Using Food As A Drug

Ice Cream Flavors

Turn on any morning news program or afternoon talk show and you’ll get mixed messages regarding food. The morning news program runs two stories—one is about someone’s dramatic weight loss story and the other is about how to make decadent desserts or cheesy, ooey, gooey main dishes. We buy magazines that advertise the newest, quick-trick diet, but also stories about how to be happy with who you are. There’s a quote floating around Pinterest and Facebook that says, “Food is the most abused anxiety drug. Exercise is the most underutilized antidepressant.”

Many people in our culture turn to alcohol or drugs when they face stressful situations. However, many more people turn to food to cope with whatever ails them. Sometimes people turn to food when they are depressed, stressed, anxious, bored or happy. Yep, happy. In some parts of the country, food is the main focus of any celebration. However, this type of coping skill has led to the highest rates of morbid obesity in our country ever. More than 35% of Americans are classified as obese and obesity-related diseases account for $147 billion in medical costs in 2008. Those who are obese spend nearly $1,500 more on medical expenses per year than those of average weight (Centers for Disease Control, 2013).

Food does make us feel better. There are brain chemicals released when we eat, helping us feel happy and satisfied. However, that feeling is often only temporary and if you make poor food choices, you may actually end up feeling more sluggish and frustrated about your choices.

Here are some things to consider the next time you find yourself in the kitchen:

  1. Ask yourself, “Are you really hungry?” If you are truly hungry, go ahead and eat something. However, if your answer is, “No.” Think about what you’re thinking about in that moment. Are you worried about something at work? Are you upset about a conversation you had with your children or spouse before leaving for work? Are you bored? If so, figure out a way to deal with the real issue.
  2. When you do eat, make a healthy choice. When you go to the fridge, instead of reach for the sugary cola and the bowl of leftover cheesy pasta, look for something with protein and some fruits or vegetables. Protein helps you feel fuller longer and fruits and vegetables have fewer unhealthy calories and fat for your body to process.
  3. Plan ahead. If you know there is a certain time of day in which you are more tempted to eat, pack a healthy snack. Load a plastic container full of prepped healthy choices (celery sticks, carrots, broccoli , cauliflower—even a small amount of veggie dip) so you have something quick and wise to grab in a moment of weakness.
  4. Run away. Literally. When you want to eat to cope with your issues, exercise. Even if you don’t want to run, take a walk, join a Zumba class, take a bike ride—get active. Exercise releases serotonin which is a chemical in your brain connected to “feel-good” emotions. It’s also a great stress reliever and good for your physical health.
  5. Consider contacting a counselor or therapist to talk about what is bugging you. Having someone to talk to about what is on your mind is rather freeing and the therapists are trained to know how help you figure out different options to help solve your problems. Be sure to look for someone who is licensed and credentialed in your state.

If you’re experiencing challenges with your own anxiety, depression or personal habits you can contact Lotus Group to setup an appointment with a member of our counseling team.