why not put out the treats with the rest of the grub? Drop the, “You have to wait” and replace it with, “If you want pie, you have to eat twice as much chicken.” Hell, put broccoli on top of the ice cream. I’m pretty sure that would put an end to it. My point is to stop making dessert such a special occasion. Make it part of the meal and ensure your family eats a balanced meal.

Also, you could drop the dessert and instead get everyone in the habit of going for a post-meal walk. Imagine the benefits: improved digestion, more calories burned, AND family bonding!? My brain can’t take the excitement. Or if going for a walk isn’t possible, get your family connecting with a board game. If old school isn’t your thing, there are plenty of games you can download on your phones and tablets that allow a family to play against each other on their own devices. But for the love of connection, do something together! Make that your dessert. It will stick if you stick with it.

It’s tough to cook for them and eat healthily

I don’t use this word often, so cover your ears if you’re sensitive. Please, somebody, hold me back. But this is just poppycock. There, I said it. That line about if you want something you’ll find a way, if you don’t you’ll find an excuse? Yeah, that may apply here.

You know your family better than me, obviously. If you are the true (p)matriarch and you’re in control, guess what, you’re in control. That means you choose what everybody eats. You buy the groceries. You make the meals. And you make the choice of what nourishes or depletes¬†your family’s nutritional health. That means it’s up to you to lead by example.

If you are in control, then let everybody know there are going to be some changes. Tell them you need to get healthy so you can be around to love them for a looooong time. Ask them to do this for you. Don’t make it optional. Don’t ask them to try it for a few days. Make it blatantly clear that this is the new way. Yes, you may experience some blowback. Yes, you may deal with some whining and complaining. But you will not deal with a meal mutiny.

If your family is a group of stubborn buttheads – it’s ok, I won’t tell them – then you may want to go into stealth mode. How so? By slowly, sneakily “manipulating” their food. No, I’m not suggesting anything criminal here. I mean making small substitutions as you go. If they’re used to mashed potatoes, sneak in thick mashed cauliflower. If they drink sweet tea, drop it to 1/2 and 1/2. I’m no culinary expert, but I know of this magical thing called Google and I know you can simply type in a recipe or food item preceded by the term “healthy.” You’ll be amazed at what the interwebs can deliver.

If you’re the head cook of the household, you and you alone impact your family’s health. Sometimes that simple change in perspective is all it takes. Either take the reigns responsibly or stealthily, the choice is yours but the benefit will be shared by everyone for an entire lifetime.

Hungry? Me? Always.

If you fit the mold of always being hungry or never being hungry, there’s still hope. We just have to understand why you’re in that situation. One common cause of both could be imbalanced hormone levels – which we’ll be covering in an upcoming blog. For now, I always recommend having blood work done specifically for this purpose. There are many causes for hormonal imbalances, from stress, to age, to exhaustion and fatigue, or even nutrient deficiencies. Once you’ve gotten the results, if there are imbalances, work with your physician or a nutritionist to correct the problem, preferably without gobs of medication.

In addition, if you’re always hungry there may be a few easier solutions. I often see clients who eat what they deem as a big meal. They bring in food journals totaling under a thousand calories for the day and don’t understand why they always want to eat so much – especially sweets – late at night. Simple solution, start eating a little bit more at each meal. Protein and healthy fats are your best options, as they provide more satisfaction. If you’re looking to lose weight, add in veggies. They’ll fill you up on nutrients but not calories.

Speaking of protein, fat, and veggies…look at what you’re eating. If you’re always hungry, another good possibility is that you’re eating too many carbohydrates. And just because they’re “good” carbs – what does that even mean? Are they well-behaved? – doesn’t mean they won’t screw with your energy and appetite. If more than 60-70% of your diet is made up of carbohydrates, not only are you most likely not getting enough protein or fats but we may have just found why you’re always hungry.

Hungry? Me? Never.

Now, if you are the exact opposite and you simply never experience the joy of being hungry there’s still hope for you as well. First, I would direct you back to getting your hormone levels checked. In addition to correcting the lack of or extremity of your hunger, occasional hormonal check ups can be a literal lifesaver. Again, I’ll dive into this at a later date, but don’t rule them out until you know for sure.

Moving forward, I’ve spoken before in an older YouTube video (I still cringe anytime I watch myself talk) about the effects that reducing our eating habits have on our metabolism and weight loss. Long story short, if you are not eating enough, your metabolism will begin to slow down. Over time, your appetite will decrease. You’ll then eat less. And your metabolism will decrease a little more. Soon your body will begin stealing nutrients from itself because it wants to survive. It doesn’t care if you have a sex drive – or healthy hair and nails for that matter.

Alternatively, could you be eating too much at a time? If you feel stuffed after a meal, the answer is probably a yes. Here’s a freebie from Precision Nutrition. It’s a handy, easy-to-follow guide that helps you determine if you’re eating enough, too much, or too little. Regardless of their appetite, it’s amazing how many clients I’ve seen who have a skewed perception of meal timing.

I simply won’t eat anything green.

This is another one of those tough love areas. I’ve had clients tell me they refuse to eat vegetables because they grow in the ground. My response? How old are you? Don’t get me wrong, as a coach, I focus on being client-centered 100% of the time. However, that happens to include calling people on their b.s. when I smell it.

If you have an allergic reaction to celery, I’m not going to tell you to “just deal.” But if you refuse to eat certain foods for no good reason, I would have to think it stems back to childhood psychology. And many times, I’m right (I was wrong, once, back in ’88 when I was 11). I’ve had clients tell me that their parents forced them to eat veggies growing up and they swore that they never would touch anything green as an adult. I get it, really I do. And if that’s how you want to live, cool. But at the end of the day, who are you hurting?

There are so many ways to prepare food, so many seasonings and spices, and so many “healthy” Google-able recipes available that there simply is no excuse to avoid entire food groups. I’m not saying you have to eat every food out there. You will NEVER catch me eating 90% of most seafood. But I still manage to get a little bit in, from time-to-time. And more importantly, I make sure to get the nutrients they provide through other foods and supplements. But I’m sorry, I’m not eating a squid or octopus. Just deal.

But if you find yourself harboring an absolute disgust for a certain food or food group, take some time to sit down and think. Dig really deep and ask yourself where that trepidation comes from. Did your parents force it on you? Did you have a traumatic school lunch experience? Eat a spoiled item years back? Once you identify the emotional culprit, realize it’s ok to give the food another chance. There’s no sense in depriving your tongue of the spectrum of tastes and textures. Not to mention the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, phytonutrients, and so many other nutrients that our body thrives on.

Above all else.

Look what you made me do, I’m over 2,000 words. Sigh. I do it because I care. At the end of the day, if you’ve read this and the last post, you should realize that our brains and our emotions play a much deeper role in our nutrition than we give them credit for. A healthy diet is not merely grams and percentages. A healthy diet is a healthy relationship with food, something that seems to be exceedingly rarer in our fast-paced food frenzy.

Some simple steps can go a long way. Slow down. Connect with your food with your senses. Smell it. See it. Chew it. Taste it. Understand why you eat what you eat. Determine why you don’t eat what you avoid. Ask yourself if you’re satisfied as you eat. If so, put the fork down. If not, figure out what the fork is wrong (bonus utensil humor, who knew!?).

I’ll even dilute it all to two simple actions. Slow down. Be aware.

If you get those perfected, everything else will make itself apparent and you’ll be well on your way to wellness.

As always, thank you for reading. But thank you even more for sharing these posts. I love what I do and I hope you get something from it. Thank you for the kind words, whether in person or via social media. I’m excited to see how big this little love of mine can become!
If you have any questions or thoughts, FEEL free to leave them down below. (Ok, that was a little dad-joke-ish).


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