Most people have heard of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating. These are the most common types of eating disorders. But what about those of us who yo-yo diet? All of these are ways of coping with underlying emotions and the stress of daily life. Food has an amazingly huge impact on our brains, bodies and our psyches. When I'm worried, I go for the carbs. High carb, or high glycemic food, is not only delicious, it causes a spike in our brains in the “pleasure center.” Scientist say that it causes a bigger spike than cocaine. Yikes! Research suggest that there is a biological link between stress and the drive to eat. Comfort foods — those foods high in sugar, fat, and calories — calm the body’s response to chronic stress. Our culture is competitive, fast-paced, demanding, and stressful; so bring on the mochaccino and muffin.
No wonder I can eat a bag of chips in one sitting; they make me feel great. For about 20 minutes. Then the shame comes. And the self-berating. I'm really good at channeling the voices from my past telling me that I'm fat or asking if I'm “really going to eat that.” Then I see all the beautiful [airbrushed] extremely thin models and actresses and I get it; I'm not as good as them. So now I'm anxious again – and in the time I've obsessed about what I ate and what a bad person I am – the “high” has worn off, the insulin has slowed down my system, and now I've added depression to the anxiety. At this point I want to eat my way through the snack isle at Harmon's. It's a vicious cycle.
Those old beliefs – like “I'm not good enough” - that I learned in childhood and adolescence are popping up and sabotaging my good intentions and my health. What about you? What old wounds or beliefs are messing with your success? Are you self-sabotaging because you think you don't deserve it? Do you have a part of you that thinks you're depriving yourself or being punished? Is there underlying anger, or fear of success or failure? Are you a perfectionist? It's certainly not the adult, mature, healthy self that's deciding to eat the bag of chips. These negative thoughts and beliefs may be triggering a biological or learned response, or both.
In therapy I explain that sometimes we have underlying beliefs that interfere with our intentions and plans. Sure, our biology isn't helping – but I find that the more we are able to repair old wounds and create healthier beliefs, the less stressed we are – which results in us being able to use our healthy coping skills – and stick to eating well.
Positive beliefs about ourselves allow us to use our positive coping skills to decrease stress, which results in an increase in our ability to stick to healthy eating – which increases energy, self-confidence and a sense of well-being. A positive cycle of wellness instead of the old vicious cycle!
Next time you find yourself stressed, exhausted, down on yourself, wanting to dive into a cake, or drink a mocha caramel frappuccino, try the following first:
Take deep breaths. There is research showing that four sets of deep breaths can calm your body and move you away from undesirable coping strategies. I like 4-7-8. Breath in for four seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, and then exhale slowly and gently for 8 seconds.
Take a walk. Walking decreases stress and walking in the great outdoors - like the park - is even better.
Eat a healthy snack. Instead of NOT eating, try eating something nutritious first.
Eat Mindfully. If you decide to eat that wonderfully delicious chocolate; try having one piece and savoring every moment. Really focus on the taste, the texture, the sweetness. Then try to eat mindfully every time you eat. We feel more satiated when we focus on our food, than when we eat while talking on the phone, driving, or in a noisy restaurant.
If you still can't stick to healthy eating, or worry you are in the eating disorder range, try listening to your emotions, thoughts, or “Parts.” We all have Parts. You know, like; Part of me wants to dance like nobody's watching, and Part of me is afraid someone will see me and laugh hysterically. Are you feeling deprived, angry, rebellious? What is the good intention of the Part of you that wants to eat the bad stuff? Maybe it just wants you to get what you deserve. Great, but is that really what you deserve? Or is that an old out-dated belief? For more info on Parts you can check out the book Self Therapy by Jay Early, or a Workbook on Self Therapy by Bonnie J Weiss.
Best wishes on your road to a healthier you and thanks for stopping by!
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