Do food and happiness go hand in hand for you? They sure did for me.
For years, food was a salve, a friend, and a constant companion for me. From the time I was an older teen to the second I turned my back on obesity forever, food was my rock.
Or so I thought.
Like many people who struggle with weight issues, I treated food like a close friend and relied on food to make me happy. I spent a lot of time with food, planned what to do with food, and even talked excessively about food.
You may be like me and feel as though food makes you happy. It is very easy to reach for cookies when your day is stressful, dig into ice cream after a difficult assignment, or wolf down a fast food burger in between appointments.
There is often a false relationship between food and happiness. Food can distract you, fill you up, give you nutrients, fuel your exercise, and give you something to talk about. But at the end of the day, food cannot make you happy.
Oftentimes what happens is you eat to make yourself happy but feel guilty over poor food choices instead. Then, the cycle of guilt, overeating, guilt, and overeating begins and the result is weight gain. Which is the exact opposite of what you desire.
In order to stop equating eating with happiness, you must learn to see food in a different light.
Deal With Everyday Emotions
Most of the reasons we use food to make ourselves happy stem from a dependence on food to soothe emotions. You must learn to deal with the emotions of everyday life without relying on food as a crutch. It will likely take a minute-by-minute commitment to yourself to not turn on the oven and make a pan of brownies or wolf down sweets when you feel stressed or upset.
Ignore False Advertising Messages
Another step to breaking the food-happiness cycle is learning to ignore false advertising messages.
There is no magic in the box of crackers, the bag of chips, or the candy bar, even though food advertisers would have you think otherwise. Commercials you watch, ads you read, and billboards you drive past promise you will enjoy your day more if you eat certain foods.
Here’s what I promise: Your day will be no better or worse if you pass on the giant cupcake or skip the fast food drive thru. Learning to ignore false advertisements will help you discover that happiness and fulfillment come from within and not from food.
The Five-Minute Timeout
I recommend using a five-minute timeout as a way to train yourself to disassociate food and happiness.
Try this technique when you find yourself reaching for food in between meals, eating when you are upset, or loading up your plate with second helpings of high-calorie foods.
When you feel yourself giving in to food urges, look at the time. Tell yourself you are going to wait five minutes before you eat. During that time, write down what you are feeling and why you want food. In many cases, the five-minute timeout is enough to remove the urgency from the emotion and give yourself room to think through your actions.
Food is a wonderful part of your daily life, but it doesn’t have the power to make you happy or relieve stress. I discovered that it wasn’t the food that made events like weddings, parties, and movie nights fun; it was the company I kept and the memories we created.