If you are overweight there is a very good chance you are eating extra food for comfort or out of boredom but your cravings are not just an emotional issue. Hunger isn’t all in your head. There is a very physical reality occurring that creates a “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” phenomenon. Emotional Eating is the root cause of many health problems. When we go overboard on refined food, we create nutritional imbalances that create hormonal havoc.
Some foods may feel like they have addictive qualities. For example, when you eat a food like chocolate, your body releases trace amounts of mood and satisfaction elevating hormones. This may reinforce a preference for foods that are closely associated with specific feelings. The pleasure of eating also briefly allows you to escape feelings of negativity.
Emotional eating is an acquired habit. If you’re angry, sad, happy, bored, or anxious, food can bring you temporary comfort and pleasure. This is how you’ve trained your brain to feel rewarded and soothed. With many other addictions, a recovery program focuses on eliminating the substance or behaviour from your life. With food, you have no choice but to keep eating, so it becomes a difficult challenge to strike a balance. One of the great ways to boost moods naturally and reduce cravings is with Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish, flax, chia and hemp hearts.
If you eat when you’re feeling stressed, your body will be in a state of “fight-or-flight.” It is not getting ready to digest food; it is getting ready to possibly flee from danger or to protect itself from a physical attack. The food you eat will remain in your gut, largely ignored by your body, until the stress has passed. In the meantime, your gut flora starts to have a feast on whatever you’ve eaten. If you’re like most people who eat for comfort, chances are you reach for sweet and fatty refined foods, which is a perfect buffet for the not-so-friendly yeasts (such as candida) and bacteria that reside in your gut. These unfriendly yeasts and bacteria start to multiply as a result, and if you repeat this way of eating and of dealing with your problems, their numbers will increase exponentially. They will also damage your gut tissue.
According to Carl C. Pfeiffer, M.D., a huge part of mental wellness is balanced brain chemistry. The expression “Eat more foods that grow on plants, and eat fewer foods that are manufactured in plants” holds a lot of truth—refined food lacks the hundreds of nutrients your brain needs to function correctly. Some people who suffer from anxiety, attention deficit disorder and depression produce high levels of substances called pyrroles. Pyrroles are naturally formed in the body as a by-product of red blood cell formation. If these pyrroles are not eliminated properly, they bind to vitamin B6 and zinc. This binding renders these nutrients unavailable to cells and creates an apparent deficiency. As a result, supplementation is needed. If you do suffer from any emotional conditions, I encourage you to read Pfeiffer’s book Nutrition and Mental Illness, especially regarding supplement programs for various mental-health issues.
Beyond deficiencies, it’s critical for you to avoid foodsthat you are allergic or intolerant to, such as wheat, sugaror dairy. The brain uses 30 percent of your food energy. Pfeiffer writes, “Since the [brain] is perhaps the most delicate organ of the body, it should be no surprise that allergies to food can upset levels of hormones and other key chemicals in the brain, resulting in [mental and emotional] symptoms.” These symptoms include anxiety, confusion, loss of memory, and depression. Eating the foods recommended in Meals That Heal Inflammation can help restore balance to the mind as well as the body.
How do you avoid this vicious circle?
You must begin to distinguish between true physical hunger and a need for comfort. One way to do this is to keep track of how often you eat. If you ate a full meal a few hours ago and your stomach isn’t rumbling, you are probably not hungry. Give the craving a few minutes to pass. This also means you need to know your triggers. Using a food journal, record what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you’re feeling before, during, and after you eat, as well as how hungry you are. Over time, you’ll learn about your eating patterns, which will help you to avoid triggers. If you feel blue and hungry, then munch on a protein-rich, healthy treat such as a cup of edamame (young soybeans) or a trail mix combining 1 ounce each of hemp seeds, hazelnuts, and some apple-juice-infused cranberries to sweeten the mix. Eating healthy treats such as this will help discourage you from making poor food-shopping decisions.
Don’t be shy about what you’re doing. Get a friend to try this program with you or ask your family or roommates to avoid keeping unhealthy foods around in order to support your brave move toward health. When stress nudges you towards the refrigerator, call up a friend to help you tune into what you really need.
Once a week, make a cooking date with a friend, relative, or yourself. When ever I hear people say they have no time to cook, I dig into their schedules and often find that they watch four to eight hours of TV a week. As you prepare soups, stews, and snacks on your cooking date, try listening to a recording of your favorite author reading his or her latest book. You’ll be surprised to find just how relaxing this is.
The fastest way to derail this program is to let yourself go hungry for a long period of time. The minute your brain is starving, it will start craving sugar (a quick fix). It tells your body to raise blood sugar levels by eating. When this happens, make sure to snack on healthy choices. If you feel the urge to eat between meals, choose fresh fruit, vegetables with bean dip, or a natural nut and seed bar. Also keep in mind that every meal should contain unrefined proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to ensure you maintain a balance in your body chemistry. If you’re not getting enough calories to meet your energy needs, you may be more likely to give in to emotional eating. Try to eat at fairly regular times, and avoid skipping breakfast.
This blog was originally featured as a two part guest blog on Amy Sky's 'Alive & Awake' Website. Check out Singer/Songerwriter Amy's Sky's new wellness website for great tips on taking care of your Mind, Body, Spirit and Heart. www.aliveandawake.ca
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