Eureka! By George, I think we’ve got it. The key to emotional eating, that is.
You see, I have two friends with whom I have been going to regular spin classes a few times each week. Overall we all eat healthy too. Yet one of us is losing weight and keeping it off. She looks fantastic.
The other two of us, well, not as much. Sure, going to the classes is helping (particularly through this dreary winter), but I haven’t lost a thing. Because I have worked out, I become less hesitant to give up on the junk food. “Sure, I can have a few fries. I worked out today.”
Haven’t you ever said that? Typically with me, it is not until I start to feel better or see results on the scale that I start to become more motivated to make better decisions.
Well, apparently that is the wrong approach. We are supposed to work out and refrain from eating junk in order to take off the pounds. Who knew???
Okay, so I am making light of it just a bit, and I am well aware that this is all nothing more than a math equation. What goes out must be greater than what goes in. I get it. Yet I definitely have not been eating as well as I should, and I know exactly why.
The answer is twofold; stress and exhaustion. Lately, particularly with an extra 10 snow days so far this year, both are going hand-in-hand. Life has been stressful and I have been waking up regularly several hours before the sun.
Now, there is something you have to know about my two friends. One of them is planning a huge party for her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah soon so she has a different incentive to laying off the post-workout fries. And according to a study out today, that is making all the difference between the three of us.
It’s not really about the workout, the food, the stress, or the exhaustion. Sure, that plays into it all, but that is not the driving force. The driving force is the incentive, the future.
When people are in a good mood, they are more likely to choose healthier alternatives. And the underlying reason is that they considered the future and the long-term effect of their immediate choice. On the other hand, people in a negative mood have more of a tendency to choose the food that will satisfy them in the short term, which tends to be the less healthy option.
This also explains why my friend Carla always makes the right choice. That lady is always in a good mood. It also explains why people who practice mindfulness tend to have success on the scale. They are consciously putting attention towards the emotions before making the decisions.
Fascinating stuff, and it makes perfect sense, don’t you think?
So my friend who has that added incentive, who was thinking of that party and how she wants to feel that evening and in the future, that became the determining factor in her success. Sure, she has stressors too, but she is choosing (whether subconsciously or knowingly) how she will feel on that evening and in the long-term over immediate satisfaction.
These findings also confirm how living a healthy lifestyle is a cyclical pattern. While those who succeed are the ones who have their eyes firmly focused on the future, once the ball starts rolling and there are some small successes it helps to keep our eyes on the prize. Those of us who yo-yo lose focus on the long-term and divert back to the here-and-now.
The good news is that the research found that those who make a conscious effort to start thinking about the future when it is time to make a food choice can train themselves to make better choices. We can talk about foods that will lift our moods, but it makes much more sense to lift our moods first and let our choices do the rest. So the next time you are choosing between salad and fries, think about whether your future self, and which choice she would prefer that you make.
What do you think?
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