Monday, December 2, 2013

Food: It's not Just for Feelings

I am an emotional eater.  Not only do I love food, but I love the comfort of food. I love how some food makes me feel.  I get excited over food; over new recipes; and over feeding other people.  I also get an instantaneous craving for chocolate and coffee and starch when I am overwhelmed and anxious.  I am not sure how my body got programmed this way, but anxiety can trigger emotional eating in me faster than you can say, “Merry Christmas.”  A great deal of research indicates this is not exactly a healthy mindset when it comes to food.  Let’s explore this further:
This is an emotional time of the year.  We are celebrating the coming of Christ:  Yea for expectation!  Yea for anticipation!  A new year is coming!  Rebirth is coming!  Everyone loves a baby, a birthday party, and a reason to have a good time. This is a time to celebrate.  Food is a normal part of a celebration.  We all have certain attachments to food and memories associated with certain recipes.  I have mentioned before in my book, “Christ Walk,” that I cannot think of my Neenie’s squash casserole recipe and not smile.  I eat this recipe with joy.  I do not have a single bad memory of a family event that included my Neenie’s squash casserole recipe. It may not be the healthiest recipe, but it is one of the most joyful ones for me.  With moderation, I continue to, and will always enjoy squash casserole because of my memories.  I do not think that joyful eating is necessarily a bad form of emotional eating.  You can eat MINDFULLY, but joyfully at the same time.
This season is also filled with anxiety, depression, and feelings of being overwhelmed.  We are filled with the anxiety of pleasing others.  We are filled with anxiety of “getting it all done.”  This is the busiest time of the year and we all have a very difficult time in slowing down to appreciate the best gift of all in Christ’s birth.  Rates of depression skyrocket during this time.  Between the waning sunlight, the cold temps and the frustration with seeking joy, people who suffer from depression are caught up in overwhelming feelings.  All of these issues can lead to emotional eating.  This is not a healthy form of eating.  This is eating that is not mindful.  This is eating that seeks to feed feelings with food, but often leaves us feeling emptier and more frustrated than when we put that first bite into our mouths.
It is more important than ever during the holidays that we focus on the mindfulness of our eating choices.  I do not buy-in to dieting.  And I will enjoy the holidays—food and all.  But I will also savor each bite and mindfully engage in whatever I am enjoying at the time so that it is a part of the celebration and not just a by-product of an event.
Mind-fullness in eating ensures that we are aware of what we are eating.  It ensures that we are aware of HOW MUCH we are eating and WHY we are eating as well.  I have also found that in order to curb poor emotional eating habits, it is important that the food choices I make are healthy ones.  I have found that the more processed food I eat when I am emotional, these foods fuel the emotional roller coaster.  If I have focused on food choices that are low in processed carbohydrates and refined sugar, but high in protein, this helps to balance the body’s blood sugar to ensure that our emotional chemicals are not being fed by the food we eat.  What we choose to eat, will impact how we feel. 
Along with healthy food choices, I have found that exercise helps to clear my anxiety during this time.  It is often more difficult to get in a rigorous fitness routine, so I focus on some sort of exercise every day.  Even if that exercise consists of a walk around the block, I have done something.  Every activity that takes me outside, or increases my heart rate, helps to clear the anxiety from my system.  Whatever you choose to do, choose something in which to squeeze in some sort of physical activity. I chase my kids out of the house almost every day—I should chase myself out of the house too!
Finally, during this emotional season, it is more important than ever to remember prayer.  This time is not about a secular approach to Christmas.  This time is about the coming of Christ.  This time is a reminder that we are saved by this miraculous gift from God.  This time is a reminder that we are all a part of God’s celebration of the greatest gift of all: eternal life.  Enjoy every moment, every bite of it, with joy and thanksgiving.  #christwalk1 #Christmas #fitchristians