January 23, 2012
Keep Your New Year’s Resolution by Controlling your Mood to Control your Food
It’s a New Year – a time when many people are making changes in their lives and working to achieve the best version of themselves. For many, this means eating healthier and losing weight. This also means that many of us are dreading the inevitable day when we “fall off the wagon” and cheat on our newfound resolution. However, much of controlling our food can be managed by controlling our mood.
Our emotions have a huge impact on our food choices – choices that often do not include healthy foods, like vegetables, but comfort foods instead. Chocolate is calming. Ice cream is comforting. And fried chicken can be a best friend, at least for a moment.
When we are stressed, depressed, anxious, bored or lonely, we can be triggered to eat. If we can learn what is eating us, we can learn better eating habits and not turn to food to soothe us. Here are four fundamental steps to help you manage your mood to manage your food.
Track your triggers
It is vital to recognize the feelings that lead to your food choices. Identify and label the emotions that make you psychologically hungry. What are the situations, moods or environments that cause you to overeat? Stress is a common trigger. Boredom can also cause overeating. It could be the depression and loneliness from not being connected to family or friends. If you begin to track the triggers that cause you to reach for food (when you’re not hungry) you’ll become more aware of the negative outcomes of your choices, thus you’ll be able to better handle the mood/food connection.
Remember what food is for
There is only one main reason why we should eat: because our body needs fuel! If you struggle with emotional eating, you have likely become unable to discern physical and psychological hunger. Relearn what physical hunger truly is and stop eating when you’re satisfied, not when you’re stuffed. Educate yourself about how the body uses food. For example, research how protein increases alertness, carbohydrates increase calmness and how some fats are actually good for you. Before you eat an unplanned food, ask yourself if you are really hungry? If it has been only a short time since you last ate, chances are you aren’t really hungry.
Choose no or low-calorie comforts
Stop munching and get moving! There are many ways you can manage feelings like sadness, stress and boredom that don’t include huge calorie consumptions. Make a list of 10 things you can do when feeling this way. Physical activity produces endorphins, which boost your mood and energize you. A good night’s sleep can also be a powerful mood booster. Call a friend, read book, take the dog for a walk or enjoy a relaxing bath. Simply relaxing can calm your body and your mind.
Know what your “hunger” is hiding, and seek help
For many who are overweight, food is the drug of choice to relieve emotional discomfort. Food is an easily accessible alternative we use to mask problems like a broken heart, a grieving spirit, a frantic family or a lonely life. Stuffing our mouths and emotions with food does not address our real issues. We can become so adept at denying or minimizing whatever pains us that we believe our problems with food are only problems about food. Until you acknowledge what your emotional hunger binges are attempting to hide, you will be stuck in an unhealthy state. Identify your unmet needs, and be willing to put them on the table. Express your feelings to a trusted friend, or seek support through a professional counselor. Gain control of your eating and your life.
If you or someone you love needs help, contact Centerstone at 888-291-HELP (4357). If you are in crisis, call Centerstone’s 24-Hour Crisis Intervention Hotline at 800-681-7444.
Centerstone, a not-for-profit organization, is the nation's largest provider of community-based behavioral healthcare. It provides a full range of mental health, addiction and related educational services to more than 75,000 individuals of all ages each year. The organization has nearly 130 facilities and 220 partnership locations throughout Indiana and Tennessee. It also operates the Centerstone Foundation; the Centerstone Research Institute (CRI), which is improving mental healthcare through innovative research and information technology; Not Alone, which provides confidential, no-cost support and mental health services to service members, combat veterans and their loved ones; and Advantage Behavioral Health, a behavioral health administrative management organization.
About Susan Gillpatrick, MEd, LPC, CTS
Susan Gillpatrick, Centerstone Crisis Management Specialist, primarily works in the field with clients in critical incident response situations, and in Centerstone’s wellness trainings and presentations. She is also responsible for planning and implementing marketing and growth strategies for Centerstone’s Crisis Management Strategies.
Ms. Gillpatrick is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Trauma Specialist, Certified Workplace Conflict Mediator, and Mental Health Service Provider in the state of Tennessee and a National Certified Counselor. She is also a member the American Counseling Association, the Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists, the Tennessee Mental Health Counseling Association, and the Middle Tennessee Employee Assistance Professionals Association. She is a frequent presenter at local and national conferences, and has had numerous articles published. She received her Master of Education degree in Human Development Counseling from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University.
To request Susan Gillpatrick to speak with your group or organization about complete wellness in living, contact her at (615) 460-4445 or firstname.lastname@example.org.