Eat your broccoli and have your cake too

Stop feeling guilty about snacking and binging. Take back your power and learn how to thrive. #survivingiso

So many of us are currently stuck at home and whether we are working from home or searching for a good new series to watch on Netflix (I'm loving Heartland, it has 13 seasons!) many of us are being compelled to snack throughout the day. This could be because we are bored or simply looking for some comfort during these wild times, any reason you have is completely understandable. I'll be first to admit that I have been snacking and comfort eating too. I mean come on, I have a freezer full of wedding cake that must be eaten...

So with many of us stuck inside feeling; miserable, anxious and stressed, food and 'comfort' food can be a simple answer to a rather complicated issue. I realise how important comfort foods can be so I'm not here to tell you to stop eating that cake, chips, chocolate or cookies, but I am encouraging you to eat your broccoli first.

'But Britany, I don't even like broccoli!' Broccoli in this context is the 'face' of healthy, nutrient dense foods. So don't worry if you don't like broccoli you won't actually be eating mountains of it. What I am trying to explain with this motto is a concept called crowding out.

Crowding out

Now if you are a long time listener of The Zesty Life podcast, you would have already heard me talk about this. Basically crowding out is a method I like to use myself and with my clients when creating a healthy balanced diet. I know first hand that restriction does not work, so why bother with it? Instead reach for healthy, whole, nutrient-dense foods first. Fill up on these good boys (or at least get the nutrients your body requires) and then you can feel guilt- free about the 3 slices of wedding cake you had after dinner. No, that was just me...?

How is eating like this guilt free? I hate that we have been taught to feel guilty about what we decide goes in our mouth next. I believe every single one of us only wants the best for ourselves and loved ones. We are constantly having to make decisions, some of these decisions don't turn out to be great ones, but as we make them we really are only doing what we believe will be best for the situation. So give yourself a break. If soul food (the opposite to whole food) is what you need right now to ease the boredom, stress, or anxiety of your day, allow yourself to indulge. Just make sure you have eaten at least one well balanced whole food meal before-hand so you can curb the overeating and ensure your body has all the nutrients that it needs to function.

Soul Food?

I believe all food has purpose. Whole foods are the foods that we would associate with being healthy. For these we think; broccoli, spinach, eggs, lean meats, blueberries, sweet potato, asparagus and avocado. These are the foods we are told to fill up on and I would advise the same thing. These foods are the ones crucial to providing your body the building blocks it needs not only to survive but to thrive. On the other hand we have soul foods. For these we think; chocolate, chips, cakes, popcorn and the unhealthy, processed snacks you had as a kid. Contrary to popular belief, I believe these foods are also incredibly important, hence soul food instead of junk food.

Soul foods may not provide much in the way of sustaining the body and it is true, over consumption of these foods can lead to you becoming sick and overweight. However, there is a strong link to these soul foods and our emotional response that I think is important to explore, especially if you are having trouble slowing down on and binging on these foods (or any binging for that matter).

Emotional binging

The first step is understanding. If you weren't aware about the link between emotions and binging, you're already one step closer to controlling those urges. If you think that your binging or snacking may have more to do with your emotions than anything else ask yourself a few questions before sticking your head in the fridge or tearing into another packet of Tim Tams.

1. How am I feeling right now?

2. What do I really want?

3. How can I actually get that?

Example: 1. I'm feeling really anxious and stressed about my job, how I am going to pay my bills and look after my families health. 2. What I really want right now is a break from the news and stress of everything that is going on. A little escape. 3. Turn off the news, read a book, watch a movie, go for a walk outside, meditate, complete a workout, phone a friend, listen to my favourite album...

Many of the soul foods we turn to have been engineered to light up feel good receptors in our brains, that's why we turn to them in times of stress and pain. It's a simple way to get a feel good hit that we keep coming back to. If you can come up with some other ways to also get that feel good response you will be able to divorce yourself from the abusive relationship that is emotional binge eating. It all starts with your own happy list. A list of things you actually like to do that light you up. Next time you are feeling down you can turn to this list and pick something from it to add into your day. It could be as lavish as going for a massage or as simple as turning off your phone and sitting in the sun.

Once you get into the habit of checking in with yourself and your emotions you wont need to ask how you are feeling each time you reach for a square of chocolate. It takes practice but like anything we work on, it is so worth it in the end.

Quick tips

  • Make the first meal of the day the healthiest - think a big breaky made up of whole foods like vegetables, healthy fats and lean proteins. What ever happens after this meal you know that you got in some good healthy nutrients first.

  • Turn to protein - being the most satisfying macro nutrient it will have you feeling fuller for longer and can reduce the amount of soul food you can consume. Plus it is great for maintaining all your lean muscle.

  • Find a healthier alternative - your soul foods don't all have to be "bad". Dark chocolate, berries, comforting soups, hot tea or a moderate amount of red wine all have health benefits. You can even find a healthy recipe for something you enjoy and whip that up.

  • Ask yourself; how am I feeling, what do I really want and how can I get that?

  • Write up your own happy list and sprinkle activities through your day

  • Don't beat yourself up! - I know you are doing the best you can with what you have at the moment, give yourself a break

  • Ask for help - whether its from myself, a family member or a trusted friend, you don't have to do this alone.

I really hope this article helps you take back some control over your eating. If you have any questions or would like any extra help in this area please contact me, I am here to help! Alternatively you could click here and find out for yourself how 1-on-1 health coaching could benefit you. There's a free initial session waiting for you.

Be happy, healthy and kind,

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© 2023 Britany Dovenor Health.