January 23, 2017

Emotional Eating and Food Choices

by Amanda Box, N.D.

What we eat is directly affected by our beliefs.

Think about it.

  • If you believe eating healthy is important, then you will eat healthy.
  • If you believe food is food and it makes no difference what you eat, then you will therefore eat whatever you want.
  • If you believe eating pork is an abomination to God, then you don’t eat bacon.

The food choices we make every day are rooted in some sort of belief system. But, what you choose to eat goes even deeper than that.  You may have the knowledge that eating healthy is the right choice to make, but still struggle to choose healthy foods.

This belief lies in what you think about yourself more than what you believe about the foods.  If you don’t have a lot of self-confidence or don’t love and respect yourself, then it makes it difficult to make healthy choices for your body. Your EQ, or emotional quotient, directly affects the food choices you make every day.   Your emotional state and your belief about both food and yourself determine how much you eat and what you eat. Healthy, positive emotions and beliefs about yourself and food, make for a healthy body as well!

Irregular Eating Lowers Your EQ

Can your eating habits affect your emotions? Absolutely!  Many diabetics and hypoglycemics know this from personal experience.  If they skip meals or eat too much sugar, they can experience extreme mood swings, brain fog and impaired thinking. Those who struggle with eating disorders and very rigid eating habits may also suffer from emotional disturbances.

A UK study found that those who struggle with eating issues like anorexia, bulimia, and crash dieting, struggled with identifying different emotions. The women in the study had all been diagnosed with eating disorders.  They were shown cards with faces displaying different emotions.  These women had a hard time distinguishing between scared, mad and sad. Those with the most severe disorders scored the worst. In 2002, another study linked emotional irregularity with abnormal and inconsistent eating.  They found that these rigid dieters, who had a preoccupation with body shape, had more mood disturbances than those who had a more relaxed view of eating. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666301904453

I believe this lack of true nutrition and proper blood sugar maintenance, only exasperates the problem.  This lack sends these women deeper into depression and apathy.  Healthy, vitamin rich, consistent eating, along with proper counseling and care can bring these women into health and wholeness. However, the strong emotional tie in these disorders can make them very difficult to overcome.

Triumph Over Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can manifest out of a false belief or an out of balance emotional state.  The most common disorders are anorexia, bulimia and chronic overeating.  Though these disorders may look very different, they can all have the same terrible consequences.  The worst of those being death! All three of these disorders are rooted in a false belief about oneself.   Some believe they will never be good enough, while others struggle with shame or a need to control when their life feels out of control. Once you change the belief, the eating habits change with it!  To triumph over an eating disorder, you must believe the right things! Here are some great steps to take to change your negative beliefs into positive ones.  Positive beliefs change our emotional state, which leads to a healthier, happy you!

  • Learn to love yourself:  God created you just the way you are!  No matter what you’ve done or what you look like, He is proud of you and loves you deeply.  Your body is a temple and it should be treated with both love and respect.
  • Letting go and letting God: Many times eating disorders are birthed out of control.  When their lives feel out of control, those who struggle with these struggles find comfort in their disorder.  Once you realize that you cannot control your life and that God is in control, you can have peace of mind.  Remember, He has your best interests at heart.  Cast your cares on Him and He will lift you up!
  • Start a thankful journal:  Start focusing on the positive and what you are truly thankful for in your life.  Each day, write those things down. When you start having more positive and thankful thoughts, your whole outlook will change.  The book “1000 Gifts” is a great example of how this positive journaling can transform your life!
  • Get real with a friend:  You don’t have to trumpet it to the world that you struggle with an eating disorder.  But finding a friend you can trust that can walk with you and encourage you, can make a huge difference.

Wrong Mindsets = Wrong Eating Habits

You don’t have to struggle with a full-blown eating disorder to battle with destructive eating habits. Many people don’t even realize they have an unhealthy relationship with food.  They cannot figure out why there are overweight, diabetic or have high blood pressure.  Sometimes, the answer lies in how we were raised or even in a people pleasing personality.

  • Do you feel obligated to finish all the food on your plate? Maybe your parents never let you leave the table growing up until your plate was clean.  You may feel you will hurt the cook’s feelings if you don’t finish the food they prepared.
  • Do you have a hard time turning away food that’s offered to you?  It could be chocolate cake from a birthday celebration or holiday baked goods given to you as a gift.  You may not even be hungry, but you don’t want to hurt the feelings of the one offering it to you.  Though these actions may be good intentioned, they can detrimental to your waistline and health.

Being a people pleaser is an emotional battlefield for your food choices.  The reality is, you must learn to start putting yourself first when it comes to food!  Your health should be your priority, not hurting someone’s feelings because you declined their food offering.  Learning to say no is a good thing!  How you phrase your “No” can make a difference as well.  Try using these responses the next time you are offered food that you wish to decline.

  • Thank them for the offer.
  • Let them know you appreciate them thinking of you, but you have to decline.
  • Tell them you are trying to take steps towards better health with healthy eating.

These are all keys to learning to say no in a kind and respectful way.  Remember, saying no is not a bad thing!  It means you respect yourself enough to set boundaries.

Stress Eating

Stress eating is by far the most common unhealthy eating habit.  It has even been commercialized! You often see someone in a movie or television show whip out a pint of ice cream when love throws them a curve ball.  I believe this commercialization has only encouraged more stress eating.

Many people truly believe that it is okay to bury their problems in pint Ben and Jerry’s or a bag of potato chips. The main problem in this is that stress is unavoidable!  We all have stress in our lives to one degree or another.  If we never truly deal with that stress, but bury it in food, we create a habit. Not just a random splurge.  Some people drink to avoid dealing with life’s problems, others battle with drugs, and some people smoke to relieve stress.

Food can just as easily become one of those additions.  Especially sugar, as gives you a sort of satisfactory, short lived “high”.  Some say sugar is more addictive than cocaine! If you feel like you are one of the thousands, maybe even millions, of people who have a stress-eating problem, take heed.  You can overcome this habit!

Eat to live. Don’t live to eat.

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