Do you know where you stand in your relationship with food? There is a lot of talk these days around emotional eating. Overweight people are beginning to realize that they are using food to cover up emotions and bury feelings that want to bubble up to the surface. Emotional eating has almost become the “buzz word” in the dieting world. There’s a good reason for this – most overweight people are in fact emotional eaters. They may want to place blame somewhere outside of themselves (“it’s my thyroid”, “my husband brings unhealthy food into the house”, “I travel all the time”, etc.). While there are those few cases where there may be a physical challenge to losing weight, if we’re really honest, we would admit that we all sometimes use food as an emotional “healer”, rather than what it was designed for…nourishment to our physical bodies. So does that make us all emotional eaters? Perhaps, but people who are truly healthy emotionally can say no to food that is unhealthy for them; they can always say no if they’ve put on a few pounds and know they want to lose those pounds, and they live with a sense of self-control around food. Emotional eaters, by definition, have lost that sense of self control and that sense of “I’m free to say no” that comes with a truly healthy mindset around food.
Here are the first 3 characteristics of a healthy mindset around food.
A Healthy Mindset Recognizes Food’s Primary Role. A person with a healthy mindset around food recognizes that while eating can and should be a pleasurable experience, the number one reason for eating is to provide nourishment to the body. To have this kind of a mindset, you also must have a healthy mindset about your body. And herein lies the issue with the emotional eater. She doesn’t like her body so often she doesn’t have a strong desire to nourish her body. It becomes a vicious cycle. But nonetheless, a person who is emotionally healthy is going to use food primarily as nourishment, nothing more. She may be excited about going to a fun restaurant with her friends, but she’s more excited about spending time with her friends than she is about eating. She’ll sit at that same restaurant with appetizers and other food around her, but her focus is not on the food; it’s on her friends and on building relationships. She only eats while she’s hungry, and she recognizes her body’s signals that it’s full. She’s not concerned about leaving food on her plate because somehow that affects the starving children in China (or wherever!) because she knows in her mind that it’s a ridiculous analogy. She doesn’t have to make “a happy plate” because her body is telling her it’s happy and content and doesn’t want any more food shoved into it just so the plate will be empty.
A Healthy Mindset doesn’t expect Food to be Its Best Friend. When a person with a healthy mindset around food encounters some sort of difficulty in her life, she picks up the phone and calls a human friend, or she may seek God’s will on the matter, pray, read a book that gives practical advice, etc. In other words, she seeks out real solutions to the difficulty. She seeks out solutions that will actually benefit her in a positive way. Encouragement from a friend, counsel from the Bible and that inner leading of the Holy Spirit. She doesn’t turn to an inanimate object like a box of cookies or 2 candy bars thinking that those things will help her. She also realizes those things will not make her feel better. She knows in her heart that eating to get through the difficulty will not only hurt her, but food actually does nothing to help the situation or her so it’s not even an option to turn to it for help. A healthy person isn’t going to seek out “temporary relief” through food because she knows that the temporary relief in the long run will harm her and she has a healthy enough self-image to not want to be trapped by artificial pain killers in any form. And if she is a follower of Jesus Christ, she also remembers that she is on this earth to glorify God, and using anything that is unhealthy or that will cause her setbacks is something she chooses not to do.
A Healthy Mindset has a Clear Vision. A person with a healthy mindset around food has a clear vision of who and what she is, and lives that vision on a daily basis, keeping it before her as she makes her daily decisions. A clear vision of who you are begins with a clear understanding of who the Author of Love says you are in his Word. This doesn’t mean that you will never have days when you feel inadequate. But it does mean that you can recognize that those emotions you may be feeling don’t actually define you. Having a clear vision also requires some work to really discover what you want your life to look like and how you want to live that life. For example, you may know you want to lose weight. You may know you want to have more energy. But that’s not quite enough to be considered a vision. A vision will include more measurable characteristics such as:
- I want to live my life weighing 140 lbs.
- I want to have the energy to run 5 miles 3x a week
- I want a career that maximizes my health such as a personal trainer or a health coach
- I want to have healthy responses to stress
A person with a healthy mindset around food will keep the vision of who she is ever before her, and say no to food choices that take her away from that vision.
Next time we’ll take a look at 4 other characteristics of a person with a healthy mindset around food. Until then, if you’d like to do more work around creating a healthy mindset around food, I invite you to participate in my “What’s Eating You” 90-minute discovery session where we will explore the most pressing patterns and problems that have been keeping you from releasing excess weight.
Yours in radiant health,