All creatures on earth, whether human or animals, need food to live. But only humans have taken that need and turned it into an obsession. Of all the idiosyncrasies of food addictions, the one I find the most detrimental is that of “comfort food.” The idea that food is anything other than nourishment is again, exclusive only to humans.
The joy that some of us feel from food preparation and savoring of flavors (the artistic side of cuisine) is undeniably one of the most wonderful uses of some of our five senses (taste, smell and even vision). The flip side of this is that somehow society at large (pun intended) has equated certain foods to that of providing comfort.
There’s no question that all of us have childhood memories (and other situational sense memories) that are directly tied to food. A special recipe your mother created when you were sick, or on birthdays, as well as dishes we ate when we were “happy” or “in love” become go to foods when, as adults, life is not where we want it to be. While it’s true that certain foods create a chemical reaction that can elevate moods, the idea that food can fill up a painful hole within our hearts is a slippery slope. What makes this worse is that traditionally most “comfort foods” are high in fat, salt, and/or sugar.
I have many a client and friend that spends days or months being diligent about their nutritional intake, only to blow it all away because they had an emotional disturbance that they responded to by eating “comfort foods.” How many movies have shown women sitting in front of the TV crying while shoveling in an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s? Or how many nights are lonely bachelors depicted scarfing down fast food take out after a night of drinking? These movies reflect real life – raise your hand if you’ve ever done this.
As I always say, everything’s okay in moderation – including pints of ice cream and multiple Taco Bell indiscernible meat tacos, but the problem here is that a lot of people have a regular routine of eating these “bad for your body” foods every single time they’re upset, frustrated or sad.
If this behavior resonates with you, then I offer this advice: break up with food! Stop “dating” food to make you feel better, especially when in reality, it does just the opposite. Repeated indulgences in comfort food is no better for you than that guy or girl who belittles your self-esteem.
See nutrition as a tool that allows your body and brain to function and deal with life. I use the Car analogy – most people put medium to high-grade gasoline in their car, see to regular oil changes, and keep all fluids and tire pressure to their peak levels. If you do not, your car will not drive well, handle huge hills, stay safe on wet roads, and eventually stop running completely. Well guess what, your body is the same.
If you find it difficult to walk away from food when you’re emotionally upset, then at least make better choices – find a healthier “comfort” – or keep the quantities of the unhealthy choices to a much smaller amount. Better still, deal with the feelings that you’re hiding from, and once they’re faced, you’ll undoubtedly not even need the food for comfort. One last choice to consider is exercise. I’ve had some of the best cardio sessions when I’ve been angry. When the day before I was bored and tired after 10 minutes on the treadmill, suddenly when fueled by a situation / conversation that left me hot-headed, I ran for 30 minutes straight!
Whether your goal is fat loss or just improved health and fitness, breaking up with comfort foods is an essential step to reaching your goal and staying there.
1. How many times a day to you relive a conversation or confrontation that occurred sometime in your past? Think about it. You probably do it several times a day. Have you ever noticed that if you rehash an upsetting moment or situation, you physically re-experience your emotional reaction (muscle tension, increased heart rate, even tears or anger.)? Do you fret that someone misinterpreted your intentions or words, do you worry what people thought of you?
2. How often do you prepare for a future event or conversation by rehearsing what you will do or say (either in your head or out loud)? Do you find yourself lost in anticipation of tasks or confrontations, spending energy preparing so you will be understood or appear confident?
3. Do you spend large quantities of time going back and forth between past events and future anticipations? Really stop and think about this one.
If you answered yes to any of these questions (and if you answered yes to one you probably answered yes to all three), you are not alone. Most of us whittle away hours of our lives ping-ponging back and forth between two time zones: past and future. This behavior adds to the constant feeling of emotional pressure that many of us suffer, as well as creating excess physical stress.
So how do you stop? Live in the now. Stay present. Pay attention to the moment. The past is past, and nothing can change it. The present will roll out regardless of any preparation. Too many variables outside of yourself play in the game of life. So how can you really prepare, except to be present and aware? Easy to say, hard to achieve, right? For some reason, it is ridiculously difficult to turn off that inner monologue (our ego) that constantly criticizes or commends our past, while worrying and pestering us about our future. But it is only in the present moment that life occurs.
While you digest this, and hopefully achieve a delicious epiphany, let me offer a few tips to help you increase the time spent in the now. If nothing else, you will find daily moments when you have no worries, feel no stress, and truly enjoy life.
1. Stop. Stop and think about what you’re doing (besides reading this article). Where are you? What are the sights, sounds, smells around you? How do you feel? Are you tense, relaxed, depressed, elated?
2. Keep Focus. As soon as your mind drifts backwards (to the past) or forwards, pull your attention back to your present environment.
3. Treat your senses. To make the present moment more engaging spend a few moments allowing any bright colors to saturate into your vision, or inhaling the scents around you (coffee, fresh air, etc.), or feeling the weather upon your skin, or running your fingertips over differing surfaces.
4. Spell it out. Take a few moments to write down exactly what you’re feeling. Do not elaborate on why or how you came to feel this way. Just focus on all feelings at the present moment: physical (internal and external); emotional (and how it affects you physically).
5. Breathing. Anyone who performs yoga or mediates knows the importance of breathing. If you lift weights or practice martial arts you should be familiar with the benefit of proper inhalation and exhalation (as my clients will attest). Why don’t we think about our breathing the rest of the time? Such a wonderful tool at our disposal that we take for granted. If you don’t breathe, you die, literally, and in this case, figuratively. Slow deep breaths will lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and bring more oxygen into your blood stream which increases energy and elevates moods. If nothing else works, the best way to bring yourself into the moment is to take deep, slow breaths focusing on nothing but the in and out of air.
Being in the Now may not solve all your problems or remove stress from your life, but it sure can lighten the load. Give it a try. Any moments spent away from pain or pressure are invaluable to your body, mind, and spirit. Also, I highly recommend reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now series available at all major book stores or Amazon.com.
What about your mind — is it in shape? What does that mean? There are three facets to your mind: intellect, creativity, and emotions. Do you stimulate your intellect, exercise your creativity, and keep your emotions balanced?
How about your environmental life – that which exists external to your body and mind? Are you happy with your home life, job/career, relationships? As a certified Life Strategies Coach with additional certifications in fitness and personal training, I look at all aspects of an individual’s life. I look at their whole life fitness. So let me rephrase the question. Is your Life in Shape?
If the answer is yes. Then rock on, keep up the good work! If the answer is no, then it’s time to take stock and focus on steps to shape (and shake) things up.
The Body. This is the easy one. In previous articles I have addressed fresh approaches to nutrition and exercise, keeping things in moderation, staying pro-active, and in general, making a life style change to create the realistic body image you desire.
The Mind. This area is tricky. The mind is a terrible thing to waste was a brilliant ad campaign against drugs, and is my favorite mantra as a life coach. Regardless of time or energy depletions, you must seek to challenge your mind (intellect). Make it a goal to read at least one non-fiction book once a month, or read the newspaper daily (not just the comics and entertainment sections). Get involved with clubs that read and discuss books; organizations that improve speaking techniques (like Toastmasters); or charity focus groups. Even a once-a-month commitment on your part, can have a huge benefit on your feeling of sharpness and competency.
Being creative seems to scare many people. I can’t draw, I have no imagination, I’m not good at crafts. These are just some of the excuses I hear. Think back to when you were a child. Remember finger painting, or the joy of playing with Play-Doh. Maybe in high school you played an instrument, sang, acted, or had electives where you made jewelry or ceramics. Spending time practicing any art from (from creative cooking to scapbooking) will reap huge rewards. Focusing the mind on artistic endeavors clears your head, lowers stress and blood pressure, and relaxes the body. (Not to mention that it’s just plain fun.) Embrace your inner child! After spending even an hour massaging the creative side of your brain, solutions for emotional or intellectual issues will seem clearer.
Environmental Life. Here is where people get the most stuck, making change is scary. Rocking your financial boat by changing jobs or starting a business keeps many from taking any proactive steps forward. But where there is true desire, a simple path can be found. Do some soul searching. Define what it is you truly wish to be doing with your life (and where you want to do it). Once defined within your own brain and heart, often the steps towards that goal appear much clearer and less intimidating.
In relationships, most of us do not want to confront a dysfunctional situation or unsatisfying relationship. Yet to let a relationship stagnate or disintegrate is never anyone’s desired goal, is it? Take that first baby step. Just talk to your mate, friend, family member. Remember to always come from a place of compassion and be willing to really listen as well as clearly ask for what you need (see last month’s article on communication). Once issues are cleared or resolved, you will be surprised how quickly a weight is lifted from your heart.
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From now on think about your life from now on in the terms of Whole Life Fitness. Take stock regularly, and when you feel an area getting slow, stagnant, or shapeless, rev up those engines and whip that area into shape! If you wish for more guidance, feel free to contact me at http://www.danelifefitness for a free life shaping session.
As a Life Strategies Coach, I work with clients to clean up the clutter in their lives, literally and figuratively. The “literal clutter” cleanup is easy: figure out your goals, come up with a systematic and achievable plan, get organized, and go for it! Clearing away the “figurative” mind and emotional clutter takes a bit more work. This type of clutter is usually the result of feelings not shared with a spouse, friend, co-worker, or family member. Holding on to these hurt, angry, frustrated, or confused feelings often results in low self-esteem, self-doubt, reluctance to take action, and even physical illness or pain.
The typical reason that most of us do not vent these vitriolic emotions is due to fear of the dreaded . . . confrontation. What’s so bad about confrontation? Isn’t it, after all, simply communication? Communication: good. Confrontation: bad! (Said the grunting monster.)
The problem is that most of us associate confrontation with aggression, anger, attack, sometimes even violence. According to the dictionary, the root of confrontation – confront – means: “to face in hostility or defiance, to oppose.” This is clearly what most of us wish to avoid. But it also states the following: “to stand in front of or meet facing; to present for acknowledgment.” That doesn’t sound so bad, to present for acknowledgment. To present your feelings so that they can be acknowledged. Surely that is the real core response we all seek, when “confronting.” An acknowledgment of our feelings. If you think hard about it, you’ll admit an appreciation of our feelings is far more important than who was right and who was wrong. (Do not forget, that there are two sides to every story, and the truth is somewhere in the middle!)
But where we get stuck when trying to communicate our feelings – where it turns into the negative aspects of a confrontation – is in our delivery and our recipient’s response. With attention spans so short, and everything else moving so fast in our society (from food to entertainment to cars), is it any wonder that we are predisposed to offensive and defensive modes of communication? Throw your words out there…feel attacked…respond defensively with an assault (or insult). Rapid fire words to hit where they hurt, then duck and cover. Muscles tighten, the body fills with tension.
That’s how I perceive many attempts at communication where hurt or frustrated feelings are concerned. This is not communication, it is confrontation in the “face in hostility or defiance” definition. I, too, would do all I could to avoid confrontations if that is how it would always result.
But what would happen if we all changed our delivery when a confrontation was needed? If we calmly articulated the facts of how we feel (for the facts about how you feel cannot be disputed), and did so from a perspective of understanding that the other person may well have felt their own levels of hurt or frustration.
We must let go of the battle over which came first (the proverbial chicken or the egg), and just acknowledge that both parties used poor communication or thoughtless actions. Promise to do our best to think before we speak or act in the future, and more importantly, acknowledge the other’s feelings in this situation.
Confrontation would loose its intimidating factor if it were nothing more than an intense communication between parties in which they stated their feelings, acknowledged each other, and moved on with a new awareness.
So if you have been avoiding confronting someone (in the old negative definition), try this new approach. You have nothing to lose, and plenty to gain. I can feel my muscles just relaxing thinking about it. How about you?