November 5, 2013

Eating Your Emotions

I made the mistake of
"celebrating" with my
first corn dog...that's
one experience that will
always be burned in my
brain (in a very bad way).
It is a mixed blessing when one can pursue education while working full time. As I continue my "day job" as a health promoter, I am working towards a graduate degree in counselling psychology. My goal is to, one day, create my own center for health promotion and merge exercise and health psychology with counselling day. In the meantime, I am beginning to perceive my role as a health promoter through a new set of lenses.

One of my roles as a health promotion educator is facilitating "weight management" courses (let's not even get into how I abhor the word "weight"). Since coming back from my first summer in school, I have noticed more and more people struggling with "healthy eating" when the real struggle is all emotional (it's not about the carrot versus the cake). Needless to say, I have been referring to our social work office more and more.  Just like alcohol, drugs, shopping, Internet, or even exercise, food is used by many as a way to cope with negative feelings. 

Sadly, I don't believe any course created in the name of weight loss will help an individual lose weight permanently unless that program includes a clinical counsellor (or at least acknowledgement and examination of emotional eating). The course I teach, in my role as a health promoter, barely gives this subject a nod and skirts over the issue of emotional eating; believing solely in the power of knowledge. If you know that vegetables are better for you, you will eat more vegetables. Let's be honest, when I'm faced with the difficult decision of a salad or a plate of nachos blanketed in cheese, I'm pretty sure I'm going to be picking the nachos (anyone else?). Now having said this, I have developed a "veggie actualization" model that defines veggie actualization as choosing veggies no matter what the context. This would mean that if standing over the buffet of an all inclusive resort in the tropics, you would chose veggies first and be happy and thankful for them (while shunning the deep fry, refined carbs, and every other happy food I can think of).

Knowing what is healthy and doing what is healthy are two different things.

We are motivated and influence by our
These are great to questions to ask yourself to enhance your
level of self awareness around food.
surroundings, social networks, and emotions. We eat when we are bored, tired, angry, sad, happy, in love, stressed out, grieving, and celebrating. However, when we eat to cover or avoid those nasty emotions like fear, sadness, hurt, and the like that's when emotional eating will seep into other parts of life.  The ability to deal with or sit with the negative and strong emotions will help an individual move through them and move on from them without hitting the drive through for a dozen donuts (not that I would know anything about that).

It is interesting to me that the so-called "obesity epidemic" is coming at a time when stress and depression are also growing. When the pressure to look a certain way, dress a certain way, or act a certain way is increasing so are the rates of "obesity and overweight". Of course, I can't determine what the cause of all this is... I'm just sayin' things look a little fishy to me.


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