Your Toolbelt Blog

Emotional Eating

Sometimes You Just Want to Eat Something That’s the Size of Your Head

“I don’t eat all day long, and then, when I get home, I just pull up a chair in front of the fridge and start shoveling it in.” “I just forget to eat.” “I would rather die than have to give up sugar.” “I use food as a weapon against myself.” “They can’t make me eat.” “Sometimes you just want to eat something that’s the size of your head.” Over the years that I’ve been practicing, I have heard it all, from food denying to food obsessing.  In this culture of food abundance, we have some of the most dysfunctional relationships with food on the planet.

 

brain fuel

While I don’t pretend to be a nutritionist, a doctor, a dietician, or even a personal trainer, I have made how, what, and how much we eat a personal study of mine because of the enormous effects I have observed food to have on our minds, bodies, and emotional health. Daniel Amen, M.D. makes the statement various times through his numerous publications, that “food is a drug” and has similar effects on our brains and bodies, just like other drugs do. Indeed, just looking at sugar alone (although, labeling sugar a “food” is rather controversial in and of itself), show clear markers for addiction in rats and humans. All food, however, impacts our bodies and our minds for the better or worse, and as such merits the same amount of consideration as exercise for the sake of our mental health.

 

In the effort to have the best mental health possible (and who doesn’t want to be the sanest of them all?), it is absolutely essential to bring more mindfulness and intention to how, what, and how much you eat. Consider the Ferrari—if you had this beautiful piece of machinery and wanted it to run as efficiently and smoothly as possible, would you put anything less than premium, high octane fuel into it? Of course not!  And would you let it run on empty all the time? No way! Or, would you try to overfill the gas tank so that gas is running down the sides? And…well, I think you get my point. Why in the world, then, would we want to fuel our bodies with anything less than premium fuel?food as fuel

 

Why indeed?

 

If you accept the premise that our bodies are our most prized possessions—consider that we only get one per lifetime, and it needs to last us our entire lifetime—then why would we not carefully and thoughtfully fuel our bodies as if they were Ferraris?

 

Well, of course, there are many explanations for why we do not—explanations, but not good reasons. We often have unhealthy relationships with food:  addictions, love/hate power struggles, and just plain neglect. I challenge you, however, to consider my argument above before you persist in your inner rationalizations for why you need that Snickers bar.

 

So, what is premium fuel for the body?  Well, although there are quite a few “diets” out there that espouse this particular way of eating or that way, (e.g. Paleo, South Beach, Atkins, Mediterranean, etc., etc.), and this is not the place for critiquing each one of these diets.  Here are some general agreements across the board that make up, in my book, a best practices approach:

 

  • Eat regularly and consistently—from 3-5 meals a day (if 5 meals, make sure they are small, snack- like meals to avoid over consumption).
  • Eat whole foods—the less processed, the better. If you can’t pronounce it, it isn’t a whole food.
  • Avoid all trans fats (otherwise disguised as “hydrogenated” fats).
  • Avoid added sugar in food—yeah, I know, but sugar is incredibly harmful for your body and mind. It increases inflammation in the body; it is addictive; and it makes you fat.
  • Avoid corn syrup—high fructose or otherwise. This is not a food—the body doesn’t recognize it as such, and so doesn’t feel full even after consuming it. Which is bad. It also causes inflammation in the body.
  • Limit or even eliminate white, highly processed flour and strive to have whole grains instead.
  • Hydrate your body—lots of controversy on what constitutes adequate water intake. I like the rule that you shouldn’t feel thirsty and your urine ought to be clear.
  • Supplement with high quality vitamins, minerals, and fish oil (flax seed, if you’re vegetarian). It would be ideal if we could get all the nutrients we need from the food we eat, but practically speaking, we typically just don’t, and so supplementing is necessary. I recommend a fish oil, vitamin D, vitamin B complex, calcium, magnesium, and a multi-vitamin. Consult with your doctor about what you, in particular, need.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine—I’ve written on these already, as common triggers for anxiety and depression.  While some studies tout the benefits of limited amounts of both, if you are anxious, you will be better off without either, despite any potential benefits.

 

A word on Gluten Free/Casein Free diets: it is way beyond the scope of both this blog and my expertise to make any recommendation about  going Gluten Free or Casein Free. I will say that there is quite a lot of research now available that critiques the pros and cons of eliminating either or both of these substances from your diet, and I would refer you to the literature as well as your doctor in making your own decision about whether going GF/CF is for you.

 

I feel so strongly about the importance of being intentional with our eating, that diet and nutrition are essential components  of one of my pillars for good mental health (which I will blog about very soon).   It is my mission and passion that everyone should enjoy the greatest mental health possible. Because of this, I feel confident in stating strongly that in order to be your best you, you must be thoughtful and intentional about fueling your body.

 

Until next time—“I’ve got to keep breathing. It’ll be my worst business mistake if I don’t.” –Steve Martin.

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