There seems to be this myth that a person can abuse their bodies and then juice themselves back to awesomeness. While this in part is true, prolonged self-abuse of anything, including food will have long-term consequences. This article looks at ways we can avoid the yo-yo effect of weight gain, as we attempt to dive into the deep dark world of emotional eating. (grab a snorkel we’re going down)
Juice diets are popular because they’re simple. You can prepare juice in no time. Cut out what you’ve previously have been eating and get results fasts. You smash your body with tons of nutrition and stop your digestive system. Within days you have dropped some weight (not fat), and you feel tighter as your stomach shrinks. Be warned, juice more vegetables than fruits and be prepared to have less energy at the start. You might feel dizzy, light headed and nauseous as your body adjusts to the new diet.
We can’t juice forever, well most of us can’t. Therein lies the problem. After juicing we go back to eating a regular diet, and run the risk of regaining the weight we lost. This will almost certainly happen unless we change a significant change in our eating habits.
Air Page, founder of New Leaf Detox Thailand says “we need to add the good choices before we remove the old. Changing too fast almost guarantees failure. Weight loss and sustainable wellness has to be a longer term goal. Detox is a great start but it work better with a lifestyle change” says Air.
If we have been juicing in a structured resort or retreat, then go back to the ‘real’ world with all its stresses, responsibilities and emotional eating, we need to shift our focus and make our new eating regime the priority.
Too many people do a juice fast, get great results and don’t follow through. Some sight significant increase in cravings brought on by the bodies reaction to eating again. Understanding this could happen due to a blood sugar spike we can get in front of this with supplements like psyllium husk and chromium picolinate. “The first week after a juice detox is critical to the ongoing success. This is why we do meal plans and assist our guests in the transition back to a healthier diet. Unless we manage this the yo-yo’ing cycle will continue.
What is Emotional Eating?
I will open by saying this is subject that is almost endless. However, this is my take on what I believe is emotional eating having struggled with it for decades.
During those time I thought I was eating what I then considered good food. Nowadays my wife and I own and operating a detox health resort in Thailand. I first went as a client of the detox before joining New Leaf Detox as a partner. What has been so interesting for me is observing so many people like myself with the same or similar issues? Issues that are either emotional or habitual or both. The very reason I attended the detox in the first place.
“I was peckish between snacks.” – British comedian Ricky Gervais
Emotional eating can present itself in many forms from simple snacking to complete over-consumption. However, the one thing it has in common is that an emotional response triggers the eating. Not necessarily a negative emotion either. Many of us ‘reward’ ourselves because we have been ‘good’. This childlike behaviour and attitude have kept many people stuck in a cycle of ‘doing great to rewarding to falling off the wagon to doing great again’, and the cycle continues.
Rewards in themselves aren’t a bad thing. We need to relax and celebrate. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you are anything like me, then you’ll relate to the adage ‘One is too many and a thousand never enough.’ I’m an ‘all or nothing’ kind of person. I find it very challenging not to eat the whole packet of whatever. Knowing that is the first step to being able to change. Going to New Leaf Detox Resort on Koh Samui Thailand was the tipping point for me. I understood for the first time how I ‘used’ food as a mood changer.
As a business executive and owner, I was under a lot of stress, often eating in restaurants and cafe and usually on the phone. It was not a healthy way to eat. It got to the stage where I could eat a whole plate full of food and be so removed emotionally from the experience I couldn’t recall how the meal tasted. In some cases, I’d embarrass myself by asking the waiter when the dish was arriving only to find out I had already eaten it…not kidding. It was time for a change.
Compulsive Overeating V Impulsive/Binge Eating Disorder
Many excellent articles on the Internet delve deeply into this subject. Much broader than we will here, but it is crucial to understand the differences.
Impulsive and binge behaviours are classified as mental disorders and treated both medical and therapeutically. Interpreted in many ways depending on the severity of the disease. In many cases, the patient is Hospitalised and treated both physically and mentally.
Compulsive Overeating – diagnosed as eating more than needed, triggered by emotions to be driven to eat certain foods and a lot of them. The compulsion can take a sufferer out late at night seeking desired snacks. They can drive miles out of their way to get food, hiding food, eating alone, in secret. Compulsive eaters suffer alone, and there is a lot of shame attached to the behaviour.
From as early as I can remember my Mother and I were always the ones who stayed up later than anyone else in the Family. We would often sit on the lounge and watch TV. Mum has a variety of favourite snacks including corn chips, potato chips and soft, chewy candy like ‘snakes’ and jelly babies. We would sit, I was always on her right side, and she would stroke my arm, and we’d snack together. Watch a movie then head to our respective bedrooms and repeat the behaviour several times a week. This behaviour went on for two decades until I left the nest.
September 2018 she was travelling with my late Father, and they visited me in Bangkok on route to London to see one of my Sisters. The first evening we went to a local Mall near where we were staying and did some shopping at Mega Bangna, a vast shopping Mall. We were staying near the Airport at a Golf Resort. That evening after my ill Father has gone to bed I found myself on the sofa with Mum. To my amazement, I realised after a few minutes we were doing the same thing, three decades later.
What has been significant for me is over three decades I have struggled with diet and different foods, but I have managed to stop most of the snacking. When I say ‘most’ I still snack but I have changed what I snack on, until that night in Bangkok with Mum. The shocking thing to me was how easily and quickly I slipped back into that behaviour but more than that, how comfortable it was — my Mum, Movie, Sofa = Snacking.
Most days until 8.00pm my diet is good. Sitting on the lounge after a busy day, kids are in bed, relaxing and the cravings start. Depending on what has been happening and the intensity of stress I may have the snacks change. I’m happy to report I no longer snack on nuts, soft candy, chips but I do sometimes come off the ‘chocolate wagon’ I’ve been riding that train for a long time. I love chocolate, like many people but it does not love me. So most nights I steer clear of it and prefer to go for grapes or other fruits. Yes, I know there is the ‘fruit conversation’ we can have, but we’ll save that for another post.
So in summary of my snacking. I still snack at times, I’ve just changed what I snack on.
Cravings V Hunger – Know the Difference
There is a big difference between a craving and hunger. Cravings can present very differently to hunger usually, as stronger urges triggered by one or several of our senses. I can walk past a place, smell the food and I’m telling myself I’m hungry, even when I have just eaten. Music, a song associated with a particular area, can trigger a response.
Hunger is a feeling in the stomach; we notice it pangs, even as pain when we don’t respond. Many of us have set times to eat. We get up, do what we have to do and have breakfast. We work and have our scheduled lunch time, and on the way home we pick up dinner or stay out and eat. The experts tell us we need to eat more regularly and no snacks. Eat the biggest meal in the middle of the day. If we include exercise in our routine, it is useful to train hungry. Train, before you eat in the morning, will bring the best calorie burn and after burn. A great way to start the day.
Associating behaviours with food types is very common or vice versa. Associating food types with behaviours. More common than most people think and we do it a lot of the time without realising it. Pizza after the game, KFC on Friday nights and Popcorn with a Movie etc.
I’m that guy. If the movie is good, that’s a bonus, but I’m there for the popcorn. My wife gets a bucket too but gives me most of it, so I end up eating for probably 45 minutes of the movie. I love popcorn, and this is the only time I eat it. These days I limit how often I go to the movies, so I hardly eat it anymore. I’m not sure what it would be like to go and not have popcorn, but it is a powerful association for me.
Social Media Trigger
If you are an emotional eater, then I might suggest you limit your social media activity. What? Think about it. How many times were you feeling good only to open a Social media platform, read something stupid or irritating and start craving? Maybe you are still not aware, but if you are or think you are an emotional eater, Social media is a huge trigger for many people. It will have a lot to answer for in the future.
Awareness – The First Step
We can’t change what we aren’t aware of and a beneficial way to notice patterns and associations is to keep a food diary. Even for a week, we can discover valuable information. Just write what you eat and when each day, not forgetting to include drinks and beverages. Include all snacks, even small ones such as a piece of fruit or a cookie. Most importantly, write how you are feeling and what you were thinking about preceding the snack or meal. We want to try and understand the feeling associated with the eating.
Don’t get despondent; there is help available. You are not alone. If you think you need to speak with someone of you would like more of a therapeutic approach there are options.
There are a lot of good places you can go to get that ‘kick start’ and get back on track. Make sure the resort has qualified people who understand emotional eating and all its forms. They should be able to speak with you and give you an eating plan. They can also work with the triggers you might have and increase your awareness and assist you with other options on how to respond to the triggers.
O.A. is a 12 step based group that assist people with compulsive overeating. The 12 steps are guidelines you can follow to help you hand over your addiction to ‘a god of your understanding’. Meaning you accept you have a problem, and you can’t fix it alone. You hand over, by asking for help, from anything that is a ‘power greater than yourself’. O.A. isn’t a religious organisation, however, if you have a particular faith, O.A. encourages you to take advantage of that to assist you to work their steps. They meet regularly to help each other in community centres and hall all over the world. Millions of people have found understanding, support and relief from their programme. You can see them here: https://oa.org/find-a-meeting/
Thank you for reading this, and I do hope it was helpful in some way. I’ll repeat it, you aren’t alone, and there is support and help there if you need it.
Some snacks were consumed during the writing of this post 😉 – Kris Page