Last week, Dr. Phil told his contestants that we need to eat to live not live to eat. Food is the body’s fuel. It is what keeps our hearts beating, our brains running, and our feet moving. Just like other sources of energy, some are higher quality and give us better results than others. Primarily, food is about nutrition and energy; however, we use food for many other purposes.
The majority of first dates include food. Men buy food on dates to demonstrate that they can provide, and it gives us something to do with our nervous hands, a reason to pause and consider what you will say while your mouth is full, and something to look at to avoid eye contact. The majority of our social contacts include food in some form. We share food to nurture one another; it is a way to say ‘I care about you, your comfort, and your health’. Also, as we mentioned, food is a powerful drug that can impact us physically and emotionally. The emotional aspects, seem to be Dr. Phil’s primary concern in how food may be misused. It’s when we start using food as a drug or a filler than it becomes a problem; that’s when our calories become empty.
According to Dr. Phil’s quiz Are You An Emotional Eater, I would venture that nearly all of us at least have “room for improvement”. Personally, I think there is a balance and you can still make smart choices without limiting yourself socially or completely ignoring your body’s cravings. Even chocolate has researched benefits on mood, but eating a tub of rocky road is not going to be helpful in the short term or the long term.
However, in general, we need to over-learn something new before we can find the workable balance. You have to create healthy habits before you can find exceptions. The problem that Dr. Phil is highlighting is when food is your main (or only) coping technique.
Rather than eating when sad, lonely, uncomfortable, or anxious, consider these tried and true coping skills:
Seek Support – find a friend or confidant and share your stressors or just find something to laugh about.
Journaling – even if no one else is available, you can always take a deeper look at your own thoughts, and maybe talk yourself into a new state of mind, by writing down what you are thinking and what is bothering you.
Exercise – Research has shown that nothing relieves stress more than physical exercise. When you exercise, your brain secretes several nuerochemicals, including serotonin, which may be the reason you are craving chocolate in the first place, endorphins, which have an opiate-like effect of pain-relief and mood elevation, dopamine, and norepinephine. Symptoms of depression, anxiety, impulsivity, aggression, and increased appetite have been linked to deficiencies of these neurochemicals.
Positive distraction – If you’re stressed, take a break and watch a movie or take a bath or do something else to take care of yourself or take your mind off of what is bothering you.