This is a guest post sent by my amazing friend and health coach Suzanne Knight. I receive health tips like this once a week to keep me on track and HAD TO share this one! You rock, Suz!
Long work hours… stress… some of us have turned to food! When we experience stressful events or negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, emptiness and sadness food can bring us temporary comfort. They don’t call it “comfort food” for nothing do they?!
When we expect something to bring us pleasure and/or relief from distress, that expectation actually amplifies the rewarding value of food. This is what we call a “vicious cycle.” We can change this cycle!
1.First, change our emotional appraisal, or expectation of food to bring comfort (happiness, etc.) and “retraining your brain” to think in a different way. Draw towards what you want and push away from what is no longer desirable. Develop a statement that draws you towards healthy eating habits like this, “I feel great when I choose a healthy way to cope with my emotions!” Next, develop a statement that pushes away from using food as a coping mechanism. Something like “Eating to comfort myself actually makes me feel more miserable.”
2.Find behaviors to replace food. Develop a “Menu” that lists any pleasurable activities that you can think of and any comforting activities that you can think of. This way you will have a list of options that you can use to obtain pleasure and/or relief from emotional distress. Some examples of “Comfort Menu” items include: Deep Breathing, Meditation, Positive Imagery, Squeezing a Stress Ball, Giving Yourself a Hand Massage, Make a Stress Free Zone to Relax Within, Spend Time Outdoors in the Sun, Stretch, Take a Quick Walk, Listen to Your Favorite Song, Write Your Emotions Down, Light Scented Candles, Smell Citrus or Coffee, Talk to a Friend or Cuddle with a Pet.
3.Trigger & Strategy. You can use the items on your “Comfort Menu” to fill in as the new routine.
This should look like this: “When [identify the cue], I will [identify the new routine] because it provides me with [identify the reward].”
Here’s an example: “When I feel stressed, I will take a walk because it provides me with a sense of calm and peace of mind.”
Whereas the old automatic response would be to eat when feeling stressed, the new routine would be to take a walk. This planned response is a guideline for you to follow. Write it down. Read it. Practice it. We are going for progress, not perfection. Change is a process, not an event.
This piece is a Quick Reference to Dr. A’s Habits of Health, Chapter 3; and Living a Longer, Healthier Life Companion Guide, Lessons 2-3. If you are interested in receiving weekly health tips from Suzanne, please visit her website at www.AHealthyChoiceForMe.com.
Image courtesy of Take Shape For Life