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Emotional Attachment to Food

So in a nutshell (excuse the pun 😊) we all have a certain food or drink we really enjoy, but why? I personally suffer these cravings regularly and have had to battle with the whole concept of what it is that is giving me these ridiculous cravings

Even though I eat regularly and a perfect mix of Macros. So, what is it that drives me to long for certain foods and turn my nose up at others?

Millions of people each year vow to lose weight. January is the usual starting point, with a new year resolution and then it’s a wedding, party and the summer holidays. How many people say I will start Monday? Why do all need a starting point, why don’t we just stop eating crap and simply start? So, While we get on with it and do get off to a good start unfortunately for most people the results are not. On average only 8% of those who make a New Year’s resolution actually keep them. For those of us who do succeed in getting a few pounds off at the start simply Pile it back on very quickly, because we are unable maintain it.

Here is what happens:

For the Most of us we focus entirely on the physical attributes of losing weight, focusing on diet and physical exercise. But this is only one aspect of the whole process, the one area that is seriously overlooked and neglected is the emotional attachment to food. As a result, diets falter and people fall into the trap of giving up or using the excuse of will power. How many times have I heard people say to me ‘you have great will power’. When you break it down, we concern ourselves with not getting in enough exercise, and it costs too much. But the one that remains constant amongst clients and dieters alike is ‘I don’t have time really’ What? Just so you are aware, there are 24hrs in a day, on average we’ll say you get 8hrs sleeping, then you spend 8hrs-9hrs working, 2hrs spent eating and working breaks, travelling/picking up kids doing everyday things 2hrs, that still leaves 3hrs surplus. It is simple time management, and the latter is just a typical client’s day and actually I am being over generous on some of the hours listed here, in reality I find that most people have a surplus of 4-5hrs. This I just don’t get but that is a topic for another day’s discussion. But what I will say is slow down and make that time for yourself. In modern times we seem to almost pass ourselves out, what’s the rush? Enjoy life, savour the moments, embrace the world and spend time with friends and family.

So, looking at or attachment to food mentally, most people don’t actually see it. As a result, this is the major cause of us failing and being able to follow through on diets. The diets themselves are generally ok but it’s our understanding of why we eat food is where we leave ourselves down dramatically.

From a very young age we are programmed. Our parents out of the goodness of their heart reward us with treats for being good and to help console us if we are upset. Any time we have a party out comes the cake, Christmas we are spoilt with luscious foods and even nowadays here in Ireland Halloween has become a huge ordeal. Maybe it’s the Irish culture but if there is a party happening you can be sure you’ll find and Irish Man at it. It is very easy to see then how we can associate certain smells to certain happy thoughts and memories. The smell of bread cooking in the oven, can create these powerful emotional connections. These events and sensations we carry with us for the rest of our lives and when we smell them We are automatically transported back in time. Saying that it can also be a negative, bad experiences with food as a child can affect us as an adult. Not because the food is bad, no but rather the associated event that transpired while eating that food.

I remember when I was you being sick and a little under the weather. I was only around 7 or 8 years old at the time, you ask how on earth I even remember back that far, but the event that unfolded scared me for life. I had obviously been fasting under the instruction of the doctor to get the bug out of my system and simply drinking water, just wasn’t cutting it. I couldn’t resist the hunger and went to the cupboard in the kitchen and opened a tub of Cherries (just to point out here that, they were those horrible glazed cooking cherries used to make cakes and other confectionary, not the real fruit) Away I went and ate them. Within in 10-15min I was running to the toilet emptying the contents from my stomach. For me as an adult even to this day I find it difficult to eat cherries, all because of that moment as a young boy. I know they weren’t the real deal, I know that real cherries don’t taste anything like that. But it’s that complete mental barrier that, has me say no every single time.

Whether you are aware of it or not, we are conditioned to use food not only for nourishment, but also as comfort. So, is this God or Bad? Well it all depends really on how you deal with it. If you can accept it and understand it then you stand some chance. Your brain releases a neurotransmitter known as dopamine and sends those signals in response the food stimuli. You make a decision based on that and so it all unfolds. So, if we start to reward ourselves using food it can have a very serious negative affect and the consequences can turn to over eating or binge eating. When does this raise its ugly head the most? It happens when, emotional issues like stress, anxiety, depression, or excitement and celebration start to play a part. How many of us have come home after a hard day, sat down to a glass of wine, out comes the cheese board, legs up, shoes off and then you think ‘Fuck It, I’ll order a Pizza or Chinese’. Boom calorie over load. That happy feeling is awesome as you eat it and as the brain releases dopamine. Afterwards you sit back feeling bloated because not only did you get the Pizza, but a selection of side orders, Garlic Bread, Ribs, Chicken wings and the Dips that go with it.

The trouble now is that you head to bed most likely feeling bloated and most likely a little tipsy, because the glass of wine turned into a bottle. In Ireland, we are a culture of habitual eaters. You go to the Cinema and order some food. The trouble is the food you order is full of empty calories, loaded with fat, sodium and sugars. For example, let’s take a look at the typical observation I have made just recently. I watched as a couple bought Nachos and cheese, with jalapenos, a Large Coca Cola, a large sweet popcorn, a pack or two sweets, all good, right we are relaxing and enjoying ourselves? Wrong…! You just knocked up nearly 2400kcal. Information based on the Odeon Cinema Nutritional Information, which in fairness to them is available on their website.

Have a look at the figures below:

Nacho and Cheese 869kcal

Portion of Jalapenos: 13kcal

Large Coke: 88kcal

Large sweet Popcorn: 869kcal

Minstrels: 505kcal

Grand total of: 2,344kcal

You what is even worse about all of this? You come out afterwards still hungry. What happens then? Across the road and into McDonalds (can’t say I followed them any more as I am sure I’d have been done for stalking 😊). This is only one example, of at least 50 people purchasing. And from what I saw it was far worse for others. The Average moderately active male will eat between 2200kcal to 2400kcal a day and the average female will take in 1800kcak to 2000kcal. Every day people in Ireland go on countless diets and kill themselves exercising. You must change the way you deal with your emotions, your stress and anxiety and understand what food actually is. When understand the psychology and emotional attachment of food, and can deal with it you can then feel free. Now you can involve your brain in a different way and make good choices and decisions to make those changes.

Food Diary:

Write down everything you eat for the day, the amount, the times between your meals, the types of foods. Write down how you feel and try and identify some common patterns. Look at when you have more energy, look at when you hit a low. Think also if when seeing a food does it evoke a memory or spark and emotional connection. Constantly challenge yourself, ask am I eating this to build me up or destroying me? Ask yourself Why am I eating this? Am I eating this because I am hungry or am I thirsty? Try find the route of the problem and turn your diet into one that you understand.

You are trying to remove the emotional attachment, the habit and coping mechanism you have subconsciously put in place. See food as fuel, see it as nourishment, see as the key to a longer and healthier life.

Asking for help:

Don’t be worried about getting help. Don’t wait until it is too late. When you want to do exercise, you’ll join a gym, join a running club or hire a trainer, all to help you with your weight loss. No one seems to have an issue with that. Maybe now it is time you looked at delving deeper into the issue and if getting your body in shape hasn’t worked to date, maybe it is time to work on your mind….!

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