Would thunder be half as majestic without lightning to illuminate the night sky with every roar.
Would Ginger Rogers float with such impossible elegance without the accomplished hands of Fred Astaire to guide her.
If they’d never met on a cold and dreary morning in 1950’s Liverpool, would either Lennon or Mcartney have penned some the most memorable songs of the 20th century.
You see, some things just belong together. Drawn to one another with an irresistible, magnetic force, they are unquestionably better off in co-existence.
Don’t be fooled, however, into thinking that just because things are drawn together, that they are richer for finding one another.
Things didn’t turn out so well for Bonnie and Clyde, and whilst Romeo and Juliet may be lauded in posterity, its fair to say that were their chance encounter avoided, they would probably have lived long and happy lives instead of making ‘his’ and ‘hers’ demises a 13th century venetian fashion statement.
On the more worrying end of the unsuitable allegiances spectrum, if Kim Kardashian had never met Kanye West would humanity be several steps closer to achieving world peace? Maybe not, but we would almost certainly have been exposed to less memes of her bottom and that’s a massive step in the right direction.
Which leads me on to the irrepressible relationship between ’emotions’ and large amounts of readily available, highly digestible, completely unsuitable FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD.
Emotions are wild, ravenous creatures that don’t respond to reason or logic because emotions are HUNGRY.
Overall, i’m pretty happy with the way us ‘ooman beins’ work.
We’ve got two good feet for walking. Two eyes for looking at things. A couple of ever so useful hands for picking the things up that we see. We’ve been given two ears for hearing things and a mouth for telling people what we’ve heard. All makes sense to me.
What doesn’t make quite as much sense, is why a gargantuan nerve/sensor runs directly from our tummy to our brain, rewarding crappy food consumption with a super sized portion of ‘feel bloody good for about 10 minutes’.
WHY? Why must ‘junk’ food release serotonin and dopamine? (hormones that make us feel temporarily better.)
A Doctor of ancestral eating patterns will no doubt enlighten us in the comments section (there is one of these on almost every health forum) so i’ll preempt below….
“When there was a food shortage in our ‘hunter gatherer’ days, it was very important we ate lots of food to survive, as food was in short supply, therefore our brains would reward us for eating high calorie, high energy foods’.
I thus retort.
“Blah, blah blahdeblah….”
Because really? I’d say that not being ravenously hungry and/or dangling over the precipice of dying from starvation would be more than enough motivation to eat food when there wasn’t much about.
A dollop of happy hormones to reward us for tucking in to a raw mammoth thigh in such plighted circumstances seems somewhat superfluous to requirements.
Be that as it may, there is no getting away from the fact that eating high calorie, high energy foods releases feel good hormones, and when whoever created the human body created the human body, they didn’t factor in Haagen Daas and Ben and Jerries entering a ‘Willywonkaesque’ race to create the most deliciously flavoured ice-cream the world has ever seen.
Which brings me on to the emotion/eating relationship. It is destructive. It is unhealthy. It is damaging. If ‘Emotions’ were ‘Eatings’ spouse, Eating would terminate the marriage, citing unreasonable behaviour from Emotions as indisputable ground for decree absolute.
I should probably explain I’m not a man who’s soul exudes sunshine and light 24 hours a day. This statement makes me unusual in the health and fitness sphere, possibly for not being an evergreen source of positivity, but more likely for admitting as much.
My fight for positive behaviour used to be inextricably linked to my fight for a bright and happy mindset. I saw them as one and the same thing. I have since learned they are in fact two separate battles, illustrated by the statements below.
Statement 1: Becoming healthy will not necessarily equate to you feeling happy. Although it will help.
Statement 2: Becoming happy will not necessarily equate to healthy behaviours. Although it will help.
I’ve used the term ‘happy’ to embarrassingly oversimplify and incompetently describe the concept of an absence of the incalculable variety of negative emotional issues the human psyche can experience.
In this context, i’m pretty convinced perpetual ‘happiness’ is an impossibility.
I like to compare ones emotional life to painting the forth of firth bridge, (a bridge in Scotland, famous for always being painted, such is its vast size.) Just when you think you’ve finished and stand back to inspect the wonderful job you’ve done, you notice that an old part of the bridge is starting to show signs of wear and tear and you’re back to work again.
Since the job of emotional management is an ongoing one, linking emotions with eating is a monstrously bad idea.
Many experts correctly ascertain that if you solve your emotional problems, you will stop emotionally eating. This is of course almost entirely true. The problem being that NOBODY, ever, has solved the puzzle of fixing emotions.
There is another word for emotional strife and struggle.
That word is life.
So, if you’re willing to accept that you’re pretty unlikely to solve the mystery of life anytime soon, it shouldn’t take a great leap of faith to accept that you’ll need to take a different strategy to overcoming emotional eating.
This is where I HAVE had a great deal of success. Are you ready for my proven SECRET to stopping emotional eating.
Cut the link between emotions and behaviours.
That’s it. My emotions play absolutely no part in my behaviours. I can’t overcomplicate it any more than that. I can’t simplify it anymore than that. That’s all it is.
When your emotions start telling you to go to the fridge, ignore the little buggers and follow your plan.
When you feel bad. Don’t eat. Ask yourself why you feel bad. Then feel bad.
When you feel happy. Don’t eat. Ask yourself what made you happy. Then feel happy.
When you feel scared. Don’t eat. Ask yourself why you are afraid. Then feel scared.
Emotions know the square root of nothing about food. They have VERY important messages to deliver but they ain’t got a single clue when it comes to cuisine.
When to eat?
Eat when you are actually hungry.
Eat when you have decided you are going to eat.
It took many years to overcome the desire to numb perceived ‘negative’ emotions with food. Whenever I felt sad or afraid or angry, I wanted the emotion to go away. I hated the way it made me feel so refused to feel it.
What I’ve come to learn is when experiencing and confronting the emotion, as opposed to chasing it away with an iced chocolate donut, it actually gets dealt with. This provides other more traditionally ‘positive’ emotions the space to flow.
Over time, my emotional balance has vastly improved as I have come to see ALL my emotions as having an integral part to play in the palate of life, none superior or lessor, but rather an effervescent mixture of complimentary flavours.
I’m not saying this is easy. Not at first at least, its actually incredibly difficult, but unlike solving all of your emotional problems, it is entirely possible.
Will achieving health make you feel better? Yes.
Will reaching your target weight make you happier? Probably, it will. Yes.
Will achieving your health goals reconcile all of the emotional struggles you have? No. It won’t, but you will feel more resilient and able to confront life’s challenges.
And nothings felt that good since Fred Astaire danced cheek to bum cheek with Kim Kardashian. (if you get that joke you’re too silly for your own good).
Good luck. Any questions? Happy to answer 🙂
I’ve dealt with emotional eating all my life (I”m 57) I never had a weight problem until menopause and then I had to lose 50 but before exercise kept the sweets in check. I think our upbringing can start that process of “feel good” food. I know my Mom was a great cook and loved being a stay at home mother, but every boo-boo, every bad day at school, every bad test, was met with “Have some ice cream and we will talk, have a cookie, I’ll make your favorite dish tonight”.
I’m not saying that is all wrong, but we should watch how we respond to our children when upset because habits are hard to break. I’ll probably always want something salty or sweet when upset but I am learning to wait and keep busy. One day at a time.
Let me tell you a terrible joke I tell friends, which is kinda related to this article (I think!). When they brag about their exercise regimen – their daily tennis, their stroll on the threadmill, how much iron they can get lift, etc., etc. – I, the wise guy that I am, would interject.
Me: Oh that’s nothing, I run ten times a day!
They: Wow, really? Where?
Me: To the refrigerator!
Another great blog Daniel. You look far too young to have so much wisdom that usually comes with age! Today I noticed that I wasn’t so much emotional, just kinda’ bored. I opened the cupboards looking for something to eat, “mindless eating”. I remembered your words however and asked myself “am I hungry”, “why am I looking here”, “do I want to eat”? The answer was a no to all questions. So, I closed the cupboard doors and went back outside to my novel. Kind of simple really. Thank you again!
It also helps if you open the fridge door and you are not looking at anything more tempting than a monster pile of zucchini (my fridge at present- it’s that time of year in my polytunnel). If you don’t fill your kitchen with temptation it is impossible to fall prey to it. The only ready to eat, instant food in my house is dog food. Otherwise it is nuts, fruit or something that would take time to cook. I have never felt so low that I fancied a handful of dried mung beans or oat and salmon dog kibble to cheer myself up.
I entirely second Kathryn’s comment! So many times I don’t even know WHY I go scavenge in my pantry… But I do! And if I find some yummy thing, even deliciously good nuts, I will eat that… and more…. and come back again. Not that I am hungry: it’s just there and I see it, so I take it. Now, if my pantry only has dry pulses, or other unsatisfactory goods (I tried to eat handfuls of flax seed but one teaspoon was more than plenty!), I actually have to reconsider whether I really want to eat something. If I truly do, then I’ll have to make do with a piece of fruit, or a bite of cheese, or possibly go to the length of peeling a carrot, cook an egg, or something healthy like that – eating REAL food. If I am not really willing to go do that, I find that often a good large cup of tea (I take mine with absolutely nothing in it so my tea leaves better be good!) will do the trick… If one’s kitchen has NO temptations at all, my eating desire sort of sorts itself out. It an be boring when I am looking for munchies, but in truth, it’s a GOOD kind of boring that keeps me from eating when I shouldn’t.
Interesting you say you would only possibly go to the length of peeling a carrot. I think it has a lot to do with instant gratification. I know some emotional eaters and they all have that in common. They want cake, for example, but not to the extent that they would drive to the shop and buy it or make a cake so they keep stuff like that in the house for when they might “need” it. Once it is on tap it is harder for them to ignore it. I occasionally get hormonally driven urges to eat when I am not hungry but I know it is not real hunger because I can’t be bothered to cook something and like you I have a hot drink or tomato juice or water instead and let the urge pass.
Thank you for putting such a fun spin on such a huge struggle.