We've all been there. Life gets stressful and sometimes it feels as if the only way to deal with it is numb it out with pizza, chips, (Insert name of your food of choice here). While it is completely normal and even ok to use food to cope from time to time, if its happening over and over again in your life, it may be helpful to figure out WHY these patterns keep occurring.
Step 1: Determine if you are experiencing TRUE hunger
First off, let's be clear on one thing. If you are truly hungry (as in physiological your body needs fuel hunger) I want you to eat. Never ignore your hunger.
So how do you determine whether or not this craving for food is physiological or just an emotional reaction?? Try asking yourself this question:
"If someone were to offer me steamed fish and broccoli right now, would I eat it?"
If the answer is yes then please have something to eat.
If the answer is NO, you may be eating for emotional reasons which leads us to step 2.
Step 2: What is this actually about?
If you've determined that you are eating to numb out some emotions, it's important to figure out where this is coming from. Ask yourself the following question.
"What is this actually about?"
When you truly pause to reflect on your cravings, you may notice a link.
A lot of my clients report to eating poorly in the evening since it may be their only time of the day to "wind down" or have "me time". The food is serving as a way to calm them down, entertain them and make them feel like they are "getting a reward" at the end of the day.
When I dig a little deeper with these clients, they often discover that they are using these behaviours when they are stressed, anxious, angry, sad or lonely.
The issue here is not even really about the eating. It's about the fact that they aren't often aware of the feeling they are experiencing. It takes some practice but over time you can become more aware of these things and create habits that are more health supportive.
Step 3: What do I really need right now instead of food?
A quick story for you:
A few weeks ago, I was noticing my Starbucks drive thru habit was becoming a daily occurrence. I would routinely grab a not so low-cal latte after school pick up. While this may not be a problem for some, I quickly realized that the sugary drink addiction was about more than just a yummy treat. It didn't even make my body feel good and I didn't like that I felt dependent on it.
School pick up time is a chaotic part of my day and a latte was something "exciting" and for me. Really what I was "craving" was quiet and calm.
Once I figured out the feeling I was looking for, I could brainstorm ways to achieve this feeling without my trusty Starbucks.
A quickly found that setting up a calmer after school routine for the kids and myself did the trick. The kids would have their after school snack and I would make a tea and read a book for 15 minutes. This allowed me to achieve the feeling that I was looking for in a way that promoted self care not self sabotage.
Figure out the feeling first, then decide what you can do to address the feeling.
An Important Note
It's important to note that you may need to practice these steps many many times before it starts to feel natural. It takes a lot of time to become a pro at this especially if this is a habit you've engaged in for many years. Be kind to yourself if you struggle with this at first and even if you "slip up" from time to time.
Healthy habits take years to build but they are worth the effort. It's about Progress, not Perfection.
Kim Holmes is a Personal Trainer and the Owner of My Fit Coach. She creates Online Fitness and Nutrition programs for busy Moms to make self care easier during the crazy stage of motherhood. As a Mom of two young sons, she understands that you don’t have hours to spend at the gym. Her Online Programs are efficient, fun and most importantly, they make fitness fit into your REAL life.
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