It’s the elephant in the room…we all know it’s there, we all struggle with it, but none of us want to admit that it’s an issue…emotional eating. Here you are…you’ve vowed to turn over a new leaf, you’ve been eating well, taking care of yourself, and then something happens. Financial troubles, family trouble, a fight with your significant other, and you are stressed out…all you want is that one comfort food…a donut, a chocolate bar, a cheeseburger, ice cream, etc. You resist…trying to talk yourself out of it, but you cave. That’s it, you’ve ruined your “diet”…might as well go all out, right? No, lets try again. How should you handle those moments of stress when all you want is some type of comfort food? Allow yourself to have something, and don’t get down on yourself. If you’ve been eating right, then your metabolism should be able to handle something like that.
So, first…let’s start off with why do we engage in emotional eating? Well, the answer is pretty simple…instant gratification. You see, our systems are equally complicated and simplistic at the same time, and on the simplistic side fatty foods=happiness. Thousands of years ago when we were still hunters and gatherers, our diet consisted of mostly roots, tubers, fruits, and vegetables (hmm…vegetarian paleo diet anyone? 😉 )…our diet consisted mostly of these things, because meat was much harder to come by, and we didn’t have any means of storage, so it was a rare meal. When we consume fats, endorphins are sent to the brain giving us that feel-good feeling. So, it makes sense that our go-to foods would be fattier because they, by proxy, are addictive (because endorphins are an addictive chemical) and because it satisfies one of our most basic urges…to build fat stores, for survival.
Obviously, most of us are not starving, and therefore REALLY don’t need to worry about storing more fat…but, it’s ingrained in our body’s most basic survival instincts to ensure we have plenty of fat stores. So, there you have it…it’s a natural instinct to want those foods.
So when we get stressed…on of our first reactions (especially in women!) is to confide in some good comfort food…SO…how should we deal with those cravings in today’s modern day society, where a void of fatty foods is non-existent. When you’re “dieting” (which you really shouldn’t be “dieting” see posts here and here …but, for lack of a better word we will use the D word 😉 ), it’s bound to happen…you’re going to crave those “forbidden” (or at least seemingly forbidden) foods. If I’m seeing someone for weight loss that has been pretty strict on themselves, sticking to their meal plan, I have been known to encourage them to go have that Cheeseburger and Ice Cream if they’re craving it…why? Because if they deny themselves long enough, it will spiral out of control…that one cheeseburger and ice cream will turn into a week long binge…and then we’re really in trouble. Because when you go on a binge like that, it’s quite easy to set yourself back a few weeks. It’s a lot easier to put on 3-5 pounds than it is to take it off…you can easily put that on in a week, but it will likely take you at least 2 weeks to take that off again. However, most of the time when someone does end up on that path of remorse and regret after a binge, they’re going to wallow for a while…they’re going to throw up their hands and say “Forget it, I’ve screwed up. Might as well quit! No way am I going to weigh in now!”….and what does that solve? Nothing! Absolutely nothing. The best thing you can do is satisfy the craving…but only satisfy those that are TRUE cravings, and move on without dogging yourself… A good way to test that out is, let’s say you really want a hamburger…is it from somewhere specific? If it is a really specific craving, you know you have a real craving…if you can’t think of a healthy alternative, or anything else that will satisfy it…THOSE are the ones that you can satisfy and not ignore. Those are the ones that you shouldn’t try to skate around. THOSE are the ones that, if ignored, can lead to a major break down.
Sometimes when we have a craving and we try to substitute it for something else, all we do is increase the intensity of the craving. If you just want some ice cream, but don’t really care about flavor/brand/source…then you should probably find a healthy frozen yogurt to substitute. If you want Breyers Chocolate Cookie Dough Ice Cream…then have a scoop. You’ll be less likely to binge on it if you just satisfy the craving 🙂 .
If you have the same craving at certain points in the day…perhaps you’re body is trying to tell you something is missing from your diet 😉 . Did you know that if you regularly crave chocolate, that is a sign of magnesium deficiency? Here is a nice little chart to help you out:
So weigh your options…try one of the alternative foods in the chart above if you think you could have a deficiency in your diet….which honestly, most of us do for a number of reasons. Even those of us that pay extra close attention to our diets have deficiencies…our soil isn’t as packed with nutrients as it used to be. Or, if you are craving something specific and you’ve been eating really well, then go ahead and satisfy that craving…If you have any questions, or would like to start on a menu plan, feel free to send me a message and we can get you set up 😉