In today’s health environment we are told to deny or control our hunger, rather than recognize it and find pleasure in food and eating. Food not only fuels us for our activities and our health but it should be nourishing us as well. Too often we are told the pleasure we get from food or some other sources is sinful or indulgent (hence so many diet plans having good and bad foods) so we feel guilty about enjoying our meals. But why should we feel guilty about nourishing ourselves?
Now it’s time to dispel a big myth:
Denying your hunger will help you lose weight
This is FALSE. Eating when you’re hungry helps maintain the weight that is healthiest for you.
Denying your hunger leads to throwing off the balance in your system which leads to weight gain and fat storage.
Our lifestyles are generally guided by external factors about good and bad foods or what the appropriate amount of food is or the right times to eat. These influences have drowned out our own inner voice that tells us what is right for our body and soul.
Hunger is one of our most primal drives, it is essential to survival. Every fiber in us is programmed to make us feel miserable when we don’t eat (lightheaded, irritable, headache, achy, hangry, etc.) but they also reward us when we do eat they trigger the pleasure centers of our brains that make eating a pleasurable experience. The pleasure is our reward for listening to what our bodies are telling us this also allows us to find our natural weight.
However, many of us are not eating because we’re hungry, but more because we feel sad, guilty, bored, frustrated, lonely or angry. Although food will not take care of our emotions, we continue to eat and never get the satisfaction that we are searching for.
We have been trained our entire life that when we feel strong emotions we need to eat. We eat when we’re bored, sad, mad, happy, celebratory we eat. This best illustrated in movies when someone is mourning the ending of a relationship and they drown their sorrows with ice cream. Yet it is normal and healthy to have an emotional connection to food. Food can and should bring us together, as well as pleasure and comfort.
Food can not and should not be used as a numbing agent for our emotions. We should not expect to get the love and comfort that we crave from food. This process of eating to try to meet a need for emotional connection leads to losing our ability to hear those innate hunger and fullness messages that our body is desperately trying to tell us. This is the point most of us get stuck. The short-term comfort that food gives is a seductive mistress, and without having other options or skills we will continue that cycle that leads to anger and guilt about our eating habits and the ramifications on our weight.
As much as we all want to believe that food will fix our feelings, it won’t. It may provide short term comfort, but in the long run it makes our problems worse and prevents us from making the beneficial lifestyle changes that can lead us to a happier, healthier, fulfilling life.
Rather thinking of emotional eating as an eating problem, it should instead be considered a caretaking problem. You need to embrace the feelings that you’re having, and you need to love yourself, no one takes care of something or someone that they don’t love. We should be looking at the pleasure we derive from food as a valuable support for self-care and self-love by learning to honor and celebrate our hunger for food and life.
You don’t need a diet to achieve happiness, health, or whatever you want. Just decide what you want and go after it.