Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Emotional Eating

I've been thinking a lot about emotional eating lately and how to deal with motivation slumps. I'm not a fan of the "emotional eating" concept. It seems like an excuse people use to say they have no control over what they ate.  I know this will be offensive to people who believe in the concept but this is just my opinion. I also want to help those who feel helpless because they cannot control the events that "make them" make bad choices.

(I am not a registered dietitian or a psychologist. This knowledge is just from my personal experience and the hours weekly I spend researching nutrition and exercise.)

It all started with a bag of cookies. I was driving home from a trip to Trader Joe's with a bag of double chocolate cookies in the passenger seat. Although the trip was purely for a can of beans, I saw a cake I wanted. It was $6 and so I was able to walk away. Except I justified buying the $3 bag of cookies. Because they were only $3. I ate two in the car on the way home.

A thought entered my mind about how much I had been baking brownies and buying treats at the grocery store. Followed by a thought of how stressed I have been lately. I have no idea where or when I'll be going to school after I get my associates degree in May. No idea where I'll be living. This makes me nervous, it scares me. Then another thought: "Maybe that's why I've been eating like crap."

Full stop. I literally laughed out loud in the car. I, the major proponent of choice in eating, was saying that shoving two cookies into my mouth within 5 minutes was an emotional compulsion...instead of a decision I made. I thought the rest of the way home about how I got to this point. Then, I came up with solid reasons for my bad eating choices lately.

Because, I honestly believe behind every "emotional eating" experience are solid reasons that can be changed. If you ever feel like you have been making bad choices because of stressful or emotional situations, take a minute and really evaluate the situation looking for solid reasons that have nothing to do with emotions or "looking for comfort".
  1. I have not been exercising regularly. 
  2. I have started shopping at stores that carry "healthier" sweets that I can buy for a decent price.
  3. I have been consuming large amounts of sugar which makes the cravings that much harder to say no to.
  4. I have been spending most of the nights on the couch instead of doing chores like I used to.
When I exercise on a regular basis, I just don't crave sweets as much. There's not much more to it than that. It doesn't always have an immediate effect but after a week or so, my body gets the picture and chills out. 

Before Trader Joe's came into the picture, I had two places that I could buy pre-made bakery sweets: Earthfare and Whole Foods. This was a great excuse to avoid the purchases. Other grocery stores fill their stuff with GMOs and trans fats. It was also helpful that Earthfare and Whole Foods like to charge like crazy for anything in the bakery section so I wasn't willing to do it. Enter Trader Joe's and their non-GMO policy and their use of no trans fats. Their bakery section is small, affordable, and ever changing with options. It was possible for me to buy these goodies again. 

It's a snowball effect with the sugar. It probably started innocently enough, a few Christmas truffles for dessert. Then, when I decided to get back to business on my diet and cut out the truffles, my body rebelled. It wanted the sugar. Enter brownie mixes. Enter cake balls. You get the picture. Each day had to provide more sugar than the last.

Winter is my least favorite season. I'm cold. So what do I do? I cuddle on the couch with a nice blanket. After already spending the day chained to a desk. Other than cooking, hygiene, and feeding the cats, some days I was spending the entire day sitting. Yikes.     

There. 4 solid reasons for why I have made bad eating choices lately. 4 solid reasons why I haven't lost any weight and that I'm looking a little bloated lately. After identifying the reasons, explore them further and think of you can change them.

I have created a new workout plan with the motivation of "bikini season". It's different and hopefully will entertain me. It's from Shape magazine's summer 5-month countdown so each month is a different plan. I feel that when I plan for months at a time, I get lost in the middle. This way, I have to reassess each month.

I have heard complaints about being starving after exercising. This could do with the types of food you are eating, the amount of water you are drinking, or not exercising regularly. Calories are not just calories. It does matter where you get them from. Fueling during the day with complex carbs, fruit and vegetables and lean proteins helps provide fuel for working out; the body doesn't burn through these things at warp speed like it does fats and simple carbs so the fuel lasts longer. Dehydration can sometimes disguise itself as hunger to get attention. If you're ever feeling hungry but feel that you have eaten enough food, drink up and wait 5 minutes. I bet you'll be fine. Also, occasional exercise is not the same as regular exercise. If you don't exercise for two weeks and then jump on the treadmill for an hour, your body is going to be confused about the dip in calories and crave more to replace them. The first couple weeks will probably be like this but your body will adapt. 

Sweets are an addiction. Just like any other addiction. I crave them because I give in. It's a vicious cycle that can only be stopped by simply stopping. This is easier to do with exercise but I am just going to monitor my sugar intake until it returns to a normal level. Dropping it immediately would only lead to more intense cravings that would be even harder to say no to. This would be setting myself up to fail. (I want to be clear that I do not think sugar is evil. I would never "cut out sugar" from my diet. I'm just referring to the unneeded sugar in the form of cakes, cookies, candy, etc.)

And, spending the nights on the couch is an easy one to fix. GET UP. :) Plus, I'm not really a TV girl. Unless there's something on, I just don't turn it on. So I'll just have to find active things for me to do at night. About an hour before bed, I'll slow down and get ready for bed so that I sleep soundly. 

What I love so much about this thinking is that it puts ME in control. I cannot control some things. And while some would argue that I could control how those events make me feel, I am not that far along in my chi. or whatever. I can control how much I exercise. I can control the amount of excess sugar I put in my body and the amount of sweets that takes up my already scrawny weekly budget. I can get off the couch after an entire day at a desk and do things so that my weekends can be filled with fun instead of chores!

As for what to do the rest of the cookies? (or brownies? or cake?) Don't eat them all because you already ate 2. It does matter. 4 is more than 2. 4 has a bigger effect than 2. FREEZE THEM! I know it seems insane but most things freeze well. I hate throwing things out. Thawing out at a normal temperature (just on the counter) is the best way to keep the goody in tact. Microwaving often cooks the item further and makes it gummy or overcooked. Freezing prevents me from overeating because I have to think about whether or not it's worth waiting for it to thaw out. I become more conscious of my choice. 

I hope this post has inspired you to take control of your choices. They are your choices, in fact. Don't let emotions be your fall back excuse. Once you accept your choices, you have the ability to change them.


amygrew said...

I am a pretty big emotional eater and am right there with you! Good luck to your husband finding a job and some of the stress being able to be managed!

I am visiting from SITS :)

Morgan said...

Thank you! I'm visiting from SITS ... and love that I get to walk away encouraged!

I am trying to make some small "big" changes in how we eat at my house and this was a little kick in the pants to just get on with it!

I know I'll feel better ... it's just having a plan that I can stick with and gage. Time to get something on paper, I think!

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