Emotions & Your Nutritional Journey
I bet you’re wondering why there is a whole section on this web site devoted to nutrition and emotions. If you’ve read the “Getting Started” issue of my newsletter, The Nutrition Way Chronicle, you’ll begin to understand that nutrition isn’t temporary. Nutrition is about making the changes necessary to become healthy, and being healthy isn’t a fad – it’s a lifelong journey.
I often find that as people progress and start feeling better and better, emotions around food often crop up, and if left unresolved, they sabotage a person’s efforts to continue feeling better and better. I find that we are so attached to food, and there are a variety of emotional reasons for these attachments.
In some cases, the food we eat defines who we are; for example, a vegetarian, a vegan, a meat and potatoes person, a Paleo person and so forth. Defining who we are through food can provide a sense of comfort, but food also provides comfort for other reasons. We eat to celebrate something. We eat when we’re happy, angry, depressed, sad, grieving, or lonely. We eat to participate in the celebrating or grieving occasions of the family. We even get rewarded with food! No wonder there’s so much “emotional baggage” associated with food!
We’re often so accustomed to using food for these reasons that we often don’t realize that we are emotionally eating. We often don’t think about the fact that food has a purpose. Food is nutrition. That’s all there is to it! It is designed to meet the nutritional needs of the body, not to comfort us, help us celebrate, or reward us for good behavior.
The “Loving Saboteur”
One of the biggest emotional impediments I find which will delay or stop a person’s progress towards health is lack of support. Often the lack of support is coming from a loved one, and this person becomes a “loving saboteur”. This person can be a husband or wife, a child, a mother or father, or it could be a friend or close associate. This person is purposefully thwarting your plan to lose weight or become healthy.
There are a variety of reasons for the “sabotaging” that’s going on. It could be insecurity on their part. They, of course, have their own attachments to food and seeing you eat something nutritious and being successful at your goals is threatening to their way of eating and too difficult for them to handle. They may feel that if you become more attractive or have more energy and are becoming happier, they may lose you to another person. They may want you to eat with them just for sociability – they are now feeling uncomfortable enjoying “pleasure foods” without you. There could be other reasons for their sabotaging behavior, but ultimately, your “loving saboteur” will find some way to make you feel guilty about your progress.
This doesn’t mean that your “loving saboteur” is a terrible person that you need to disconnect from – often they are not. But it does mean that you need to employ some strategies to resolve this situation.
Tips For Dealing With ‘Loving Saboteurs’
- As you learn more and more about nutrition, you’ll be preparing wonderful meals with enticing aromas and flavors that will engage your family’s support. If they are open to it, you can start to teach them some things about nutrition. If they are not, do not veer from your path – you are the one with real solutions!
- While your spouse/family/friends indulge in unhealthful foods, you make sure you are always prepared with healthful foods. Remember that if your “loving saboteur” is unhappy because you eat something different, that is their problem, not yours.
- If your “loving saboteur” is putting pressure on you to eat unhealthful foods, this is a control issue that you must resolve. Explain clearly, lovingly – but firmly – that you simply don’t care for that food any longer. Sometimes all you need to do is smile and say, “no thanks” while pushing it away. Just because someone is giving you something to eat, you don’t have to eat it, and there is no need to feel guilty about not accepting their offer.
- If you are having trouble with the above, this is most likely a boundary issue on your part. You are undoubtedly having trouble standing up for yourself. Read the book, “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life”, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. This book can help you establish healthful boundaries in your relationships.
- Learning about your nutritional needs and how nutrition affects your life and health is also a vital part of overcoming emotional eating. The more you learn about nutrition and how it affects you, the more solid your reasons become for pursuing health, losing weight, and saying “no thanks” to unhealthful foods. Our programs are designed with this in mind.
- Seeking the support and advice of an experienced psychotherapist who can help you to better understand and cope with your emotional eating can be very helpful in increasing your success, and should be kept in mind.
Guiding You to Health Through Nutrition
As previously stated, losing weight and staying healthy through nutrition is not a fad – it is a lifelong journey – and establishing your boundaries to overcome pitfalls is part of it. It will take consistency, patience, education, support, and probably a good dose of humor to make it stick, but you can do it!
Remember, that my role is to guide you to health by designing a nutritional program specifically for you – this means I am partnering with you to ensure your success. Not only do our nutritional programs include the nutritional elements (food, recipes, supplements, etc.) and advice, but they also include education, developing strategies and tips, and more that respond to your situation in order to anchor your success. More customized tips and strategies for dealing with emotional eating and “loving saboteurs” are, of course, also offered in our programs.
Please note: If you are in a relationship with a ‘loving saboteur” who is belittling or making your life miserable, you will need to seek the counseling of a psychotherapist. There may also be other more serious emotional issues that require the help of an experienced psychotherapist. These issues go beyond the scope of our programs.