How Being Aware Of Our Food Emotions Help Us Eat Better

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We all love food. We were born to crave and need food.  We grew up having certain foods our whole life only to realize how much of the foods we ate as kids is not healthy. The foods we ate when we were younger shaped our emotions for eating. At such a young age, there is no way we would even think about how healthy food was for us or not. As we got older into adulthood, we’re then told that carbs and fat are the culprits. The fast food industry gave us such warm fuzzy feelings as a kid that when were adults we still gravitated towards fast food because it was cheap and it was guaranteed to taste great, which in turn always involves happy emotions. Lets not forget about the addictive emotions sugar creates for us our whole lives as well. So is there a way to eat the way we love and still get fitness results?  In order to do that, we need to make ourselves aware of the emotions involved too. Let’s dive in and I’ll share my experiences on how I’ve overcome my emotions over the years.

When I was 7, I got into a pretty bad bike accident. My sister baited me to go down a steep hill one day by calling me chicken. Of course after watching Michael J. Fox respond boldly towards being called “chicken” in the Back to the Future movies, I wasn’t going to back down. So I followed my sister and cousin down this hill and sure enough I spun out and landed on my right leg and scraped myself up. Little did I know that this accident was actually a positive thing. After getting X-rays done my bones were not broken from the fall, but somehow I had a benign tumor hanging out just below my right knee. At such a young age I had surgery in my leg to have it removed. I still remember getting knocked out from the drug anastesias to go under surgery only to wake up over a day later in a hospital bed with my parents close by.  The surgery was successful, but I would have crutches and not be able to walk on my own for 3-4 months. This span of 3-4 months was right in the middle of summer so it was a pretty inactive summer of watching “Saved By The Bell” everyday and playing video games.  Before finding out about this tumor, I was an active kid and skinny. However this summer of not being able to be active or able to run around like a normal 7 year old is where the start of my weight and diet problems began.  I would not only eat unhealthy, but I ate way larger portions then a normal 7 year old. I’d eat 4 microwave burritos in one meal. Some days I would eat 3 top Ramen soups in a meal and top it off with lots of butter most likely inspired by Homer Simpsons way of eating. I grew to love Taco Bell and McDonalds like they were my lifelines. My emotions for food started to really change at this point. It was a form of comfort since I wasn’t able to run around like a normal kid. I gained a lot of weight that summer and by the time my cast was off my leg the emotional damage had been done; my diet and need for big portions of food had set itself in. I would never lose the weight all the way through grade school. I would be known as the fat kid in school from that point. You can check out my previous blog about my transformation from 16 years old to 34 years old and consider this story a prequel.
My childhood emotions on how food felt to me didn’t really change till I was in my 30’s. Despite getting into fitness and working out in my 20’s, I’ll admit that I didn’t think about my diet enough. Don’t get me wrong I tried. I tried to do less carbs and fats. I tried to eat 2000 calories a day. I kept calorie journals and tried to be good at dieting better. However I would always revert back to eating poorly. Taco Bell and some form of fast food was always in the mix every week still. At 25 years old I ran a computer services business in San Francisco so I basically ate out all the time. The only reason I didn’t gain any weight was because I continued to workout 3-4 times a week. However the emotional eating I created as a kid was still part of me in my 20’s. I never became aware of how emotional eating was till I read a book that I borrowed from my cousins. The name of the book is called “It Starts With Food” by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. This book really helped me understand my eating habits and really made me think deep about how I’ve been eating over the years. It was hard to face how wrong I had been eating. I would say I still didn’t make drastic changes to my diet even after learning about the emotions of eating, but it stayed in the back of my mind. At 29 years old I finally decided to take some steps to get my eating in the right direction. I reduced my carb intake by half and had some to no sugar at all in my diet. This pushed me to look at alternative methods to eat since I needed to reduce my carbs. I started appreciating lettuce wrapped burgers more as they were a lighter carbs option to have a burger still. I did have eat less pasta and spaghetti. Instead of making rice with every meal, my wife and I would opt for veggies. Instead of emotionally eating what came to mind first, I successfully planned meals better. This has carried over into my 30’s now and has only gotten better. I now can be happy with myself no matter what I eat. Even if I splurge and over eat or eat something unhealthy I will get back to my usual healthier eating and go back to being present about my food intake. I’ve learned not to be so hard on myself anymore about eating and allow myself to enjoy meals. This has allowed me to stay on top of eating healthier which in turn has helped give me better fitness results. I’m still working on this, but I’ve come a long way.
The main point I want to point out in this blog post is that our eating is based a lot on the emotions we feel about food. When were happy or sad we have a tendency to eat unhealthy or overeat. So what is important if we want eat better is to be aware of how our moods, emotions, and lifestyles that urge us to eat a certain way. Keeping a food log can help us make us more aware. Another tactic is planning meals one day at a time and sticking to it. One thing that has worked for me is telling myself to go with the healthier meal if I do have to eat out. I tell myself that no matter what my mind is telling me to eat, choosing the healthier meal will still fulfill my hunger. These days I stick to having one or two cheat meals a week to keep my hunger satisfied so that most of my meals are healthy and nutrition dense. Its a mind over matter thing when it comes to eating. The only one that can help you with this is yourself. You can read all the meal plans and get all the advice possible, but it’ll come down to you executing what you put in your body. Make it so that food is something you consume, not letting food consume you.

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