I’m sure we’ve all heard someone say “I’ve got a taste for [______] -enter delicious, cravable item here.
But, now more than ever we’ve developed A Mood for Food, far-more-so than a taste for it. Heck, with all the hustle and bustle, there are days we hardly even taste our food…Ironically, those are the exact days where Mood is most likely taking over.
Let’s take a closer look at this phenomenon. Since the beginning of time, food has played a very important role in social connectedness. Whenever there is a big event – think Birthdays, Retirements, Graduations, Funerals, Weddings, and Promotions – there is always a main course of Food with a side salad of Emotion, after all a shared meal is a time to bring family and friends together at the best of times and the not so best of times.
At one point or another we have all seen or heard someone drown their sorrows in a carton of ice cream, eat an entire pack of chocolates, or have a rebound relationship with hamburgers or fried chicken after a breakup, job loss, or the like.
Coincidence? I think not.
The fact that there is an entire genre of food known as Comfort Foods [stereotypically foods very high in fat and salt/sugar] should provide some validity for this fact…
The important thing to realize here is that, while eating for comfort is a habit and frequently the norm, it is just that A HABIT; not a concrete fact of life– and certainly not a prerequisite for weight loss and overall wellbeing. As a matter of fact, when asked, the vast majority of my clients over the year who self-identify as “emotional eaters”, state that the act of eating is similar to an addiction in that they want to stop and be healthier but can’t fight the urge.
Addicted to Food?
Can such a thing exist?
I mean, we need food to survive, right?
Yes, of course. But as with anything else, too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. Allow me to illustrate:
The Center for Disease Control [CDC] estimates the number of current smokers in the U.S. to be about 42,000,000 adults over 18 yo. And of those 42 million, over 70% report “wanting to quit”.
Ever known someone who has tried to quit smoking?
Of course you have!
Which means you have also encountered the infamous Smoker’s Relapse Remorse [“I’ve been doing so good, I’ll just have one…oh, I really wish I hadn’t done that…well, I mean I suppose I’ll just finish this pack…I already bought it… oh, I really wish I hadn’t done that…”]
That same mental cascade of thought holds true for those addicted to food. Those struggling state they feel worse after eating said “comfort food” [counter-intuitive, no?]– Sometimes feeling physically ill, sometimes guilty, often times both.
Helping break yourself from the cycle can be a challenge. Remember, habits are not formed overnight; statistically speaking, it takes 3 weeks – 21 days – for your mind to assume a repeated behavior [good or bad] is a habit. The act of replacing a habit must be done so consciously.
Reading this article is great first step – it’s simple exposure. The next step is to get in touch with your Mood for Food habits and see if they are contributing to your health goals or if they are working against them.
The next time you make a food selection, take a brief moment to ask yourself to describe your current mood in one word. See if after a few days of doing this you notice any trends.
If you do notice some trends you would like to change but aren’t sure where or how to start, please send me a confidential email at firstname.lastname@example.org and you and I can start brainstorming other ways to deal with uncomfortable moods that don’t involve caloric intake. And remember, Eat to Live; Don’t Live to Eat.