Fat Loss · Health · Mindset · Nutrition

Do You Eat to Distract and Decompress From Your Stressful Life?

By Brittney Bergen

Eating food has become a favourite leisure activity – and don’t get me wrong – I love to down a good bottle of wine and dessert with a girlfriend, but I think we’ve gone a bit too far in the wrong direction.

Food is fuel for our bodies.  It’s the source of our energy and vitality.  It’s the giver of life.  The sun’s gift to our stomachs and all of our cells that comes with the message, “Go, live your life in your own beautiful, full expression.”

Okay, maybe I’m getting a little too hippie with my lingo here (I do that pretty often these days), but you get the point.

Here are the two main reasons I think we eat, besides because we’re actually hungry, or because we want to fuel our bodies to do something epic:

  1. To Decompress

I imagine your life is stressful.  You’ve got a to-do list a mile long, a full time job, relationships to tend to, bills to pay…the list goes on.

I know when I’m stressed or feeling in despair, my good ol’ friend Cap’n Crunch starts calling at me from the cupboard, “Hey Brittney, let’s chill.”

I don’t reach for him because I’m hungry or because I think he’s going to help me become my best as an athlete (an occasional post-workout visit from the Cap’n wouldn’t hurt my recovery).  I’m opening my hand and heart up to the Cap’n hoping he’ll end my suffering.

He does.  For about 30 seconds until I find myself microwaving a bag of popcorn.

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I keep my popcorn down here

What are your go to decompression foods?

  1. To Distract

Remember that mile long to-do list?  I know when I get to the things on mine that I’m not passionate about, I glance at the cupboard or consider heading to the coffee shop.

  • Am I hungry?
  • Do I really need another coffee?

Probably not, but I just don’t want to do item 8 c. on my to do list and having some dark chocolate or a fancy espresso lets me put it off a little longer.

How often do you find yourself eating to distract yourself from doing something you don’t want to do?

Unfortunately, our to-do list doesn’t diminish as we chew on carbohydrates. Unfortunately, our to-do list doesn’t diminish as we chew on carbohydrates. https://ctt.ec/saW3N+ via @idealistisabel

(Unless you write: “Meeting with the Cap’n” on your to-do list.  Why didn’t I think of this before?!)

So here’s what I’m proposing…

Three Steps to Stop Eating To Decompress or Distract:

  1. Find Another Way to Decompress

When you feel stressed and want relief, do something else for ten minutes, and then come back to the food if you’re really hungry (or really need to fuel yourself for something epic).

Here are my favourite options:

  • Meditate – start with the Headspace app if you’ve never done it. Meditation will bring you back to your centre so you can make the decisions that are in alignment with the part of you that wants to be freaking awesome (instead of the crazy carb addict digging in the cupboard).
  • Move – practice some gymnastics, or do some gentle stretches. Nothing forces me to connect with my body and the present moment more than improving my handstand hold or walk, or noticing new tension in a muscle and breathing deeply into it.  Moving will bring you into your body and remind you to take care of yourself in a way that brings out your best bod – instead of in the way that brings temporary relief through sugar-induced sedation.
  • Connect to Nature – There’s something about taking a stroll surrounded by trees, birds, and water that reconnects us to the bigger picture.  Get outside.  Feel the grass under your feet.  Stay longer than you naturally want to, and reconnect.  When you return home, you’re much more likely to make grounded food decisions, instead of irrational ones with your head stuck up in worry-clouds.
  1. Determine Why You’re Distracting Yourself

When you catch yourself pacing over to the pantry in an act of avoidance, STOP.  Take yourself through this process:

  • What am I trying to distract myself from?
  • What do I really want to be doing right now?

This can be a deep want, not a surface want.  For example – I didn’t feel like writing this blog.  But that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to.  When I was feeling lazy and looking for distraction a few minutes ago, I asked myself what I wanted to be doing and it really was this (because I wanted to hang out with your cool brain even more than I wanted to chill out with the Cap’n).

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Oh, Cap’n… are you up there?
  • Do the thing you want to do.

Novel idea, isn’t it?  We spend so much of our days doing things we feel we should be doing, that it’s easy to forget it’s possible to do what we want to do.

Most of the things we avoid, are things we actually want to do:

  • I want to pay my bills.
  • I want to reply to my emails.
  • I want to do my laundry.

If I find myself avoiding it, it might just mean that I need a break (and not the Kit-Kat kind).  I can stop and read a book, watch a quick TV show, meditate, and then check in with myself again, “What do I want to be doing?” and then the answer is “reply to my emails.”

  1. Eat When You’re Hungry or Want to Do Something Epic

And occasionally, that epic thing might be drinking a whole bottle of wine and eating a big piece of cheesecake with your girlfriend – but that’s much different than eating to decompress or distract (it’s a celebration).

Besides that, eat when your stomach growls at you or when you know your athletic performance demands it.

Food is fuel.  Food is the sun’s gift to our beautiful bodies.  Let’s stop treating it as a sedative, and start seeing it as a gift given to us to reach our full expression, shall we?

(Send me this link the next time you see an entire box of Cap’n Crunch on My Fitness Pal account, k friend?)


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