Monday, February 15, 2010

We need energy

Watching the winter Olympics in Vancouver reminds me of how essential it is that we feed ourselves well. We all need this – not just top athletes! Of course, food gives us energy and we need the right amount of the right nutrients for our body to function properly. We require nourishment throughout the day.

Often, however, we fool ourselves into thinking we need to eat when our body actually does not need more food. For example, when we are tired (i.e. when we need to sleep), we might think we need to eat food to energize our body. Although this may be the case at times, such as in a life or death situation, usually, for compulsive eaters, the food is being used to save us from experiencing our feelings. When we feel tired, angry, frustrated, anxious, bored, lonely, unappreciated or afraid, for example, food becomes a quick and easy way to seemingly perk us up and fill the void we are experiencing. It is easier to tear open a bag of chips or pull a chocolate bar out of the candy machine than it is to sit with those painful feelings.

Feelings of hunger are tricky and often have nothing to do with the fueling of our body. Our body doesn’t need excessive amounts of potato chips, chocolate or macaroni and cheese to function optimally, so when we tell ourselves we need them for energy, we are not telling ourselves the truth. Fats, sugar or caffeine may give us a temporary rush of energy – but this is short-lived, and masking discomfort will leave us feeling even more “tired” than before because we are not giving our body the nutrients it really needs to “energize.” So, when we choose sugars, fats or excess carbohydrates we may not be truly, physically hungry -- we are most likely eating for emotional reasons.

Cravings we experience deliver valuable messages to us about what we really feel and what we really need. Our job is to pay attention to these messages and to give ourselves what we really need at the time. Proper rest, a healthful diet, and a peaceful lifestyle give us energy – not junk foods. They may be what our Chew clamors for from time to time, but they are never what we really need.

Nurture yourself this week! warmly, Dr. Denise

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