As a Nutrition and Mind-Body Eating Coach, I have found that one of the most common reasons why people emotionally eat is when they are experiencing fatigue but don’t give the body and mind the break it is needing. It is common to use food as a way to get through parts of the day, to give us the energy to complete a task, when we are procrastinating about doing something that needs to get done or simply because we need a break. We often choose food to keep going when really, if we dig deep and ask ourselves what we really need, the message would likely be, “I need a break, a nap, a rest and some time to relax.”
When we ignore these messages our body gives us, we often find ourselves grabbing caffeine, sugar, standing in the pantry eating a bag of chips, or just eating for the sake of eating when not really being hungry. What if we actually listened to the body? What if we gave ourselves the break we really needed? What if we restored before more?
We would regulate our nervous system, our hormones, like insulin and cortisol, and our emotions which would ultimately regulate our eating. When we restore, when the body asks for it, we find balance, poise and calm. Emotional eating only happens in a stress response when the sympathetic nervous system is firing, so if we truly took more time to relax and strengthen the parasympathetic state we would be more regulated eaters and our “off-path” moments would become fewer and farther between.
I recall a time in my life when my kids were in the baby and toddler stage. That stage can be exhausting and draining! I would find myself eating just to keep going but what I really needed was sleep. When I allowed myself to nap when my kids napped, instead of pushing myself to do more, like work out, clean the house or check my emails, I prevented these emotional eating moments.
I am currently working with a male client and his ‘off-path’ moments in the day are consistently when he needs a break from the mundane tasks of his work that he doesn’t enjoy. Making this connection has been invaluable and instead of turning to food, he takes a break and goes for a walk in nature or plays a few rounds of pool in his basement to switch up the monotony of his work day.
My colleagues who are Personal Trainers always say those who take more rest and recovery days between their workouts also get greater results - they increase muscle mass, burn body fat, ache less and have fewer injuries.
We are so used to pushing through, rushing, doing more, running on empty, chasing the clock, exercising with intensity, reacting to every email, text or post in immediacy, juggling more plates than we can handle, working off-hours, and on and on, but when we do that and live from that hyper-stressed state, we end up making poor food choices and using food for fuel and compensation, not to truly nourish.
There are so many different ways to restore: meditation, restorative yoga, stretching, watching a favorite show, reading a book, immersing in nature, taking a bath or hot shower, sitting in an Infra-red sauna, taking a cat nap, walking barefoot in the sand or in the grass, listening to relaxing music, going to the spa, getting a massage, sitting on the couch petting your cat or dog and drinking a cup of tea in silence. There is no right or wrong way, but there needs to be a conscious insertion of restoration in your day. Just as you would insert a mid-afternoon snack, insert a restorative break in your day so you can keep going with renewed and clean energy.
To truly create a balanced relationship with food and to have a healthy body, we must practice “restore before more.” Rest is medicine, rest is healing. We heal by flowing, not forcing. Trust it is okay to slow down, relax and take a break. Everything works better when you do - especially your relationship with food. May “restore before more” be your new mantra and practice on your journey to optimum wellness.
Yours in health & vitality,