Real Life Wellness: How food became a friend of yours

By Bill Hemmer
Last week I talked about how special occasions evolved into opportunities to overeat. This is a problem we all face. I love “fair food” and all the goodies found at the Hemmer Christmas party, but I have created a strategy to combat those situations, so I don’t get tempted. First thing I do is get a smaller plate. Next, I think about all of the time and effort I have spent over the last 13 years on my own program. This gives me the personal power to steer away from my old behaviors.

This week I’m going to discuss another topic that is at the seat of many food related problems…comfort foods. Some people use food to make them feel better. They see their nightly ice cream as their old reliable friend, that doesn’t tell them what they have done wrong or ridicule them. It’s always there waiting to stimulate the pleasure centers in their brain with no emotional strings attached.

For me, food became a reward and a comfort when I was very young. My grandparents lived about 100 miles away from where we grew up. My family would make this long trip all the time. But I knew when we got to Grandma’s house, she would fix her world-famous fried chicken, mashed potatoes and white gravy. So, if I could make it through the two-hour car ride I had that to look forward to. Of course, the big meal was followed by cookies and pies of all sorts and then a visit with my grandparents.

I’m sure many of you have a similar story…a situation or a place that brings to mind a big meal or series of meals that have brought joy into your life in the past. Those are some of my favorite childhood memories. But the use of food in these situations must be separated from the rest of the experience if you want to change your attitudes about nutrition. Food is and will be a huge part of family and social gatherings, but it doesn’t have to be the most important part. Enjoy your family then enjoy your food not the other way around. Just try to remember the old saying, “Eat to live not live to eat.”

Remember food triggers emotional responses in all of us. The feeling you get from drinking that hot chocolate after being out in the cold can be very powerful. The cookies and milk your Grandma gave you after you skinned you knee on your bike was definitely comforting. But don’t let these emotional anchors rule your everyday food choices. Make them special memories and remember them fondly and move on. We all know you can’t relive the past no matter how hard you try.

Food can be used for good and for bad. Your emotional memories of food as comfort are truly good things. But you must separate those emotional memories from your present situation. Once you can do that the bad parts of foods emotional triggers will have no power over you and you can truly eat to live and not live to eat.

Next week I’m going to talk about another extremely hard topic to handle…motivation. Why can’t you get motivated to do what you know you should do? I’ll tell you next week.

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