Overcoming Your Love-Hate Relationship With Food
If you’d like to understand, once and for all, why you feel so frustrated about your weight and why your relationship with food is so stressful, this article will explain it all and give you a simple exercise to experiment with so you can start overcoming your love-hate relationship with food. Regardless of whether you are an emotional eater, a compulsive eater or struggle with an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder this article will help you understand a key piece of the puzzle of what you need to do to change how much room food takes up in your life and in your brain, for good!
Last week I told you about the relationship between certain foods and your brain chemistry. I gave you the scientific data behind why you are naturally drawn to eat certain foods (like chips, bread, cheese, ice cream and chocolate) even though you know they aren’t the best for you nutritionally and won’t help you reach your weight loss goals. (If you prefer to watch a video rather than read, my video on sidestepping the food-emotion power struggle explains it all and then some.)
This week I want to introduce you to the real issue; the thing that is at the root of it all.
What is it that makes you want those foods, even when you’re not hungry, regardless of your diet plan or your intention to eat well and your true heart’s desire to lose weight and feel great in your body? Well, through my personal recovery from binge eating disorder and my 20 years as a specialist in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and trauma, I came to see clearly that the cause of your overeating or diet dilemma, had very little at all to do with food and instead was triggered by some faulty wiring in the supercomputer that is your brain.
I am happy to say that, through the use of neural mapping and the marvels of brain imaging, science has since proven this to be true. So, we now know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if you often eat more than you’re hungry for or binge or diet more than once or twice in your lifetime or struggle with anorexia, being eating disorder, or bulimia or other forms of eating disorders the fact is, right now you have in your brain, some mis-wiring and mis-firing that has created what I call ‘a confused stress response.’
This confused stress response is also present in those who find themselves dependent on alcohol, drugs, tv, the internet and other common human coping strategies. As frustrating as this might have been for you until now, it is actually quite easy to change once you know what to do and how to do it.
How Things Work for People Who Don’t Struggle With Their Weight or With Food:
In order for you understand a bit more about what’s going on for you, let’s create a bit of contrast by exploring briefly how things are meant to work when our response to stress is appropriate and our brain wiring is working properly. In other words, how does it work for those annoying people who eat whatever they want, don’t worry about exercise and never seem to gain any weight! Just for fun, let’s pretend you’re one of them.
- You think about something or experience something that is naturally a little (or a lot) stressful, painful, frustrating or that you just aren’t sure how to handle, and you experience a perfectly healthy and normal response in your body – we call this a feeling or emotion.
- Yes, what you think (however consciously or unconsciously) naturally and appropriately triggers a certain chemical release in your body that your brain and senses register as an emotion.
- Depending on the thought you’re having, you may feel mad, glad, sad or scared or a combination of those four basic emotions. Or perhaps you’ll feel one of many variations on those four basic feelings, such as rage, joy, depression, panic for example.
- This again, is perfectly healthy, perfectly normal; all systems are working well if you are thinking thoughts and having emotional responses in reaction to those thoughts.
- The next natural thing for you to do is to notice and acknowledge the emotion that you’re having and identify where it came from. For example, you might notice that you’re feeling anxious all of the sudden and you stop and think about what just happened or what you were just thinking that might have made you feel anxious and you realize you’re concerned about a meeting that you have at work tomorrow.
- You would then identify what it is about that meeting that’s triggering your distress and you’d come up with some solutions for how you’re going to handle the situation, or if it’s about self-doubt, you’d offer yourself some reassurance or ask a colleague, friend, partner for some, and the anxiety would mostly vanish, taking your stress level down a few notches and leaving you feeling more grounded and able to peacefully get back to whatever you were doing.
You have a thought, it triggers a feeling, you notice the feeling, you identify the source, you take action to solve the problem and the feeling goes away.
Or if it’s a happy experience/thought you’re having, you’ll notice feelings of peace, happiness, contentment etc. and you take action to experience the moment more fully – like putting your book down to watch your toddler playing with a flower – and the feeling grows. Simple.
How Things Are if You Can’t Get a Grip on Food:
If you’re overeating, dieting, overweight, or struggle with eating disorders this natural system has gone wonky. And before you go anywhere near judging yourself for having these issues, remind yourself of the truth about humans:
The majority of the folks on this planet struggle with this faulty wiring to some extent.
Consider for a moment, the many hundreds of millions of men and women worldwide who struggle with being overweight and with weight loss or with anorexia, bulimia, or compulsive eating / binge eating disorder. In fact, as you likely know, weight loss and diets are a multi-billion dollar per-year business in the U.S. alone – which is solid evidence that you’re not the only one who can’t get a grip on food.
Now, expand your thoughts to include all the folks worldwide that struggle with addictions or dependencies on alcohol, drugs (prescription or street drugs), the internet, video games, pornography, gambling, and shopping and in reality you’ve covered a huge percentage of the human population. (A quick wiki search for any of these topics will prove my point.)
Anyway, the point is, you’re not alone. You have something different going on in your brain and it is absolutely the cause of your food and weight frustrations. Here’s generally how it’s going for you:
- You have a thought about something that triggers the natural chemistry in your body for you to have an emotional response.
- You have a natural emotional response to the thought.
- Your senses pick up on the feeling and immediately you have another thought in response to that feeling which sounds something like: ‘Uh, oh! I’m feeling unsettled, that means something bad is going to happen!’
- This automatic assumption that the emotion is bad and means trouble or stress is on the way triggers you to feel anxious which triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisol and lowers your dopamine levels (makes you feel sad / depressed / down / stuck).
- This triggers you to want to numb and soothe yourself.
- You start thinking about or reaching for those foods that on some level you know will bring you a sense of relief, soothing, ‘happy’, even if just for a moment.
- Then you start feeling a little better and realize what just happened and start giving yourself a hard time about it and soon you’re feeling anxious and down again and need more food, and so on, and so on, and so on.
This is why, no matter how many different diets and programs you’ve tried, you’ve not been able to experience true peace and lasting freedom with food. The good news is it’s actually quite simple to change this faulty wiring and feel truly confident around any food any time, and in your own skin. You just need to learn to do what those folks who don’t struggle with food and weight do. And it’s my job to show you how. But don’t take my word for it.
Here’s a little test you can do:If you’d like to start to see this confused stress response at work in your own life and start to shift it a little try this exercise for 2 days – even one hour will be illuminating.
The next time you’re starting to think about eating and you’re not hungry, or you notice that desire to binge or eat those dopamine triggering foods, just ask yourself: “Separate from food or body image, what just happened or what was I thinking about? And what is it about that that I might have found stressful?”
You’ll start to notice a link between the kind of thoughts you’re having, how stressed you feel, and food.
And then if you’d like to learn how to step free of that struggle once and for all, I am here to teach you how. If you’re not already a member, stay connected to me and get more support and education by signing up for my ezine.
You can read some feedback from many clients here if you’d like to get a sense for how simple this process is and how quickly it can change your life.
Or you can connect with me directly for pennies a day by joining me and the CEDRIC on line community and take part in my regular coaching sessions and discussion groups to remove the stressful patterns in your life and free you to start living life to the fullest today.