Most of us are going a mile a minute and multitasking at every moment—leaving us overwhelmed and, as a result, more likely to eat emotionally rather than for pleasure and health. Becoming more aware of why we are eating, when, and how to shift our patterns can go a long way toward improving our physical and mental health.
The first step is to figure out which emotions trigger us to eat too much or poorly. The second step is to substitute the emotional eating with exercise that targets those emotions or healthy food alternatives.
Do you eat when you are bored? Try to supplement bad foods with healthy foods that are fun and engaging to eat, such as artichokes, or try a dance class or something adventurous like rock climbing. Chances are when you fill your life with fun and enriching activities, you won’t have time to eat.
Furiously stuff yourself to keep from being angry? Try to get all that extra energy out with boxing or martial arts where you can chop, punch, kick, and yell. To eat, try replacing unhealthy foods with dynamic items that work out your jaw such as carrot sticks, celery, or gum. All that chewing will help reduce anger.
Depressed and/or stressed? The two do seem to go together. The best thing is to get outside or go way deep inside. Hiking, running, and cycling outside are great ways to expand your psyche and soul while getting some of those feel good endorphins. Also, try yoga or meditation to help sooth your nervous system. As far as food goes, when you are sad or stressed you crave comfort foods, most of which are traditionally unhealthy. Try replacing these with foods that are soothing to the nervous system and healthy such as oatmeal, mint tea, air popped popcorn with nutritional yeast, or dark chocolate cocoa made with Stevia.
Also known as consistency, this is the most important idea to understand and live in regards to both diet and exercise. While running with a friend the other day I commented that running is the one thing I do that I am not that good at but that I stick with. Even when it is hard, I told him, I will slow down but keep going. He said something interesting in response, which was that it is at those times, when it is hard and we keep going (even when it isn’t perfect) that we are learning and getting better. I find this to be true with getting and staying healthy in general. You don’t have to eat perfectly every single hour or day. If you want to indulge in a little bit of something good then do it, savor it, don’t feel guilty. Same goes with exercise—just get outside, even if you can only walk a half mile today or one flight of stairs. Keep with it and you will live into a healthy body, mind, and soul.
Part of recreating a healthy respect for food lies in understanding proper portion control. Over the years, our portions have increased with our waists. Keeping the following list, and referring to it when out to eat especially can go a long way toward retraining your eye and belly:
- Bread slice should be as big as an index card
- One serving of grains is 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta
- One serving of peanut butter is 2 tablespoons
- One serving of meat equals 3 ounces the size of a deck of cards-that’s half of a chicken breast, 3 slices of deli meat, or 7 shrimp.
- one serving of legumes is 1/2 a cup
- we should eat 4–5 servings of fruit a day, a serving size of dried fruit is 1/4 cup, a serving of fresh fruit is a medium orange or apple or half of a grapefruit.
- How much fruit juice in a serving? 6 ounces
- A serving of cheese is as big as a pair of dice
- A serving of dairy equals 1/2 cup of yogurt, an ounce of cheese, or 8 ounces of milk.
- One serving size of vegetables? 1/2 cup of cooked veggies, one small potato, 1 cup of raw baby carrots, or one cup of lettuce.
A good rule is to stick with a 9-inch plate and cover 1/2 of it with vegetables, 1/4 of it with protein, and 1/4 of it with grains.