A wise Spanish proverb states, “The belly rules the mind.” Our tummy controls our behavior, cognition and mood. We overeat to feed the growling beast within, refuse to eat to control parents who try to control and intake small portions while exercising to excess to become the perfect, pop-cultural misrepresentation of physical health.
One eats when sad, when happy, when angry or sometimes when feeling nothing at all. A wide array of psychological and biological disorders result when one uses food to cure emotional ills instead of using food for its initial purpose, to nourish one’s body and mind.
One forms a personal relationship with food which changes when one’s mood cycles. When depressed or sad, one might dive into fatty, sugary, high carbohydrate foods which first comfort then deepens one’s depression and sadness as their waistband increases and body bloats.
At a holiday party one might indulge in culinary treats satisfying and lifting their mood which creates happy memories and reinforces one’s desire to celebrate life. Let’s examine the dysfunction of food then celebrate its merits.
Anorexia usually begins as a weight-loss diet. People feel overweight then begin to diet and, as their weight drops, continue to feel fat and remain obsessed with losing weight. Most are women (9 out of 10) who continue to limit their food intake or exercise to excess even when their body is emaciated.
Bulimia almost always happens when someone breaks a diet cycle and gorges on food. Preoccupied with food (craving sweet and high-fat foods) but fearful of gaining weight, one with bulimia vomits, uses laxatives, fasts or exercises to excess to counteract the result of gorging.
People with bulimia often exhibit depression and anxiety following episodes of binging then purging. About half of those with anorexia also display the binge-purge-depression symptoms of bulimia. Unlike anorexia, bulimia is marks by weight gain and loss making the condition easy to hide.
Common arithmetic equates people get fat by consuming more calories than they expend, but is this true? Not always. Once one becomes fat, they require less food to maintain their weight than they did to attain it. Why? Because compared with other tissue, fat has a lower metabolic rate—it takes less food energy to maintain it. Once the weight is on, it stays on unless one decides to radically change their behavior.
Obesity has many causes which all start with food intake. Putting large amounts of sugary, high-calorie foods in one’s sedentary body will increase one’s weight. Eating low-calorie, low-fat food and moving one’s bodies more decreases one’s weight.
If a person wants to lose weight, following these seven tips will decrease the numbers on the scale.
- Begin a weightloss regiment only if you feel motivated and self-disciplined. Weightloss is a life-long decision to change family food traditions, eating habits, becoming more active and maintaining these activities for life. When struggling with motivation, a therapist might help define motivation and aid self-discipline.
- Minimize exposure to tempting food cues. Remove unhealthy food from your house and go to the grocery store when full.
- Take steps to boost your metabolism. Move your body. Walk, swim, run, play basketball or play with your children. Moving your body creates a calorie burning body and is fun.
- Be realistic and moderate. A realistic time line for a 10 percent reduction in body weight is six months. It took time to put the weight on, allow time to take it off.
- Eat healthy foods. Add foods with color to your plate and remove golden food. Replace bread and French fries with whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Don’t starve all day and eat one big meal at night. Eating throughout the day maintains ones energy level and avoids the gorge of starvation at night.
- Beware of the binge. Most people occasionally lapse. After lapsing remind yourself you’ve succeeded before and get back on the healthy eating horse.
Mother’s of girls with eating disorders are often critical of their own weight and hypercritical of the weight and physical appearance of their daughter’s weight. A family of children with bulimia has a higher-than-usual incidence of childhood obesity and negative self-evaluation. Sufferers set perfectionist standards, fret about falling short of expectations and are intensely concerned with how others perceive them.
There is a cultural explanation why anorexia and bulimia occur mostly in women and mostly in weight-conscious cultures. Body ideals vary across culture and time. In India, women students rate their body ideal as close to their actual shape. In Africa—where thinness can signal poverty, AIDS, and hunger, and the prosperous are plump—bigger is better.
It seems clear that the sickness of today’s eating disorders lies not just within the victims but also within our weight-obsessed culture. A culture that says fat is bad motivates millions of women to constantly diet. This same culture encourages eating binges and purges by pressuring women to live in a constant state of semistarvation to achieve an unachievable perfect body image.
Food should not punish but reward. Eating to punish or control creates dysfunction making food the enemy. Food should be a friend not foe. Eating a healthy, nourishing meal by one’s self or with family and friends creates memories that desire to be relived.
When happy, one remembers the food consumed as part of the happiness. This creates a cognitive picture of the food experience reinforcing the eater’s desire to repeat the pleasant memory. Continuing to create positive experiences around the dinner table forms a positive relationship with food which creates a happy human.Eating healthy food in moderation ensures one retains a healthy relationship with food creating a healthy and often happy life. Being happy is a choice.