It’s day three of below freezing temperatures, snow, school closures, base closures and being inside our house. Before the cold and snow hit our area (which is an unusual occurrence in my part of the Hampton Roads area of Virginia) I had done a good job gathering groceries, firewood, and other essentials to get us through in case we lost power or were unable to leave the house. However, cabin fever has not only set in by this time, but set up shop in my kitchen in the form of homemade brownies, ranch dip, hearty casseroles, and warm buttery bread. I had prepared for the physical effects of the snow and cold, but I hadn’t prepared for the mental/emotional effects being inside 24/7 would afford.
I don’t know about you, but I have spent quite a bit of time reflecting on how I sabotage my health goals and what sets me on a food binge. In the past I have blamed the environment, special holidays/birthdays, and the lack of preparation for sending me into a food coma. Six years ago, I created the most perfect environment to lose weight by working with a dietitian, exercise physiologist, and a personal trainer. I literally had a team of people working with me to help me achieve ultimate health awesomeness! And it worked. I lost 100lbs, and then my environment changed, and I gained every pound back.
The problem was, I believed the reason I gained weight was because my environment had changed. I attributed my success to everything outside of me, and that it wasn’t an internal process at all. I’m not saying our environment doesn’t affect us, it does. However, our environment isn’t what shoves a warm homemade brownie in our mouth, our hand does. And this is where I believe the key to stopping unwanted eating or binges is… that space between deciding to pick up the brownie and deciding NOT to pick up the brownie. What happens in that moment? Are you responding to life at that moment? Or reacting to it?
Reacting has been my default behavior for a lot situations. Reaction comes from a place of survival. When we are reacting we aren’t aware of our body, our feelings, or others feelings for that matter… when we are reacting we are focusing on surviving. This is great when our lives are in danger, but fortunately my life isn’t in danger 99% of the time. When I’m sad/depressed/restless I default to reacting to food (more brownies to numb the feelings). When its my son’s birthday, rather than check in and realize I feel like a victim because everyone can have cake without the “guilt”, I numb out this feeling by…. You guessed it… eating cake. I'm reacting to those feelings rather than, feeling them, coming back to my body to see if I’m even hungry for cake (I’m not really a cake person… and frosting isn’t my jam), and being ok with having uncomfortable feelings rather than eating them.
Responding to food, and ultimately our life, is a skill. Responding comes from a place of mindfulness. When we are in a space of internal calmness (mindfulness) in a stressful situation, our entire behavior and choices change to more big-picture pre-frontal cortex thinking. We have more clarity and make decisions that better serve us.
Looking back, I didn’t re-gain my weight, binge, or make poor food choices because of the environment I was in. I did these things because I was reacting to a situation(s), and this is where my power is. It’s not in food prepping till the cows come home, or avoiding all celebratory events, or hiring the best health/wellness professionals… no my power is turning inward and listening to what is going on in my body and mind. In this way, it doesn’t matter what life throws at me, what does matter is if I’m willing to show up for myself, listen, and make a choice that supports my overall wellbeing and not just a quick fix to ease uncomfortable feelings.
So the big question is, do you react or respond to your food choices, and do you think it matters?
Thanks for reading