by Alicia Capellan


Are you an emotional eater?

Growing up, I will admit I was an emotional eater. Not being aware of my actions had lead to being morbidly obese with medical issues. I can point the finger at my environment, school, peers, and college lifestyle. I looked forward to fast food everyday after school with my older brother- it was quality time for us. My brother and I talk about it now and we could not believe how unhealthy our decisions were. All we knew was that it was fun. The food made us feel good. Self esteem and self worth would crash, food was relief and comfort when there was nothing else. There is a temporary sensory feeling of satisfaction that made me feel good. Eating can trigger levels of serotonin in the brain that makes someone feel satisfied and complete, especially when they are feeling down in the dumps. Sensory satisfaction can be caused by bringing up a memory from the past with scents of grandma’s cooking, or it could be a comfy lazy day on couch which means it is time for ice cream. The physiological feelings play a huge role in overeating.

These habits are formed as early as childhood. The foods that have been in our childhood homes or the quality of food that our parents placed in front of us, and environmental influences can carry to adulthood. Certain habits can be hard to break. The fast food industry makes it easier to create a bad eating habit by giving more exposure to tasty options in your hectic life. The food industry's advertising has many tactics in luring their audience with billboards, commercials, internet exposure deals, stadiums, airports, shopping centers, and even in hospitals! These images of comfort foods can set off intense cravings and lead to overeating.

Throughout the past year I have listened to many stories of overeating- a sense of confession we like to call it. For parents, they will start to eat after they put their children to bed- it's like a reward for themselves. Having a ladies'/guys' night is an excuse to indulge because everyone else is doing it. Then there's food sitting in front of your face while watching your home team play a big game. People also get into habits of going to a certain drive thru before or after work because it is simple and on the way home. Seasonal flavors seem to be the newest trend in sensory satisfaction that leads to overeating. Holiday gatherings create an easy excuse for overeating. Physiologically, our environment sets us up mentally to think that this certain seasonal array of food will not be consumed ever again, so of course, we must eat every single piece and try every dessert that is presented. We shall feast like kings!

The idea of convenience for a person that feels that they may not have time in their lives can cause him/her to reach for unhealthy choices throughout the day. We must realize and open our eyes to our surroundings. This constant cycle of overeating, becoming over weight, unhealthy, and unhappy with our lives needs to come to a halt. We are at an all-time high of obesity! Even with all the social media focus on fitness and motivational resources to get control on our generation's health, there have not been a whole lot of improvements. According to the American Lung Association, “The decline in smoking among high school girls has slowed recently. Between 1999 and 2003, cigarette smoking prevalence among high school girls decreased by 37 percent.” So, what is it to say about our overall health with nutrition that we are lacking?! The information and research is out there, all we need to do now is take action first, starting with you.

We cannot hide from the world, but what we can do, is stock up on quality foods at your home. Having a stock of high fiber foods, greens, and protein will decrease your chance on grabbing the box of brownie mix. We would not want the other foods to go bad over time, so we must eat them. Take away the junk drawer full of treats, the high sugar levels will make you crave even more. Be aware of your cravings by taking a deep look at what triggers it and your reasons. Waiting too long to eat signals our bodies into starvation mode, low blood sugar hits and it starts to look like a zombie movie from that point on. Eating regularly can decrease these feelings over time.

The emotional trigger that leads you into overeating can be fixed. It might not be easy, but it can be done. Remember to forgive yourself and love yourself. Do not beat yourself up and spiral into a depressed mode. If you do it persistently, it can create a chain reaction into your work, social life, or your workouts. Falling off your regimen might happen and it's okay to be upset for just one minute- let it go, and move on to being better. Always think positively when it comes to making smart choices. If you’re in a mindset where you keep telling yourself, “I can’t have this” “I shouldn’t have that” “That will make me fat” “My trainer is going to kill me if I eat…,” your thoughts on food become negative. This is not a punishment, it is a reward to your body and quality of life.

Food is provided from the earth we walk on, there is a purpose in all the food that grows. Become creative with what foods are provided and even get family and friends involved. It is as simple as doing a little research or asking a friend for a recipe just to try something new. By expanding your horizons and getting creative with food, preparing food, planning out your eating schedule, and take charge of your sensory triggers, all other parts of life will fall into place.