The emotional eating paradox

don't give up-01I gained weight today. There is no reason I should have gained weight and in fact I expected to lose weight based upon my eating and exercise yesterday. I have lost 5lbs in the last 3 days eating high carb low fat mainly and mostly raw. Rationally it makes sense that there might be a stall. In fact, I probably have more than 2 lbs of food inside me right now and that would explain the entire weight gain. But here is the thing: if you are an emotional eater, that doesn’t matter. There is an impulsive and immediate reaction that says “I want food” and even gives us permission to eat all the things that we may restrict during cleaner eating phases. In my case it even says, “Go ahead eat the pizza, ice cream, cookies” when I am allergic to dairy and wheat. It is comfort food and it is called that for a reason. The combination of salt, sugar and fat works upon our brain the way drugs do. It lights up the pleasure and reward centres of our brain making us feel happy, content, blissful or numb. Even numb is preferrable to negative emotions sometimes. The problem is, this feeling does not last long and then our body tells us to eat more of these things to get that same “high” and continually chases that chemically induced happiness. We may even feel withdrawal as we start to eat clean and avoid sugary, fatty foods. Irritability, craving and even physical symptoms coexist with the emotional draw to consume these foods.

The most ironic thing at the moment, is the drive to eat these things comes not from a place of failure (“oh well, I’ve screwed up, I might as well eat everything I want,” but rather simply a number on the scale. Knowing that the number can’t be truly accurate in the big picture helps to halt that craving and emotional eating response. It is still difficult. The response is still automatic and so you have to be prepared to challenge those automatic thoughts again and again until it does become easier. Knowing that I ate really well yesterday and exercised, I can remind myself that it would be complete fallacy to use the number on the scale as an indication of today’s worth and progress. Knowing that I have already done so well in 3 days, I can remind myself how great a loss it would be to give in to momentary pleasure; how much these similar digressions have lead to yo-yoing weight on an ever increasing trend.

Thus it is important to keep practicing these mindful and logical cognitive challenges when the instinctive reaction to eat junk comes up. Know what you want and how far you have come. Keep the big picture in mind. If you do slip up, never give up. You can always stop right now; a treat does not need to be binge and a binge does not need to be a bender.