Eating is a learnt behaviour. As children we were expected to eat everything we were given, even if we didn’t like it. We were rewarded with “treats”. We felt special on our birthdays with food and presents. Food was also used to celebrate events and we learnt that eating came with feeling good. We were conditioned that food is a way to feel special, to get a lift – and this is why we head for the kitchen when we feel bad.
So when we have had a busy or stressful day at work, we treat ourselves to a snack or a glass of wine when we get home to relax and unwind.
Or we feel lonely or bored, so we use food to give us something to do, for company and also to give us a little chemical high which temporarily makes the feelings go away.
Often we find ourselves eating food we don’t want or need, for reasons we don’t understand.
Food does help us cope with overwhelming and difficult times. It’s very grounding! It helps us control difficult feelings. However these feelings don’t go away and over time we need more and more food to give us comfort. Eventually we get in a habit of eating too much or eating the unhealthy foods for a quick fix. Then we feel bad about being overweight so we use food to suppress those feelings too. Eating becomes mindless.
Some people eat for any powerful feeling they have, whether it is happy or sad, excited, disappointed or bored.
All of this happens so fast, we are not even aware of it. The good news is that all this behaviour is learnt, and if it is learnt, it can be unlearnt too.
The first step to change is to slow down and become mindful about what we are doing and why. When we slow down we can check:
When we eat slowly, we get to taste the food and notice how our body responds to it. We notice if it’s what the body really wants. We notice when we are full and when to stop eating.
Its very different than being on auto pilot – rushing home, having a snack as fast as possible, throwing dinner together, eating fast in front of TV totally unaware of what we have eaten.
If you would like to learn more about Weight Loss and Emotional Intelligence I am running a 12 week course starting 4th August. Click here for further information.