While the title is obviously over simplified, it is the truth. Conquering over eating is about awareness, thoughtfulness, dealing with emotions and stress head on, and creating coping mechanisms for stress other than food. In my previous blog, I gave you concrete techniques for stopping overeating, but the topic is very complex and deserves more attention. So…here it goes…
As I mentioned previously, the average American gains between 3-7 pounds over the holidays. This most likely is not surprising to you. But what surprised me is that research has shown that we then never get that weight off. Despite good intentions and New Year’s Resolutions, each year we end up weighing more. Year after year after year. But, the weight gain is not just from Thanksgiving Day nor Christmas Eve nor even Hanukah week, it is from week after week of poor eating. It seems that the time between Halloween and January 1st is a season of ridiculous over consumption. And, once we start, we just can’t stop!
So why do we allow this to happen when we know the consequences are so serious? Our genetics, for one reason. Across the plains of ancient Africa, our ancestors naturally went through periods of starvation, then abundance. From digestive hormones, to fat storage, to brain chemistry, we are programmed to accept overeating as a natural part of life because starvation was often right around the corner. Nowadays, McDonalds is right around the corner. And that brings me to the second reason we overeat. Over indulgence is in our faces at every minute of the holiday season via television, advertisements and social gatherings. Who could not resist eating fattening foods when they are so prevalent? Who? Well, the emotionally vulnerable American, or the stressed out American, or the lonely American. And there are millions of us. Combine stress and emotional trauma with “in your face” foods, and this is how we have become so nutritionally ill.
But, this is no excuse. We are more than just genes, and we are better than any food can make us feel. But it takes thought, awareness and concrete behavioral changes to overcome temptations. Willpower is not the way- thinking is the way. This is why diets fail. Diets don’t address the mind. Remember, the same brain that can lead us to crave sweets, can also lead us to crave fruits and vegetables. But you must stay aware… aware of how you feel, what emotions trigger your eating, what your fullness quotient is, and what your hunger cues are…..
Step 1 begins today. Start a journal that tracks your eating- where, when, how much. Get specific. Next, figure out what is your biggest challenge and unhealthiest eating pattern and target that first. You undereat during the day? You eat alone at night? You eat when stressed or sad? Consider these important questions first. On your log, keep a track of your emotions, your stress and your sleep, which all directly relate to your eating patterns. Don’t forget to use the techniques and tips I gave you in the last blog, and most importantly, ask for help. There are many psychologists and therapists who can help with emotional overeating. A good trainer can always help as well!