CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES!
These are my favorite treats. I love them. If I could pick any dessert it would be those three, and in that order. You see, my late grandmother taught me to bake the most rich, moist chocolate chip cookies in her motorhome that she and my grandpa would park just off the lawn each summer when they came to visit. For me, personally, these foods evoke secure feelings and gratitude about my life experiences, but as a Registered Dietitian, I find that most people would describe these foods as bad. These kinds of foods, whether salty or sweet, can even cause feelings of shame, low self-esteem, and a sense of failure. Why does this happen?
Have you ever eaten something only to regret it later? Even though people in general know what they should eat to be healthy, they let their feelings drive their choices. Stress, boredom, depression, anger and anxiety are feelings that often lead us to eat foods that we think are going to make us feel better. However, as the mood subsides, the regret of our binge settles in. Over time this pattern can sadly result in a poor relationship with food. We blame the chocolate cake for our loss of control, labeling it as “bad.”
Responding to negative emotions with food is an unhealthy response. It is not the cake’s fault that it tastes so good. We, instead, associate good feelings with that cake, therefore we turn to it to fix our bad moods. If your first reaction is to turn to food when you are stressed or angry, it is time to redirect that emotion to a healthier, more productive outlet.
First, accept that negative emotions are a normal part of life, and learn to cope with those emotions in non-food ways.
When stressed, step outside for some fresh air, or take a 2-minute walk instead of heading to the kitchen to eat.
Choose healthy, caffeine-free herbal tea instead of gourmet coffee or soda to cope with a hectic day.
Angry? Sit down and breath deeply until you are in control again.
Second, value your calories just like money.
If you don’t love it, don’t eat it. Just because food is there, does not mean you have to eat it.
Spend your calories like money. We have all bought something on impulse and regretted it. Do not just pop food mindlessly into your mouth.
Calories matter! Do not waste them. Make a list of your top three treats, and save your calories for those foods.
Third, know your limits, and hold yourself to it.
If cake is your thing, treat yourself to a piece every now and then at your favorite bakery instead of making one at home. Even better, share one piece with your special someone.
Eating your favorite foods slowly increases satisfaction. Take a bite and put your fork down. You will find you eat less and enjoy it more.
Cookies can lead to trouble! Bake one dozen immediately. Roll the remaining dough into 1-inch balls between layers of wax paper in a container and freeze. Bake up just what you need when you need it for unexpected company or a family game night dessert.
Have your treat and give or throw away the leftovers. You’ll regret this much less than overeating.
Finally, stay active.
Cardiovascular exercise keeps calories in check. Exercise will help balance those times when you do eat just a little more than you planned.
Resistance training 2-3 days a week, in addition to cardio, builds muscle that burns more calories at rest.
Aim for a minimum of 30-minutes a day at least five days a week. Regular exercise gives you more freedom in your food choices, which can help you build a better relationship with food over time.
Try yoga. It enhances mindfulness and body awareness, and is a proven method to relax and relieve stress. Research shows people who do yoga tend to make better food choices as well.
Enjoying food based on experiences and emotions is different than letting emotions trigger an eating response. Emotional eating can be stopped with a little effort and patience. As you begin to respond to negative emotions more productively, you will see that the foods you turned to do not hold the same power over you anymore. Gradually, your relationship with food will positively change, and you will find peace with foods in your diet that before led to guilt and shame. By changing how you respond to negative emotions, you can actually have your cake, and eat it, too.