Thanksgiving is the one day a year when eating is our main project. Gobble. Gobble. Gobble… the cry is not the turkey’s alone.
As we express happiness and gratitude, we concoct the most comforting, sweet, spicy, and fatty dishes. From turducken to pumpkin-chocolate cheesecake and Thanksgiving gumballs—yes, they exist—we can get elaborate. Food and gratitude interweave like harmony and melody.
Thanksgiving also marks the beginning of a season of overeating. Food and gratitude diverge and we eat for a host of reasons that do not include hunger. While feasting is good, we need to remember to temper ourselves. Food can and should be a part of celebrations. Yet the holidays often trigger or exacerbate problems like emotional eating and weight gain.
As the holidays roll in, do you eat your emotions? Are you struggling to keep the feeling of happiness and give up excess food that causes weight gain?
If you answered ‘yes,’ rest assured you are not alone. In the midst of our hustle and bustle, many Americans take to food for consolation and relief from loneliness, stress, fatigue, boredom, and anger. Food can become a reward at the end of a work day. It can take us back to a place in time.
When we develop the habit of emotional eating, we forget that food is meant to satisfy hunger and nourish our bodies. And that’s why we express gratitude in the first place. The food we have keeps us alive and healthy.
Can you recognize if you eat because you’re hungry or because you want emotional satisfaction? Here is a helpful chart:
Whatever the emotional problem, unfortunately, emotional eating doesn’t fix it. Overeating usually makes you feel worse, and your original emotional issue remains. Food used as an emotions drug will also add to your problems. You might feel additional guilt and unhappiness with weight gain.
No one wants to admit they have emotional issues. Vulnerability is a hard place to sit. I know because I’ve been there.
Exercise played a big role in overcoming my emotional struggles. I also developed little “cheats” that helped me to maintain a healthy eating routine and feel satisfied. You cannot exercise away a bad diet. It took time to gain conscious control over my eating habits, without my emotions hijacking me and demanding immediate payoff with food.
Everyone has to do their own research and decide on a food philosophy that works for them. For me, the Paleo diet is that philosophy. The Paleo diet eliminates grains, milk, sugar, and processed foods. I’m a firm Paleo believer, and won’t touch grains or processed items.
But guess what? I have sugar and milk in my coffee every day. I also have a fetish for gourmet lollipops. Mmmm bubble gum. And I eat yogurt several times a week. These few foods keep me from feeling deprived. I’m aware of the emotional and mental aspect of my habits, and they likely keep me on track with the rest of my nutrition. I had to experiment, and tailor my nutrition for me. It took me years to figure it out.
You don’t have to adopt the same diet as I did. What works for you will be as unique as you are, and it may take time to work itself out. Be patient, do your research, and keep experimenting.
As a personal trainer, I have helped people in their search for their individual intake levels that support exercise without adding fat. The range of intake can be found through the blocking system that the zone diet uses. It includes appropriate portions of fat, carbs, and protein in one meal. This winning triad combination keeps you satisfied longer, keeps your energy up, and properly nourishes your body. Another way is using your hand to guide you to portion size. Precision Nutrition no calorie counting nutrition is also a tool I use. Your palm to determine your protein size. Men two palms for women 1 palm. For vegetables one fist size for women two for men. For Carbohydrates one fist size for women two for men and for fat two thumb size portions for men and one for women. You can read the article Forget Calorie Counting for further information.
When I adhere 100% to the zone, or to the no calorie counting method, I lean out quickly, but I also become food and body obsessed to the point that it causes an adverse reaction. This isn’t the case for everyone. But it’s important that you know yourself and your pitfalls.
The #1 habit on lists to support health and curb emotional eating is exercise. Exercise keeps you mindful and present in the moment, which in turn gives you a break from thinking about your stressors. It lifts your mood and increases energy levels. It increases muscle mass and weight loss.
Including exercising and the tricks above, here are the steps to overcoming emotional eating. Start small and try just one at a time:
I continue to learn from my personal experiences and from the people I train in health and fitness. I have watched people of all weights and sizes do amazing things with their bodies. If you focus on being strong and feeding your body instead of your emotions, you can stop hiding from your fears and get healthy!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.