Confronting Triggers, Again

Having a debilitating injury for over two months, and being sidelined from nearly two hours of daily exercise, has definitely presented me with many challenges. I feel like one of those old cartoons characters running full speed only to slam face first into the invisible wall and slowly drop to the ground, birds tweeting around my head. Only in the cartoons, the character gets up and walks fine into the next scene. Such is not the case with a sprained knee!

For anyone who has been removed abruptly from their daily routine or unable to perform regular activities of daily living for an extended period of time depression is inevitable, and a primary trigger for old patterns of unhealthy behavior such as emotional eating. Lack of control over recovery time can lead to “I don’t care” thought patterns which, in turn, lead to episodes of eating unhealthy foods. At first, it may be once in a while with the background vocals singing “it’s okay, in moderation.” Then, it turns into a more frequent act, the vocals singing louder “I’ll eat better tomorrow.” And finally, you find yourself justifying your behavior on a daily basis, knowing full well that giving in to this trigger will only feed back into the cycle of depression.

Taking Control

Emotional eating is linked to food addiction (for some it can be specific, like sugar addiction) and must be looked at as seriously as other addictions, because the struggle to overcome this is much harder, primarily because eating is survival, and overeating can go unnoticed and is often encouraged in our society.

1. Realize that YOU have power over the food, not the other way around. You have the power to decide what food “lives” in your house and you choose what goes into your body (the food can’t jump into your mouth!) I’ve heard several times from people with children that in their house are snack food temptations that they’ve bought for the kids. One way to deal with this is to create a shelf that is all yours (use a crisper drawer in the fridge or make the top shelf yours) and locate it away from where the snack foods are kept so when you open it. This way you won’t even see the temptations.

2. Listen to what you are feeling. Not every food addict is a grazer or constant eater, but instead makes unhealthy choices at their designated food times, which can lead to overeating and weight gain. Recent studies have shown that eating foods high in fat or sugar releases a hormone in the body that masks one’s ability to recognize when they feel full, and trigger receptors in the brain that tell the body to store the fat. When that undeniable craving presents itself so powerfully, ask yourself what you are feeling (stress, anxiety, loneliness) and why (what’s triggering that emotion?)

3. Take a break/Change your surroundings. Get up and take a five- or ten- minute walk or go to a different room and breathe. Deep, slow, almost meditative, breaths with eyes closed are calming and will restore the overanxious heart rate to a normal pace. This one can be difficult at first, but it is a great tool for quieting those trigger noises.

4. Be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to “feel” what you are feeling. Allow yourself to make mistakes, and forgive yourself – one of my favorite “mantras” I heard in a yoga class is that every momen
t is a
moment; leave the past where it is and start a new moment. Leave the negative self-deprecations or punishing comments out of your thoughts by saying nice, positive things to yourself – remind yourself that you are strong, you are worthy of good things, and this is just a moment that YOU have control over. And at the end of the day, congratulate yourself for what you did well that day, even if it is just one thing – support yourself as you would a dear friend in the same situation.

Finally, when physical limitations subside, be active. Return to physical activity to boost mental and emotional spirit, build back physical strength, and return to fitness/weight loss goals.

When all else fails, blog about it – if nothing else, knowing that anyone reading about the struggle, might make you think twice about choices!


The Science Daily

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