Emotional eating and the crawl towards freedom
I can’t tell you how many times I get accosted at social gatherings by people who consider me “the healthy one”. Like some kind of mythical creature propelled solely by green smoothies or kale salads, it appears to be fair game to sidle up to me and simply launch into explanations for how it is simply impossible to eat a healthy lifestyle.
People will start conversations like:
“You’re really into health huh? I wouldn’t be able to do it. I just know myself. I have to be able to enjoy my food and it’s such a big part of the pleasure in my life, and if I had to restrict what I’m eating, well it would just suck all the enjoyment out my life. Without my “x”, (insert dessert name of choice here), my world just wouldn’t be the same.”
First off, when out for the night enjoying a glass of red wine I am not really out to convert people into some kind of card carrying green broccoli cult member whose mantra is “spirulina forever!” Because that activity, for the record, happens not at night, but in the daytime after the second espresso of the day so I am in peak form to judge! (Oh, and that espresso of course has to be decaf, served only with almond milk… that I make myself. And can I just say for the record that milking those almonds takes some sweet time!)
Ok, ok. I’m just being a bit tongue in cheek here. I do get it.
I know there is a lot of pressure on everyone to “eat right” and it’s one of those niggling shoulds that weigh on most of us. So we rationalise. I did it for years. It’s the YOLO (you only live once) thinking that can be awesome for getting your butt to do some things like… take a trip to the Great Wall, try sky diving, buy every souvenir in sight while in Paris, or splurge on those crazy expensive Manolo’s. But YOLO thinking is terrible for our health, if we let it drive us.
The truth is that I find it really unsatisfying when someone, who I know wants more energy, wants to feel better, and is dying to get more out of life; is saying these things to me. It’s almost unsavoury, in a way. I know they are lying to themselves a little. Choosing to feel great in the moment is a good strategy but when it’s at the expense of your future self, then you’ve got to take another look at what’s going on with your motivations.
Trying to make yourself comfortable today at the expense of tomorrow’s self is a losing game. And setting up false dichotomies to explain why you want to eat that croissant (I deserve this! I’m only going to live once so I better enjoy this moment!) is fooling yourself.
Oddly, I believe you’re better off eating the croissant. But it’s the way you do it that’s critical. You need to be in control, not the croissant. (So sorry, my dear buttery layers, but I’m in control now!) Be totally honest with yourself about it. “I want that. I’m going to have it, but I know what it means to have it.”This is where having some health knowledge is critical, so you can be totally aware of what specific foods do to your body once they are inside you. “This x (insert sugar, wheat, burger, pasta, cookie, etc.) is turning my insides into a disease-friendly zone, but I know what I’m doing and having this one thing is not going to derail my health goals.”
When you’re in charge of your health, you see your body on a pendulum between health and disease, and you know exactly how much crap your system can tolerate before the balance swings towards the disease side.
You can control your personal pendulum any way you want, but I’ve found that setting aside a special day each week for this is the best way to not fool myself about exactly what I’m eating. Friday is my “anything-goes” day. I look forward to this day each week, but I also look forward to eating healthier the rest of the time because of the amazing way I feel the rest of the time. When I “day separate” like this I feel like a time-Czar because I know I have all my food cravings covered and my pendulum will be in balance. I know for example I’ll be eating apricot pastries (my weakness) on Friday. I can look at them on other days, but I don’t bother eating them because I know that I would feel like crap if I ate them every day. Once in a while – awesome! Whenever I feel like it – gross!
So no, I never buy into someone’s rationale for why they think they can’t do a healthy lifestyle. No matter how much pleasure someone purports to get out of a trans-fat laden french fry, to me, it’s the ultimate illogical stance to argue against health. Having the odd french fry is not the thing here. When someone clings to the false dichotomy of health vs. taste / pleasure, I know that they are emotionally avoiding something.
If you want to stick to logic, the argument that healthy equals tasteless has long since been blown away by an avalanche in the market of outstanding cookbook and restaurant offerings by amazing chefs who have decoded both health and flavour for us. There is nothing standing in the way should anyone want to eat amazingly pleasurable foods that just happen to have a side-benefit of being healthy.
Giving in to your passing YOLO emotions wreaks havoc not only with your body, but with your mind. You berate yourself, you feel guilty, and in many ways you feel like a traitor. And that is the main reason why it bothers me so much when people start telling me that they could never eat healthier. They are basically saying that they could never care enough for themselves to attempt to feel amazing. That they are withholding from themselves the best chance for high energy and a palpable vibrancy. They are denying themselves the chance to love themselves fully.
This is a big deal and it cuts across every corner of our lives. This is why I see health as one of the best levers you can pull whenever you feel stuck in your life. We all deserve health and happiness and we all have control over methods to achieve them. When you value yourself enough to care for your body, you are consistently making and keeping promises to yourself that reinforce that your life matters. Once people realise that their life matters, the gate is opened to unleash powerful new projects, ideas, collaborations, and encounters across every facet of their lives.
So as Rumi says, if all you can do is crawl, start crawling. Try your first green smoothie (or make more of them!) Book just one Pilates class or buy a yoga video. Get yourself a standing desk to use some of the time. It doesn’t have to be anywhere near perfect, a marathon of endurance, or 100% right. Don’t devalue yourself by saying you don’t or can’t or won’t do a healthy lifestyle. Just crawl a little more each day.