Do you find yourself turning to food frequently as your only source of happiness, or to bury out some other pain? I get it. I've been there and I am still, after years, working on my ever evolving relationship with food. If you are anything like me, this habit and cycle is not working out the best for you. However, we’re not alone; millions of people around the world suffer from food addiction.
Food addiction has nothing to do with being greedy, as some people may wrongfully assume; but rather a psychological condition that binds to food. Somewhere along the way in childhood we experienced a dopamine release when we ate certain food. It was reassuring and felt really awesome. We wanted to feel it again so that food or type of food became associated with good feelings. As a result, throughout life, we turn to these foods as a comfort to deal with our emotions. I mean, it's far easier to eat the pain away than actually having to deal with some of those emotions.
So is there any way out? Yes, absolutely! It's a long journey, but that journey must begin with the first step. Here are 6 ways you can experience that same dopamine hit you get when you eat some of your favorite foods. If you slowly work on replacing some of your cravings with a different activity, then you can begin shifting your relationship with the food you intake into your body.
1) Feel good - Move That Body
I hate the word exercise. It conjures up images in my mind of sweating, huffy puffy me, and a general no-fun vibe. This means it is hit with automatic walls of resistance. “I don't wanna”, that childlike inner spirit arises and takes over. So instead of exercise I prefer to move. It just seems a little more lax and less structured.
Moving your body is so much more important than making you look good. In fact, the health benefits are far superior, with looking good coming as a pleasant bonus. Extended time periods of body movement promotes the production of feel-good brain chemicals, known as endorphins, which boost mood, productivity, and sense of well-being. In fact, moving the body is a very important adjustment in treating depressive illness, and may in some cases be the primary management technique.
Moving your body can be anything. If you currently sit most of the day and simply getting up and down and doing a lap around your home or office gets you moving, start there. Begin where you are and slowly add a form of movement into your day. Do mini workouts during TV commercial breaks. Dance to music while you cook your food. Get up and stretch. Do anything that you find enjoyable and get your body moving more than it is now.
For best results, get in short movement sessions at least three times per week, up to a maximum of 5 times weekly. You will be surprised how good you feel after 6 short weeks of starting a new plan. Even starting at five minutes a day and adding more from there is a success. Personally, I find that when I begin my day with a little movement then I am less tempted later in the day to turn to food as my vice.
2) Feel Good - Re-acquaint Yourself With Nature
I'm a nature lover through and through. One tree-hugging earth mama, right here. Nature is something I find intrinsic to my mental and energetic health. Living in a concrete jungle definitely makes it more difficult to take beautiful forest hikes or go camping on a whim. There are other ways I have found to still enjoy nature even in a large city.
The simplest thing I do is take my shoes off and stand in the grass. This is called earthing or grounding, and in my opinion, feels awesome. It can be done on any grass, be that in your yard, a public yard or park, or someplace farther out in nature. Wherever you are, it's super simple to incorporate and just a couple minutes a day can improve your overall sense of feeling good.
I haven't traveled to any large city or small town that didn't have a park. Parks usually have some trails you can walk and are pretty and surrounded by trees and natural wildlife creatures, such as squirrels and birds and bugs, oh my! Spending some time in a park whether it's walking or meditating, reading a book, or any other activity you like can help you re-center and find a feeling of inner peace.
Better yet, how about picking up gardening? You can grow simple herbs in an apartment or a full-blown garden with a house and a yard. Knowing that you nurtured something from a seedling and watched it grow every day can give you joy like raising a child. Then you get to harvest this food, which I know I find super exciting. There is something about eating the food you harvested that can nurture a good healthy relationship with your food. It's one baby step to reforming your food addiction into a healthy food relationship.
If you are able, plan a camping trip getaway. It doesn't matter if you rough it, glamp it up, or rent a cabin by a lake, just get somewhere away from home and out in nature. Stay a few days to allow yourself a reset. As long as you remember some sunscreen and bug repellent, you should be feeling nice and refreshed after your trip. You might even experience not desiring to return back home.
3)Feel Good - Go Out With Friends
Sometimes we get into that funk where it is easier to squander and swim in our own thought pool while vegging out and numbing our thoughts and emotions with mindless activities. These actions typically bring positive results for anyone. I know they have not for me.
Next time you feel tempted to wander down the spiral of depression try to make yourself hang out with friends. This could be any friends, ones you have known for a while, a new acquaintance, a fun co-worker, or even a long-lost friend you re-acquainted with. Reach out, and say hello. Make a coffee date, a night out on the town, a quiet game night in. Do something you and your friends enjoy doing together. You will be amazed how time flies when you’re out with your friends, and you hardly think of food. In addition, you are likely to burn a few more calories than you would if you were just at home, and the memories you form from your adventures will give you pleasure for a long time to come. Not the short bouts of ups, followed by severe downs that our food choices are notorious for.
People can remind us that we do have friends and we are not alone in this world. Connection is extremely important to how we feel about ourselves in general. Even introverts I know like to socialize on occasion. So put yourself out there and watch the magic unfold, if you dare.
4) Feel Good - Practice Meditation
Meditation is no longer some obscure practice followed by just a few but has spread to the mainstream population thanks to its proven benefits on health. Though the addiction to food is a real psychological condition, meditation can help you break the bonds by increasing your appreciation for other things in life and bringing you into the present moment.
Meditation is learning to get quiet enough to be with yourself. In this state, you are able to observe your own thoughts and patterns and become aware. Awareness means you have the ability to seek a change if you desire it.
Another benefit of meditating is the inner peace that it can bring, especially with regular practice. It helps you to feel more emotionally balanced and less chaotic. Taking this up as a practice in my own life, I notice that I am less likely to binge eat because I am not feeling the erratic emotions. It has definitely helped me on this level, so maybe it can help you too. It's simple, it's free, and it's worth a try.
5) Feel Good - Get A Pet
Okay! So this one comes with a little more responsibility, but if you're up for the task then you get to reap all the rewards that come with it. A pet can deliver tons of happiness and comfort in your life. Dogs and cats often make good companions for humans. A bonus is that you can tell them anything you want and they won't blab to anyone. Your secret is always safe with your pet.
Having a pet around can help calm your nervous system if you have anxiety. Should you eat because of this anxiety, hey I'm guilty of this, then this might help you consume less while you work on having a healthier relationship with your food. Watch out if you have a dog and leave your food unattended. You might not be eating because the dog did it for you.
The act of owning a pet and being responsible for the pet means you have somewhere to focus your attention for a while. You must remember to feed the pet, attend to its bathroom needs, groom it occasionally, and train it how you like. Sometimes having a distraction helps redirect our thoughts and distraction is a good deterrent from binge eating.
6) Feel good - Make Love To Yourself
Yes! That's right! I said it. Make love to yourself. Go ahead and take your time and masturbate and love yourself the way you like it. Don't wait for someone else to do it. Even if you are in a relationship, this is still a really important solo self-care act.
Masturbate and bring yourself to that ever-so-pleasurable orgasm. When you orgasm it releases all sorts of happy chemicals and signals in your body. When flooded with these you feel euphoric and any craving for sweets dissipates. I have used this technique several times in my life to curb those sugary cravings when I wanted to give in. It works. Don't take my word for it, try it out for yourself.
Should you try any or all of these you will have positive benefits in your. Each tip can bring you a different form of happiness as well as that beloved happy chemical, dopamine. Ultimately, to overcome a food addiction you have to get in touch with yourself and start working on the relationship you have with food.
From life experience, I can assure you that this is hard but not impossible and you too can improve your relationship with food. Reforming in your mind how you view the role of food in your life is a good beginning. Sure it's pleasurable, but even more so, food is a fuel to keep our bodies functioning. Food can help the body function well or it can slow the functioning down, but it depends on what we fuel it with.
By working on reframing our thoughts around food we can begin having a better relationship with it. Over a period of time and practice, you may even be able to free yourself from the binds of addiction. Anything is possible.
When you start taking actions to incorporate actions that are meeting your needs and filling up your cup, it's called self-care. I love self-care and it changes all the time. It's a good idea to have your own toolbox full of things you like, actions you can take, and ways to help yourself meet your own needs on your busy life journey. I made something just for that occasion. It's a self-care toolkit checklist to help get you started with your own toolbox. GRAB YOUR FREE SELF-CARE TOOLKIT CHECKLIST HERE!