One of our most important life tasks is to know what we care about the most. And attaching our true responses -- not necessarily the ones we've learned or have been told we should feel -- to our emotions is a major life lesson.
Overeating is not a cure for loneliness, personal dissatisfaction or lack of purpose. Overeating produces unwanted weight but so does procrastination, aggravation, resentment, depression, and boredom. Get rid of what "weighs" on you. The infrastructure of our food habits is the quality of love, balance, peace and pleasure in our life.
Feeding emotions with food doesn't cure or enhance an emotional state and is the antithesis of thinking thin. How do you currently respond effectively to your emotions? Do you self-soothe, communicate productively, and bask in good feelings? Or do you use food for depressing strong feelings be they good or bad?
Take this quiz to determine if your relationship with food is healthy and sustainable.
Is Food Your Friend?
Answer yes or no to each of the nine questions below to determine whether or not you have a satisfying relationship with food.
1) Do you believe food is not a substitute for a nap, a hot pad, an action plan, friendship, or energy building activity?
2) Have you stopped dreading dinners out or parties because you are guided by internal urges not external lures and only eat what you want to eat?
3) Will you stop the diet yo-yo, get off the scales and build muscle, and let the way you look, feel and fit in your clothes be your guide?
4) Can you become a champion chewer who savors every bite?
5) Are you willing to "waste" food you don't want because you know it's better off in the trash than your stomach?
6) Will you make all necessary effort to give yourself pleasing, satisfying, healthy meals or snacks every time you eat?
7) Is drinking the prescribed amount of water a daily health habit?
8) Do you stop eating the instant you are no longer hungry?
9) Are you willing to be fully conscious every time you eat?
If you have answered "yes" to all the questions, congratulations -- you already have a healthy relationship with food.
If you have some "no" answers, list three actionable steps you can take to change. I think procrastination about achieving your goals is a factor in weight gain but for certain it is a psychological burden. So once you've set these steps, take them.
As a guide for change, form some new habits from the eight food rules below. But the first rule is to ignore me and anyone else with rules that don't fit you. And when you change, as all of us do, break your own rules and replace new ones.
Rule 1. Stop grazing. Don't read the whole menu or search the pantry or refrigerator. Once you predetermine what you want, consider if low salt, low simple carbohydrate, and/or heart and artery healthy selections would satisfy. Eat what's best for you first; and wherever food is stored, keep your wisest choices at eye level.
Rule 2. Eat for the moment. Don't hoard. You aren't in a remote region. Even if you won't have time for a big meal later (and that's good), don't assume you will be hungry. Also, keep good food choices available at home, in car, back pack, and office in case.
Rule 3. Take small bites, chew thoroughly and slowly, talk, gaze, or stand up in between them. Your brain needs time to know you've eaten.
Rule 4. Cancel membership in the "Clean Plate Club." You won't solve world hunger. But you will get overly full and uncomfortable.
Rule 5. Two-for-one deals are no deal if you eat both of them. Throw or give away what you don't want. This isn't really wasting: It's food sanity.
Rule 6. Drink water to reduce false hunger pangs. How can you distinguish the difference between dehydration and hunger? When you feel hungry, drink a glass of water. Question answered.
Rule 7. Limit weighing yourself. Muscle weighs more than fat and weight fluctuations can occur based on salt intake and stress level. Your clothes and the way you feel are adequate measures of your size.
Rule 8. Make all meals happy meals -- plan, prepare, present, savor.
Below are behavior alternatives to consider in dealing with the basic emotions: sad, mad, and glad.
Hand a thin person who feels sad a doughnut and they might ask what they are supposed to do with it but will definitely perceive you as less than compassionate. Simple carbohydrate comfort food isn't as comforting as a good cry, seeking out sympathy, or making a change that draws in more happiness to your life.
For anyone unable to cope with anger or conflict, stuffing food in their mouths can be an attempted to stifle their anger. Thus, being upset gets hidden from others and sometimes even themselves. Waiting to express anger until you are less angry can be a great idea but that would be a pause not mute acceptance. To successfully handle conflict, you need to speak up with authenticity and kindness and act with determination or flee the scene.
Feeling glad is something you can relish and enjoy without champagne or cake. Elation has no connection with hunger and excessive food and alcohol can dull feeling. Jumping for joy, singing, dancing, and sharing good news or happy events with others are much more satisfying expressions.
It is not just what you eat but how, when and why that are important to your health and happiness. Variety, freedom of choice, and enjoyment are essential to a lifelong approach to food.
Attaining your best shape mentally, physically and emotionally are tied together. What it takes to succeed is similar in all categories:
Insight -- knowing why you are making the choices you are making
Change -- set new behaviors that are productive and effective
Technique -- developing a positive attitude as your new constant
Protection -- stress reduction and healthy habits that are sustainable
My philosophy is not about food -- it's about joy. Food, glorious food is to be enjoyed in the quantity and quality that suits your body and your desires. When you discover good habits that really sate and please you, keeping them can become effortless.
Attitude really is everything. Maybe we are what we eat but we certainly are what we feel and what we believe. Being comfortable in your own skin helps life and love go well. And living and loving well can help you eat not to excess but to be satisfied, cheerful and full. The end game is to feel good in your own skin.