Recently I had a fellow fitness friend ask me “How do I get past emotional eating? I feel a connection or tie to certain foods. It’s not about the taste itself of the food, but the pleasure of the memories and feelings that it draws within me when eat it.” Wow…what a great question! I grew up with a family that loved to cook and indulge in sweet treats and traditions. My Grandma Jean, whom I spent a great amount of time with, always had a treat basket filled with cookies, candies, and Little Debbie snack cakes! I was a very active kid running around and playing on her farm. Many of the things I grew up indulging in as a kid still strike a chord with me and take me back to those wonderful days. As I think back on those days, I am tempted to seek comfort in those same foods if I am feeling lonely or stressed. My mom’s homemade sugar cookies at Christmas and Grandma’s skinny pancakes could briefly take me to a warm familiar place.
As an active kid and high school athlete, I never had to worry too much about what I was eating. As any young female, there was an awareness of what I looked like, but I had no education on what foods were actually good for me or knew what would help fuel performance or health. As I moved into college, the stress of school, work, and a long distance relationship caught up with me because of my unhealthy habitude. My unhealthy behaviors and emotional connections to food along with decreased activity (though I always valued exercise as part of my life), led me to a place of increased weight gain and decreased self-love. We can be so hard on ourselves!
So what changed? Many things actually! I completely changed my attitude and behaviors around eating and fitness. But this did not happen over night! I am a fan of visualization. A personal exercise that helped me to change my unhealthy habitude was visualizing the future me that I wanted to be. Six years ago when I got married I knew that I wanted to be the type of woman who was not on a diet as a wife and maybe some day mother. I pictured myself 10-20 years from then. I was healthy and active, strong and confident. I wanted to be able to prepare a nutritious meal for my family and provide all of us with wellness. I never saw myself eating special diet food while cooking the rest of the family dinner. My vision was for all of us to be healthy and well. I saw myself running, playing, and joyful. I highly value responsibility; and this seemed responsible. I closed my eyes and pictured the things I wanted to do, the energy I wanted to project, and the goals I desired for being content in this area of my life. I tell my clients, when I stopped dieting, the extra weight gradually came off.
Over the years, I have also learned that opening up to someone you trust with your struggles and not going at this alone can be very helpful. In these years, due to some chronic health issues, I have had to make many adjustments in my eating habits that have been difficult, but overall, a gift. One reason being that I have learned so much about food, nutrition, and a holistic approach toward wellness that I have come to know and cherish. When I first started with my health battle, it was no longer about looking good or actions for the short-term, but rather what did I need to do to get this body in a healthier state? With this new attitude toward what being healthy looked like, visualization, and being vulnerable enough to seek out support, I have come to place of contentment!
Looking back it has been a journey; a journey that I am undoubtedly still on! There are valleys and peaks. Any journey in wellness will ebb and flow. I am grateful to have a community of people around me that offer me love for who I am, not by what I do; and that respect the road to wellness.
Check out these articles if you have been known to do some thoughtless eating. I hope that they equip you with some tools for road!
Listen to your body, and learn more ways to set yourself up for success. Life is demanding, busy, and stressful. Diet and exercise can fall to the wayside due to our American drive.
I believe we could all benefit from sharing our stories and struggles, so here is a piece of mine. You are not going at this alone!