If you’ve ever watched the movie “Austin Powers 2 – The Spy Who Shagged Me”, you may remember a line from the character Fat Bastard – “I eat because I’m unhappy, and I’m unhappy because I eat.”
Within Mike Myers comical genius he touched on perhaps the single most common factor that affects millions of North Americans today – Emotional Eating. And this type of behaviour has led to the drastic rise in obesity and weight related disorders. Because food is so readily available to us it has become the drug of choice to feed and subdue many of our emotional difficulties. Emotional eating has also become the favourite side dish to the cultures of our social atmospheres. We eat when we’re depressed, sad, happy, stressed, anxious, bored, and almost every other emotion in between. I strongly believe that our failure to properly address the emotional issues and stressors in our lives plays a big part in how we treat food, and our bodies.
If you want to examine this issue from a scientific point of view, studies have shown that receptors in our brain that respond to stimulants that create pleasure or euphoria have a similar response to various types of food. Amongst these is sugar and junk food that is laced with fats, salts, and preservatives. However, like a drug addiction, more and more amounts of this food is required to achieve the same level of stimulation. Studies done in Britain showed that over a period of time, junk food can actually deteriorate the pleasure center of the brain. It is no wonder that a consistent diet of junk food leads to fatigue, attention deficit, agitation, decreased libido, and decreased mood.
The point I wish to make however, is that we can examine our personal behaviours and identify these destructive habits. Over the years I’ve worked with many patients suffering from emotional eating and one of the ways we’re able to better grasp this situation is by keeping a food log and diary. I ask my patients to keep a strict record of what they’ve been eating during the week and at the end of each day describe their mood and how they felt. It’s with no surprise that days where people felt stressed, angry, and depressed, they made either poor food choices, or ate more than what they normally do and at odd times of the day. By having this record people learn to identify their behaviour and consciously stop themselves before making a bad choice. It’s also important to identify the stressors and deal with them in a healthier way such as taking a walk to cool off, writing about it in a diary, and even seeking counseling to deal with relationship issues.
Life will always have its share of ups and downs. Many times we can’t control these events. However, what we do have control over is how we chose to deal with these events and how we treat our mind, body, and spirit in the process. By doing so, we can avoid the pitfalls of emotional eating and potentially save our health and our lives.