The Food is “Just Fuel” mentality
It’s just food right? Is it really that simple? One of the major issues that come up for clients, is that they are eating emotionally and they just don’t know how to stop it. Of course this brings feeling of guilt, shame, and weakness. All these people that successfully get in shape say that food is just fuel, right? “So why can’t I feel that way”? I have been guilty in the past of this mindset of looking at food as fuel only. I learned very quickly that it isn’t the case. Food has power. Food is so much more than just what keeps you alive and powers your workouts.
Everyone has a connection to food. If someone tells you different, they are lying. I doubt there is a well-fed person in the world that is so disconnected that walking by a specific food, doesn’t evoke some sort of connection. Everyone has at least one. Maybe you decorated sugar cookies with your Mom on Christmas, maybe Sunday dinner pot roast was your thing, or Friday pizza night. Are you really going to tell me that there isn’t a special meal that you only got to enjoy around the holidays or a certain event? Even something as simple as your childhood favorite treat or after school snack can have a surprisingly strong emotional connection. Everyone has something, most people have many things. What about social time? Drinks with friends is about more than the drinks.
So what is the solution? Well, it is different for everyone. My take on emotional eating, is to recognize it. Take a minute to recognize the power that food has. Food has the ability to connect you to things that are important to you, just by sight or smell. Does that mean you have to participate? No, it just means that you realize that it is there. You aren’t weak because you have a connection. You can still participate in social gatherings and enjoy the company. The emotion can still be there without the wasted calories. When it matters, you choose to give in to that emotion and enjoy it guilt free. No one wants to see you weighing your turkey breast at the Thanksgiving table, so that is not what I am talking about here. There is a time to relax, and a time to keep it tight. Only you can determine when that is. Saying food is just fuel? That is just you kidding yourself. When you recognize that treats will always be there, and that you actually do have a choice, it becomes easier to support your goals
What if the issue isn’t nostalgia? What if it is depression or stress eating? That is another story all together. The solution of recognition is the same, but the issues behind it are different. Stopping yourself from emotional eating due to stress is a huge win for many people. I have had multiple emails saying that being on plan has forced them to “deal with their problems”.
Recognize that eating off plan because you are sad, stressed, or otherwise upset is a form of self-medication. The problem with this is that we always have something to stress over, and when you have set goals for yourself stress eating will be one more thing for you to “emotionally eat” about. It will upset you and the vicious cycle repeats. You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can absolutely control what you choose to eat.
So the take home points are..
Food has power. Recognize it, accept it, move on.
You have a choice. You can participate if you want to, and you can choose to walk away if you don’t. Saying that food is fuel and nothing more doesn’t get you “hardcore points” and no one is buying it anyway.
Stress eating only makes you feel more stressed. Work on your issues and find a solution instead. If now is not the time for that, then find a way to relax and manage your stress that won’t result in feeling of more stress.
Before choosing to go away from your plans, think about whether you are really going to enjoy the choice or if it will only make you upset.
Of course there are other issues that I am choosing not to address here. These issues have to do with deep-rooted psychological beliefs, behavior patterns, and eating disorders. These issues should be addressed with a professional.