Common Food Hang-ups and How They Halt Our Weight Loss Progress
Let’s cover some common food hang-ups that you may have learned from family and friends. Most everyone has these – eating is simply a part of human connection and culture. We must eat if we want to survive, and we must feed our young if we want them to survive.
Always making everything about food and eating.
Good food making is the mark of a nurturer. Plentiful food boasts of a provider. So, there’s a lot of necessity to having food always as the main topic of interest… and there’s also a lot of family pride and emotional bonding surrounding our food rituals.
What kinds of food hang-ups does your family or friend group display? How do they stop you from becoming a healthy weight? What can you do to break the cycle?
Using food as emotional comfort.
One of the main food hang-ups most of us have which can stand in the way of losing weight or maintaining weight loss after dieting and starting an exercise program, is the tendency to use food as an emotional Band-Aid.
You have probably heard of the term comfort food. What does it make you think of? Meals like macaroni and cheese, a nice meatloaf dinner, hearty bowl of creamy ham and potato, soup or maybe some grilled cheese or pizza?
Comfort food brings us comfort by releasing feel good chemicals in the brain and nervous system. That's why when we're stressed we feel like having the type of food that sticks to your ribs – like meat, cheese, potatoes, bacon, sweets, and foods with a higher fat content.
We probably have all either done or seen that old cliche where when someone is bummed out about something so they turn to comfort food for consolation. Maybe they had a breakup with a boyfriend, fight with the wife or conflict with a friend. They want the stressful feelings to go away. So they reach for empty calories and foods with high fat and high sugar content, like ice cream, desserts and assorted junk foods.
Foods like this give us a temporary lift followed by a crash.
Sugar especially is addictive. We find it comforting because it takes away the uncomfortable emotions that we don't want to deal with at the moment.
In fact, any time at all when you might be feeling stressed out, you're also likely to get a surge of hunger. It's your body and brain telling you that it wants to correct that unpleasant sensation of having your nervous system in overdrive.
The problem with stress causing cravings for comfort food is that this can easily become an addictive situation. Example, you always head for the ice cream in the freezer whenever you've had a bad day. It’s become a habit that eventually brings you up a pants size. Soon, you’re reaching for ice cream whenever anything mildly stressful occurs in your life.
Using food as a reward.
We have all been that person who rewards ourselves with food after a job well done, or maybe we even do it with our own kids because that's what we were taught in our family.
Maybe your child aced his or her history exam or made the All-Star baseball team. What's the first thing you're likely to do? Offer a food-based reward, of course. Order a pizza or stop for ice cream. You do it the first time, when your kids are still small… then the next time someone accomplishes something, you do it again. Spelling bee winner? Let’s bake a cake! You got the lead in the school play? Let’s eat dinner at a restaurant tonight!
We do it to our kids, and so it makes sense that the food-as-reward hangup would repeat into our adult life. So when we’re trying our best to make healthy choices, but then something good happens…we got a promotion at work, we got approved for a mortgage… same story… we’re looking for that food reward, and now we’re all grown up, so we can give it to ourselves if we want.
Of course, we don't want to always deny these victorious moments. After lots of physical activity or exercising the brain, your body might be deserving of some sustenance or even a sugary treat. If your kid played hard and won the game tonight, hot dogs and milkshakes may be in order. However, as someone watching their weight, you definitely can make small adjustments when you do get the urge to use food as a reward in your own life.
Using junk food as consolation for disappointment or hurt feelings.
Another common food hang-up we get stuck on when trying to eat healthier for weight loss… using junk food as a consolation prize. Most people turn to unhealthy foods when they're facing a difficult challenge… or if something happened that disappointed them.
Like what? Maybe a child of divorce is missing his other parent, or maybe your teenage daughter's boyfriend broke up with her. Maybe you didn’t get that call from the man you started dating.
It is so tempting for us to want to comfort our loved ones or ourselves with a warm batch of cookies out of the oven, special trip for a favorite treat, or maybe getting a pizza for dinner to cheer the person up. But judging from the obesity problem in America, this situation is a slippery slope.
There will always be challenges to overcome. There will be arguments, disappointments, changes of plans, and moments of defeat. The key is to stop associating these moments as being a time to stuff ourselves with unhealthy foods to feel better.
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