Eat with your head and not your heart

Most of us do it. We eat when we’re happy. We eat when we’re sad. We eat when we’re angry. We eat when we’re frustrated or bored. But emotional eating-the consumption of food to satisfy needs other than physical hunger-could affect our ability to control our weight and lead to mental and physical health problems.

We’re trained to use food as a pacifier when we don’t get the things in life we really want. Children are socialized to eat as a substitute for love and affection, sometimes, quite unconsciously, adults give (them) food as rewards.

Women are more likely than men to eat to meet emotional needs. Women are nurturers who sometimes have not themselves been nurtured, food fills the empty void.

There’s a link between emotional eating and excess weight/obesity, which has become an epidemic in the US with other countries heading in the same direction, including India. Obesity could cause myriad health problems, including the big killer’s heart disease and diabetes. More than two-thirds of overweight adults say they eat when they’re stressed.

Dietitians say emotional eating would not be so bad if we made healthy food choices, but often we don’t. It’s so easy and much cheaper to get things that are not good for you, readily available and good-tasting foods like fried chicken, ice cream and chocolate are the ones emotional eaters head for that could be harmful to their health. Most ice cream and chocolate have full cream. You put on weight and get heart disease. Then you get even more stressed. It’s a cycle.

There’s another cycle.

Some people go on a diet, and when they find they’re not losing the weight as they should they end up getting depressed and when this depression sets in, then you may find yourself eating.  And if you overeat, you could put on more weight, and so it goes.

Being overweight can bring mental as well as physical problems. In a society that values slim/sexy, women who overeat have a tendency to have low self-esteem and have trouble forming and maintaining relationships. They do not solve problems well. They become stressed and make poor love decisions and poor choices. Of course, this is a general statement.

An erratic relationship with food could lead to eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. Again these are more commonly diagnosed in women.

We Indians have some cultural characteristics that may make us more likely to turn to food for reasons other than hunger. We… celebrate with lots and lots of food, we’re more likely to give “fatigue” than loving support. We seem to be more verbal and crueler and less supportive of each other.

There are ways we can break the hold emotional eating has on us. But the way we eat is a habit that takes discipline to break. The obstacle (to weight loss) most times is the person not being able to make up their mind that this is what I have to do to achieve it.

Dietitians recommend chomping on vegetables instead of fried and processed foods. Toss together a salad,  with a low-fat dressing. We aren’t given carte blanche to eat fruits, though. Don’t pig out on the fruits, because they have sugar if you don’t burn sugar it is going to be stored as fat.

We can put some energy into developing our spiritual and moral self; we can help to meet the nurturing and loving needs of a needy child. Put some energy into learning something new. This list is inexhaustible. Learn to love ourselves and be comfortable with some of our limitations. Be real! Form a relationship with someone who will cherish you. Stop looking for the proverbial knight in shining armor. He/she either does not exist or belongs to someone else.

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