Food is comforting and in stressful situations we often seek solace in high-fat, sugary foods. The deeper reason why we eat food when we are low is not just the superficial comfort offered by it.
It is a way of escaping from what we are feeling, a way to hide & wrap our emotions and more often than not, an overweight person might be defending themselves of their insecurities by binge eating.
Our body is a mirror of our emotional well-being and reflects our state of mind and the kind of emotions we are feeding it with. The old saying we are what we eat can be rephrased as, ‘we are what we feel’. Different types of negative emotions create varied level of deficiencies in the body, which we fill by eating sweet, fried, cold, sour, junk etc.
Our body is intricately created and each and every cell is functioning individually to defend itself. Absorbing the energy, thoughts and words, these cells register the external stimuli and process it to create an action.
The emotional message we send to our body is through our reactions to different situations around us and these reactions in turn makes an impact on our physical appearance.
How it works?
For example when we are feeling insecure and are unable to express this insecurity due to our ego or any other emotional restriction, we suppress this insecurity or fear. This fear to express oneself leads to frustration and frustration leads to anger. Often when we are angry, we become defensive in our actions.
The cells, as mentioned earlier, process the requirement of defense as a way to protect themselves by surrounding themselves with fat, thereby increasing the fat storage in the body. The protective layer of fat is the hideout of a complexed, insecure person, who is trying to ward off a current situation at hand.
‘The Book of Human Emotions: An Encyclopedia of Feeling from Anger to Wanderlust’ stated, “Fat can be accumulated from a desire to defend oneself- against other people’s demands, against being treated frivolously or only as a sexual object. Food can be a way of bolstering ourselves against an oncoming stress, or showing some kindness to ourselves when we feel overlooked.”
Also, many diets allow a day of rest or a cheat day from the diet as a way of rewarding oneself. When our body knows the reward day is far, it starts storing fat and on the reward day, we automatically, allow ourselves the treats denied otherwise, adding more calories than we had calculated.
Yet another emotional imbalance caused by stress is the reason why our body is storing fat. Studies have proved that when we do excess of cardiovascular exercises or are stressed otherwise, our body starts producing adrenaline, which commands the fat cells to release fatty acids in the bloodstream to be used as energy.
During a stressful situation, the body releases stress hormone known as cortisol that grabs all the excess fatty acids and accumulates them around the belly area. This leads to bloating, increased belly fat and constipation. A recent study by Yale University in the U.S. found that even slim women are more likely to have excess abdominal fat if they regularly feel stressed.
Loneliness, deprivation, boredom and anxiety, all these emotions have an impact on our fat storage levels and eating habits. Often when we are lonely we try to find the company of food to cheer ourselves. Also, when we are bored, our ability to make smart food choices goes for a toss, and we give into eating more fattening food than we would have otherwise.
Weight Loss by Understanding Emotions
A food diary can give deep insights into our personal choices, moods and behaviour patterns and allow us to record & make good food choices. Start by recording the types of food you are eating, the feeling you had when you decided for that particular food, was there anything else you wanted to eat, but you made for the healthier food choice & how did you feel after eating.
The day-to-day journey will help increase self-awareness and also help in understanding what was the food used for; whether it was to beat stress, feel secured or fulfilled.
Apart from talking about your issues with a loved one, a friend or a family member, it is best that you take charge of your situation and start catering to your needs first. Self-care is the best tool to overcome stress, anger or loneliness.
For instance, if you are rewarding yourself by allowing sweets on a particular day, that will be a part of self-soothing and not a part of self care. Try to create a positive attitude by interacting with positive people, meditating or following a relaxation routine every day to increase self-care attitude.
Take up a hobby
We understand that exercising is your tool to loose weight, but sometimes a new activity or hobby can reduce stress and deviate attention from the ongoing struggle. Instead of finding refuge in food, you can find your escape in a new physically challenging hobby.
The new activity could just be gardening, dancing or anything that you prefer. Reading inspirational books or self-help books can also help you to stay positive and beat whatever that is bothering you: loneliness, boredom, anxiety etc.
If you are trying to loose weight and have been working out in some way or the other – be it pilates, yoga, tai chi or gym, it would be a better idea to combine some of them instead of sticking to only one form.
When we put too much emphasis on cardiovascular exercises like jogging, running, jumping, skipping, workouts, we are increasing stress levels in the body. Instead, add resistance training to your routine or add yoga or pilates or kick-boxing if you like.
Maintaining a healthy body and a balanced mind is not just a game won with exercising and food habits. Our attitude and approach helps us shape the outcomes as well. In order to shed weight, we need to shed many other emotions, which are not serving us.
To start a healthy journey, let us give up on the unhealthy baggage weighing us down.