Through the years as a personal trainer, I’ve heard a lot of excuses as to why diets fail. I’ve heard hundreds, if not thousands, of excuses for why binge eating episodes happen.
The overarching theme among all these excuses is that the person is simply misdirecting their alleviation of discomfort toward food. Thus leading to another “trainer-ism”:
Food Addiction: The Misdirection of Discomfort.
Honestly, any addiction sprouts from the same seed. We all find a path to alleviate discomfort with one drug or another. Drugs, alcohol, food, or the screen in front of your face all help you redirect your focus to something less unpleasant than your current situation.
Most often, I hear about “stress eating”, “eating because I was tired”, or “eating because I was bored”. In reality they’re all stemming from discomfort.
Personally, I’ve struggled with a plethora of eating disorders. I’ve dealt with binge eating disorder, food addiction, anorexia, and bulemia. All of these disordered eating habits across my short 35-year lifespan lead to one thing, experience.
When you feel anxiety, stress, feelings of worthlessness, depression, or frustration the answer is never food. Introspection, journaling, fitness, hobbies, socialization (without food), and even therapy can all be great ways to start redirecting your attention. If you change your focus, you can change your life.
Stress, Boredom, and Fatigue Are My Top 3 Triggers.
Stress and Anxiety make me reach for food to give me a shot of dopamine when I’m forced to perform tasks that are unpleasant, seem overwhelming, or have no meaning to me.
Bolus stress or anxiety, like facing a work deadline, or getting injured can be faced by closing your eyes, taking a deep breath, and just fighting the bear. Whatever the task, just suck it up and do it. That’s generally what life is: problem, solution, problem, solution. Have faith that you have the fortitude and competency to muddle through. All the dopamine will come when you finish the task at hand.
Chronic stress and anxiety, like caring for a sick family member, or dealing with a stressful job environment have a more winding and nuanced approach. Depending on the stressor, you may need to look into longer term approaches for stress management. My favorite approach is finding your most rational ally, or a therapist, and continuously problem-solving. Alternatively, I suggest journaling, meditation, fitness, or hobbies. Creating time for introspection without the stressor looming directly overhead provides much needed de-stress time and great perspective.
Boredom is just anxiety from procrastination.
Boredom is really miscategorized. You aren’t bored, you’re procrastinating. I guarantee that you need to clean your bathroom, put gas in your car, clean the last couple dishes in your sink, get that email sent to a work colleague, or call your mother. When there is a dull moment, the overwhelming number of small tasks that you keep putting off to deal with more important tasks start to creep in. PRIORITIZE! When you start to feel bored, just pick the smallest and least inconvenient to-do item you can think of, and start there
Fatigue forces me to reach for food as an easy energy source. I can’t just lay down and take a nap whenever I want!
Fatigue can’t always be helped. Sleep doesn’t come easily for lots of people; parents with younger children, especially. While one night of missing all glorious 8 hours of blissful unconsciousness might not be a big deal, chronically falling short of your requisite 8 hours can have a deep and resoundingly negative impact on your body. Reaching for food, carbs specifically, is the easiest way to give ourselves a little pep during the day. I often catch myself grabbing a few bites of a chocolate bar when I should be grabbing a pillow and my blankie. So what do we do about it? The best thing you can do, is be aware. Catch yourself in the act and go take a take a nap, grab a black coffee, or do 2–3 minutes of exercise. Those alternatives are better than getting up from your desk half-asleep and walking to the break room for candy. Additionally, enforce strict sleeping guidelines to ensure that sleep deprivation doesn’t become a habit. Turn off the television, cut the lights, journal before bed, minimize phone use, and just relax. Condition yourself to a nighttime routine and watch how much faster you can fall asleep. Parents may have less control over their sleeping schedule, but enforcing the same nighttime routine with children early will also help them hit the sack a little easier.
You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again. Above all else, EAT WITH INTENT!
Eating off schedule, or mindlessly eating, always has an underlying cause. It is in your best interests to:
Put the cookie down, figure out why you grabbed it, and address the underlying cause. If you’re hungry, eat a meal. If you’re stressed, take a deep breath and handle it. If you’re tired take a nap, or make some coffee.
It really is as simple as that.
Good Luck and Stay Buff,