Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

salad-374173_1920“I feel like I’m doing everything right when it comes to losing weight, but I am not losing.” Does this sound familiar? It is actually a common complaint among dieters. Even though a basic weight loss principal is eat less, exercise more, weight loss can be complicated. Sometimes people need to explore their relationship with food.

Julie was one of those people. Six months ago, she joined Weight Watchers and committed to an exercise schedule but was not dropping the weight like the rest of her fellow group members. Perplexed, she decided coaching might help her move forward.

Julie’s daily focus on dieting and exercise consumed her thinking. She was eating in response to stress and relationship problems. She admitted that it was easier to think about food choices than to tackle problems with intimate others. Furthermore, her relationship with food was negative. Food was viewed as the enemy. It was not to be enjoyed, was a source of deprivation and something she battled with every day. So the first step of change was to change her relationship with food.

Julie read my book, Press Pause Before You Eat, because the premise of the book is that eating should be an enjoyable, nourishing activity. God did not intend for us to fight with food, rather to enjoy it and allow it to nourish our bodies and sustain us. Julie had lost all joy in eating. Instead, eating was an unhealthy obsession. This needed to change or she would struggle with food in the long run.

In order to shift Julie’s thinking about food, she was taught to recognize hunger cues versus emotional cues for eating. Hunger is a physical experience with bodily sensations. Emotional hunger is born out of craving and tied to emotions.

Once Julie tuned into her body and learned the differences between hunger and emotional eating, eating habits were tackled next. She was coached to eat at the kitchen table versus her car or in front of the television. Mealtime was to be slow, and intentional rather than rushed. Every bite was to be savored and enjoyed. I encouraged her to set the table in an appealing manner, using nice dinnerware in order to set a positive mood. The idea was to create a relaxed and pleasant eating experience.

Next, we explored the meaning of food in her life. Food was used to reduce stress and not seen as a nourishing activity. Thus, brief stress management techniques were taught.

Finally, Julie was coached to recognize the many eating cues in her environment, e.g., size of her plate, tempo of music played while she ate, visible snacks on her counter, etc. Small changes helped her slow down and eat with intention.

But the most significant change for Julie was learning to connect her eating urges to relationship stress. Using a daily diary to write down when she ate, she realized that eating was not cued by hunger, but by emotional upset. She was putting food in her mouth in order to calm down. Julie’s new goal was to eat with people, not because of them!

Much of the work of becoming an intentional eater was to learn to resolve relationship issues as they developed and accept what could not be changed. This required confronting problems and attempting to problem-solve rather than stuffing negative feelings and eating as a result. In the process, Julie identified her negative and defeating self-talk. Her lack of confidence was causing her to avoid issues and eat her feelings. As she practiced assertiveness skills, she gained more confidence to confront problems directly. When she encountered a problem that could not be changed, she prayed for the strength to accept what could not be changed and to respond in ways that honored God.

As a result of all her work, less time was spent obsessing on food. She learned to tackle her relationship problems and manage stress directly. Weight Watchers helped her make healthy food choices when hungry. And her relationship to food was now positive.

 

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