Friday, August 14, 2009

Hunger or Habit?

Today's post is a continuum of all things emotional eating and how habits are formed. I think it explains why we can relapse or revert back to emotional eating when the going gets tough. Let's face it, when you're on a mission, it's relatively easy to lose weight - you're pumped, you're focused, you've got the goal. I speak to so many people who tell me, "I'll never regain it!" only to end up regaining and then some - in the meantime those who are in diet mode look on smugly and say, "I'll never be like that!". However, unless you do the work upstairs, this is EXACTLY what will happen.

Our responses to stressors are often learned. I know that when I was a child, the last thing that I felt when I was stressed or anxious, was hungry. I learned the behaviour through seeing patterns in my family and in others - "eat something and you'll feel better". So naturally, some event happened, I ate to "feel better" and off I went. I would feel stressed, tired and anxious on coming home from work, so I ate something to feel better. Eventually I just used to come home from work tired and not particularly stressed - what would I do - eat something! And although a stressor was the initial driver, the habit still remained. Do it over and over again for long enough and it becomes an ingrained habit. Get anxious? Eat! Get bored? Eat!

This behaviour peaked after my second daughter was born. When she was nearly two I started to change my lifestyle for the better. I lost the weight, I did three Figure Comps , and yes, I worked on the mental side of things on the way down. And yes, for the most part, I've done pretty well with maintenance.

However my experiences this year are a potent reminder that "life is managed, not cured" - you don't just lose the weight and be done - you spend your life literally being a continual work in progress. My own experiences with both internal and external stressors this year have seen some habits that I thought I had seen the last of, return with a vengeance. It's been a reminder to focus on what I want, not what I don't want.

One habit that I'm reacquainting myself is mindfulness - it's impossible to be mindful and savour your food when you're in the grip of an emotional eating experience. In an emotional eating experience, "hunger" is immediate and insistent whereas if nature takes it's course, true hunger builds gradually and it's easier to go for nutritious food rather than crap that doesn't do you any good.

Tonight I had chicken thighs for dinner with brown rice,broccoli and almonds, inspired by Katie Pirate and Miss Shelley - I've always been a breasts kinda girl and a bit of extra fat has left me feeling full and content. I think Cavewoman Liz is going to have to have a new rule when approaching a chook - eat the legs first!


Sandra said...

Great Post, Liz.
Since losing a fair bit of weight (most importantly, getting fitter and dropping a dress size...) people expect me to eat all manner of rubbish again " don't want to get any've already lost the weight, you don't have to diet anymore..." WRONG!!!
It all comes back to mindful eating, it's a behaviour, not a "diet" or a fad that you hang onto for 12 weeks and then drop, it takes a lot of hard work to re-train the mind.
Thanks for sharing your experiences with us all - awesome.

KRISTIN said...

Really enjoyed this post today Liz, thanks for sharing. I see where you are coming from, it certainly is not a one-stop battle, we are dealing with the emotional side of things all the time and it's important to keep on top of that too :)

Hope you have a great weekend and enjoy your chicken thighs!

Esme said...

It's so true, since starting the 100 day challenge I have really been thinking about what and when I am eating. And actually have found that I'm actually not hungry at all most of the time I go to the fridge to just look. I think we sometimes forget what really feeling hungry feels like(except figure competitors of course. But for us mear mortals, maybe we just need a big drink of water, walk away and see you you feel in 20 mins, that's what I've changed, seems to be working.

Kerry W said...

I admit to a liking for chicken thighs, instead of breast every now and again. Definitely much tastier (though higher in fat).

I'm with you on that one...we are a continual work in progress, lest we fall victim to our former habits, emotional or otherwise.