Was this song written about carbohydrates?
Or maybe it’s about that moment when you finally exit the gym.
God knows! I’ve got to make it on my own!
Yesterday I wrote a post about called There is No Such Thing as Emotional Eating.
Today, I want to backtrack just a little bit. Because one of the comments on my post got me thinking (yes it was yours The Farmer’s Diet!)
Eating as an Emotional Crutch
So the premise of yesterday’s post was this: when you think you are eating emotionally, you’re not. You are actually eating habitually.
This is important because:
- many disordered eaters believe they must address their underlying emotional issues in order to fix their disordered eating
- I believe the opposite is true! you need to address your disordered eating first, and then your emotional issues will begin to fall away
The Emotional Crutch
I think it’s helpful to forget about emotional eating, and instead focus on habitual eating.
Even so, there are still three major ways emotions come into play:
- Emotions are intertwined with habits. When you do things in a highly emotional state, the behaviors you do are more likely to stick.
- Emotions can prevent you from ever starting! Food feels good, and it’s a wonderful crutch
- Once you begin to lose weight, you lose a lot of your happy chemicals. You have to learn to make them a different way.
When it comes to emotions, I don’t know how much I can help.
As far as #1, read a book about habit formation. I love “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. It might change the way you look at the world
As far as #2, you just have to be strong. That’s all I can say. Make one small step.
Where Did All the Happy Chemicals Go?
As far as #3, dear god I still struggle with this. I can’t personally deprive myself of food constantly and live a happy life.
I also don’t enjoy doing extreme exercise. I lose my weight in “spurts” and maintain for long periods in between. I find that if I lose weight relatively quickly over relatively short periods of time, it’s less taxing on my emotions.
But in general, I don’t think losing weight is “fun” for your body or mind. By definition, if you want to lose weight, you need to eat LESS than your body needs to survive. I don’t care how quickly or slowly you do that – losing fat is taxing on your body. It’s a stressor.
So your emotions might run haywire, and mine often do. It’s better not to become overweight in the first place. Because maintaining your weight can be very easy if you just eat whole foods.
I exercise by walking outdoors and hiking. These things make me feel happy and free. I don’t do exercises that make me miserable, because losing weight makes me miserable enough.
Go easy on willpower. Your willpower is limited. When you use it up, you’re more likely to slip up. And when you slip up, you’re more likely to go hard on yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself for being a freaking human being!!
We all have limited willpower. Fit people don’t keep crappy food in the house. That means they exercise their willpower less. You might even want to plan meals ahead of time. I don’t do this, but it works great for some people. Take away as many bad choices as you can. Making choices drains your willpower, and makes you unhappy.
You have to make sure you’re sleeping enough, and I think having good relationships is important also. I’m very fortunate to have two of my closest friends, Rachel and Val along with me on this journey.
Oh the loneliness! I’m self-employed, which makes things lonely. And I’m single, which makes things lonely. Carbs make lovely friends. So you have to fill up the loneliness. I do it by getting absorbed in books, and lately by writing.
Your happy chemicals are also another reason to set tiny goals. Reaching goals boosts happiness. Once you get a little momentum going, it get’s much easier. Small goals changed everything for me. That’s why I wrote this post: To Lose 30 Pounds, Aim for Eight.
Set BEHAVIORAL rather then PROGRESS goals. You can’t completely control your progress, but you CAN completely control your behavior. And since your progress is a direct result of your behavior, behavioral goals are not only just as valid – they actually WORK BETTER. They give you something to be proud of no matter what.
- “Progress Goals” = I want to lose 2 pounds per week
- “Behavioral Goals” = I will eat a salad every weekday for lunch
When you generally feel good about yourself, happy chemicals are easier to come by. But I won’t pretend it’s easy in the beginning. You have to slog through it, knowing better days are coming.
- Don’t set insurmountable goals & take it one day at a time.
- Eat whole foods from God’s good earth, so your body is more satisfied and less panicky.
- Stay away from carbs or foods that addict you.
- A small amount of carbs IS good for mental health, eat them together with fat and protein at the same meal.
And if you have any suggestions for how you deal with your emotions during weight loss, please share.
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One thought on “Finding Your Happy Chemicals”
Hey! Thanks for the mention – sorry I’m clogging up your comments! I agree with all of this, and I’m still mulling over your points in the previous post too. I totally get what you’re saying – multiple studies have shown that exercise can help treat depression by increasing our brain’s ability to take up serotonin and increase dopamine production. So because of this, it makes sense to get out there are start moving, rather than sitting on your ass moaning about how your Dad wasn’t there for you as a child. 🙂 Get your chemicals right, and it suddenly feels a lot easier to deal with asshole-Dad memories.
But I still think it’s important to come to terms with whatever emotions were causing us to gain weight in the first place, even if it’s after we’ve started exercising and we’re feeling pretty good. If we don’t shine a light on the dark spots, they’ll just be waiting to jump back out at us when we’re in an emotionally vulnerable place.
I love that these posts have challenged my assumptions about fitness and emotional health. Keep it up! 🙂