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October 11, 2017

Food addictions and how to overcome them

I want to talk about the emotions behind our food and drink choices.

What drives us to eat the things we eat? Why do we get addicted to food or drink? What emotions are we trying to deal with as we reach for a comforting glass of wine or a soothing sugary snack? Are our choices made consciously or are we just a slave to our biochemistry?

Everywhere you look, you see sweets, cakes, breads, pastries, fast-food shops, crisps, biscuits, processed foods in packets, fake foods like high-fructose-corn-syrup, white sugar in all manner of foods, even savoury ones, grains, pasta, wheat…. basically all the things we have introduced into our diets since we began farming.

Around the 1950s, full scale mass production of foods began, creating a worldwide pandemic of unhealthy eating. Today all the packets and refined foods in supermarkets are simply normal to us.

What does than mean for us now? It means that our bodies are simply not biochemically designed to cope with the vast quantity of unnatural and processed foods that are in abundance today. 

Wisdom in nature

Before farming, our foods just came from nature. We ate wild meat, fish from clean waters, many types of green leafy plants, fruits, berries, nuts and seeds.

I’m not saying we should only eat these foods as our environment and our lifestyles have changed since Paleolithic times, however one thing that always strikes me as a nutritionist, is the fact that our body’s biochemistry is still the same as our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

Stripping back our diets to a more natural state – eating the foods our ancestors probably ate – allows us to reflect fully on many of our usual dietary choices, and whether they are actually conscious choices, or simply unhealthy habits.

What makes us eat what we eat?

Food has so many different aspects attached to it. We’ve got the pull of our biochemistry – so if you’re eating sugar, your body will become biochemically addicted to it and you will keep eating it. Then we’ve got social conditioning around food – we eat what our culture eats. Some have healthier food cultures than others, like the Japanese. Then there’s advertising – huge global cooperations literally brain-washing us to buy their “non-foods”. And last but definitely not least, we have that silent driver within ourselves that fuels our choices.

Listening to our inner voice

Without sugar, processed foods and refined carbohydrates, your biochemistry begins to settle. Without the fluctuations of insulin, cortisol and the rollercoaster that follows, you may find yourself noticing some of the feelings that underlie many of your unhealthy food and drink choices/addictions.

We use food and drink as comforters, ways to relax, stress-release, rewards for ourselves. Without that, we are left with facing our own inner emotional landscape, not pushing our feelings inside with food and drink.

When an uncomfortable feeling arises, you won’t be able to reach out for a sugary treat, a big bowl of pasta or a glass of wine. You’ll have to let the sensation come. You’ll have to feel it fully. You’ll have to notice it and deal with it.

How?

Meditation, yoga, taking a walk in nature, relaxing in a lavender or salt bath, listening to soothing music, talking to a friend, getting a massage – all do wonders for connecting with your inner feelings.

Do something kind to yourself and see what happens.

When you feel a craving or an uncomfortable feeling, and you realise that you would normally reach immediately for a glass of wine or some sugar, notice that.

Take a moment to stop and listen to whatever is coming up for you.

Sometimes it’s sadness, sometimes it’s fear. Sometimes it’s dissatisfaction with your life, partner, or job. Often it’s negative self-talk, telling you you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not clever enough, not thin enough….

STOP AND LISTEN. YOU INNER VOICE WANTS TO BE HEARD.

Allow your emotions to unravel

I used to be the health adviser at a detox spa where people underwent 7 day fasting programs. Sure, physically it was challenging for the fasters, however it was much more emotionally challenging as they saw all of their habits, emotions and daily unconscious choices surfacing.

Most of our indulgences are fuelled by some negative emotion, so when we allow ourselves to remove the food/drink etc that we’re using as a comforter, all the emotions get unravelled.

Let them come. Honour that process. Be kind to yourself. Listen to yourself. Encourage yourself. Get into the habit of feeling what is going on inside. Start speaking kindly to yourself.

Inner reflection

You may wish to start a little daily journal to jot down anything that comes up for you. I always find writing things down, allows deeper reflection and clarity, and sometimes it’s just a way of getting a jumble of feelings out, whether they make sense or not.

As a nutritionist, meditator and yoga teacher, I’m interested in not only the nutrients, biochemistry and functional side of nutrition, but also a deeper side that relates to our emotions and what drives us to do the things we do.

Wishing you mindfulness, gentle reflection and noticing what your inner voice is saying to you.

 

Article by Jo Rowkins, dipNT mBANT, Nutritional Therapist at Awakening Health.

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