Weight loss, fitness and mental health often highly correlate with each other. Some people fall victim to what is called “emotional eating”. In difficult situations, when anxious or sad feelings progress, people who eat emotionally use food to help them cope. This can be a viscous cycle, because when people eat to help with emotions, they often gain weight, which they then feel guilty about. Most people would like to be in better physical condition, and binge eating can negatively impact their goals to achieve this. People will eat to cope with a variety of problems including relationship problems, work-related stress, boredom, and financial issues.
“So what do I do about this?” Many people figure out on their own that they eat to deal with emotions, but they do not know what steps to take to overcome this issue. There are some strategies that a person can to do replace bad habits with better ones. For example, if your snacks are unhealthy, you can switch junk food for more healthy snacks. If you eat several healthy meals a day, you are less likely to crave unhealthy snacks.
Exchanging bad habits for better ones, although sometimes effective, is often not a long-term solution. People need to consider the basis of the problem that they are trying to overcome. Is weight loss the primary issue? Not if you are eating to cope with daily stressors. The actual problem is more likely inadequate coping mechanisms to these daily feelings. Before you become defensive and stop reading this entry, recognize that all of us have some of these coping mechanisms. Similarly to recognizing that we eat to cope with emotions, many of us also recognize that we are thinking about things in an irrational manner, but we do not know what to do to deal with this. The answer often lies in taking a different perspective on our daily lives. This is no easy task, but it is possible to do. It takes day-to-day practice to achieve this goal. Like our actions, our thinking is also habitual. Focus on making a small change in your attitude for the day, and you are more likely to reach your goal than if you try to large of a change at one time.
Exercise is also an important issue to consider here. The notion that that exercise is beneficial to all of us is certainly not groundbreaking; however, it can help to meet many of our mental and emotional needs. Physiologically, exercise makes us feel better. When exercising, our heart rate increases, we breath more, and the chemicals in our brains also respond to such physical activity. Exercise can also fulfill other needs such as boredom and loneliness. If you find a friend to exercise with and set a goal with them, you are meeting social and recreational needs, as well as needs of achievement. I do not suggest that you make the goal about weight loss, because as you gain muscle, you may not lose weight. Instead, set the goal on a distance of walking or jogging, days per week that you will meet at the gym, miles you ride on your bike, or weight that you are able to lift in strength training. When you physically feel better, you will emotionally feel better as well. Keep in mind that this takes time, and you have to be patient. Make a plan and you are more likely to be successful in reaching. For example, “this week, I am going to go Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to the gym.” “I am going to buy almonds instead of potato chips.” When you make these goals more reachable, you are less likely to give up looking at the overall picture as one big failure.
Remember to make small, achievable goals instead of insurmountable goals that you are more likely to fail with. Look for small changes rather than giant leaps and bounds in a single day. Set goals with a friend to help with motivation. Finally, and maybe most importantly of all, work to slowly change your daily perspective on issues around you.