Every day we make decisions concerning the foods we eat. Some foods like whole fruits nourish us and give us energy. Packed full of vitamins, minerals, and water in an easily digestible package, there is absolutely no harm in eating fruit in excess. Other foods like overly fatty processed foods, alcohol, and caffeine in excess have the complete opposite effect and cause us harm.
I feel like we all know which foods benefit us and which foods harm us. You know this if you pay attention to your eating habits, and especially if you’ve recently started cleaning up your diet. The cleaner your diet becomes, the more you suffer when you eat something you shouldn’t be eating. For instance, when I indulged in a large gluten-free pasta meal after eating primarily fruit for an entire month, I broke out in sweats, felt bloated straight away, and suffered a mild headache for the rest of the night.
Logically, we should be attracted to the foods that help us, but this isn’t always the case. Some of us are trapped in a cycle of self-harm and we don’t even know it. We eat foods that cause us harm because we seek immediate gratification instead of dealing with our problems. This is known as emotional eating or eating for comfort.
I used to be guilty of this. I’d use food or alcohol to comfort me when I was feeling down, lonely, or going through a difficult time in my life. I purposely made myself feel worse in these situations by eating foods and drinking, even though I knew exactly how I’d feel afterwards. I knew I’d feel worse because I did this to myself many times before.
I broke out of this cycle of self-sabotage because I realised I was the one causing these problems. I also learned to love myself and respect myself for the amazing woman that I am, regardless of how much I weighed, my appearance, or how far along I was on my journey to better health.
Learn from your mistakes.
If you are on a journey to improve your health and you slip up in a moment of weakness, that’s okay. This doesn’t mean you are trapped in an endless cycle of self-destruction. Assess the situation, learn from it, and move on.
Assess the situation: How many calories have I eaten today? Am I stressed? Why am I stressed? How do I actually feel? Do certain environments (pubs, potlucks, etc.) trigger my eating or drinking?
Find out why you’re compelled to eat or drink in a harmful way. Get to the bottom of your emotions. Confronting the true cause of your emotions can be scary but you’ll never be able to quit emotional eating or drinking until you do. If you do give in to these harmful behaviours because you’re lonely, for instance, the food isn’t going to solve the problem. Food or alcohol might boost your mood initially, but these serve only as distractions. Later you’ll feel unwell and you’ll find yourself back in the same situation. Be honest with yourself and face your emotions for what they are.
Learn from it: How can I avoid this situation in the future?
If you notice you’re more likely to fall off the wagon when spending time out with friends, maybe you should avoid going to pubs and restaurants altogether, at least until you’ve broken the habit of drinking or eating these foods. There will come a time where you can join friends out and not feel tempted to partake in drinking or eating, but this takes time and planning in advance. Eating a large healthy meal at home will help, as well as drinking copious amounts of water at the pub. As always, reminding yourself why you’re abstaining will help reinforce your new habits.
We all make mistakes from time to time. If you slip up repeatedly, however, this is indicative of a self-destructive pattern. This must be addressed.
You can break the cycle.
Take responsibility for your actions. If you pause for a moment and thoroughly examine what’s going on in your life, you’ll realise that you put yourself in these no-win situations. Don’t blame anyone else for the decisions you make. No one manipulates you into eating or drinking things that harm you.
Blaming others is easier because then the problem isn’t you and you aren’t pressured to change anything. Admitting that you are to blame means you are deficient. Admitting that you and only you are to blame for your poor decisions is difficult, but only then will you be able to move forward. Once you admit this you realise you now have the power to change everything. You can stop making decisions counter to your own interests. You can stop setting yourself up for failure. You can stop yourself from making the same mistakes over and over again.
Remind yourself that you are worthy. You are good enough just the way you are. It doesn’t matter if this is your first day of healthy eating or five years into your journey. And even if you fall off the wagon briefly, you deserve to feel the best you can. Respect yourself enough to make choices that reflect this.
I know it’s difficult to break these habits. It’s easier to stay in the cycle because that’s all you know. You feel bad, so you eat or drink thinking it will help, but it only numbs you and your emotions. Your emotions are still there, and if you don’t address them properly, they will resurface and the whole cycle repeats.
So far I’ve focused primarily on emotional eating and self-destructive habits regarding food and alcohol but the same applies to relationships. You control who you spend time with and whether you associate with positive or negative individuals. Just like you should avoid comfort foods if they make you feel ill, you should also avoid negative people who drain your energy and make you feel bad about yourself.
In the same way that you are to blame if you intentionally eat harmful foods, only you are to blame if you continue to associate with terrible people. No one forces you to do anything. You make the choice.
Listen to your body and put yourself first.
Listen to your body because it always tells you exactly what you need to know. You have the power in every situation. You have the power to choose. Choose to avoid eating these foods, avoid drinking, and avoid hanging out with anyone who makes you feel bad.
If indulging in junk foods, greasy pizzas, and fried chips make you feel bloated and lethargic, remember how you feel after eating them. If drinking alcohol gives you a head-splitting hangover and nausea the next day, remember how you feel as you puke your guts out. If certain people disrespect you make you feel bad about yourself, remember this and never forget it.
If you aren’t happy with the way your life is now and you want to make a change, do something about it. Don’t just say you’ll start tomorrow or next Monday, or as soon as you eat up all the junk food in your house. Start today and commit to it fully. Every action from this point should support it. If not, you never wanted to change in the first place. Don’t set yourself up to fail.