How Having a "Bad Day" Can Affect Your Relationship With Food
We tend to assume that the food choices we make are all conscious and intentional food choices. I am choosing to eat what I eat all day... RIGHT?... Well, not quite. Technically, yes, you are choosing to eat the foods that you eat, however there are a lot of factors that go into making those choices (other than simple logic or willpower). Some of the factors that can influence these food choices can include:
- HABIT: we tend to eat the same/similar things day-in-and-day-out without really thinking about it.
- SLEEP: when we are tired we naturally seek out foods that are very energy dense as they will give us a quick boost of energy to combat the tiredness (it is also very difficult to change our old habits when we are tired).
- STRESS: when we are stressed we can either lose our appetite and feel unable to eat or have an increased appetite and feel the need to eat more as a coping mechanism for what we are going through.
- EMOTIONS SUCH AS SADNESS, LONELINESS, ANXIETY: again these can either make us avoid eating and skip meals or make us want to eat more as a way to cope with how we are feeling.
- THE CHOICES THOSE AROUND US MAKE: we can be very influenced by the food choices that those around us are making.
- OUR ENVIRONMENT: we can also be very influenced by the foods that we have around us in our environment (if a food is easily accessible, we are much more likely to eat it).
- ALCOHOL: once we have had a drink or two our inhibitions are lowered and we can be more inclined to turn to very energy dense foods (once the hangover kicks in the next morning, we may also seek out very energy-dense foods again for that quick pick me up).
Therefore, having a "bad day", can have an unhelpful impact on your food choices. Here are some of the ways that this can play out:
- You are not feeling great and so you skip meals and neglect to take care of yourself. You may then start to feel weak and tired and just want to rest and not do anything - which in turn makes you feel even worse (as isolation can intensify low mood).
- You are not feeling great and so you don't eat very much and skip meals. However not eating much during the day, leaves you feeling VERY hungry later and so you find yourself over-eating or bingeing in the late afternoon/evening on any energy-rich foods you can get your hands on. As you don't feel very in control of your food choices in this moment, you then feel guilty for what you have eaten and this worsens your low mood.
- You are not feeling great and so you turn to food to feel better. You may constantly snack throughout the day and seek out comforting food, snacks and meals. Food is your primary coping mechanism and you don't know how to make yourself feel better other than through food so you find that you are eating to coping with your emotions but eating only temporarily makes you feel better, so you keep going back for more.
- You are not feeling so great and so you decide to have a glass of wine... very quickly a glass of wine becomes a bottle and you then feel like eating something too. Before you know it you have drunk more than you wanted to and eaten far too much but you still don't feel great about what is going on in your life.
Do any of these situations sound familiar to you? If they do, you are not be alone. For many people, their emotional states have a significant impact on how they feel about and behave around food. Some helpful steps you can take to ensure that your stressful/low-mood days don't affect your food choices can include:
- Explore coping mechanisms other than food and alcohol that you can use when you are feeling down or stressed such as talking to someone, having a therapy session, walking, journalling or movement.
- Prioritise eating regular meals even if you aren't feeling very hungry and taking care of yourself in every way that you can. It is especially important for us to seek to take care of ourselves on days that we aren't feeling good.
- Give yourself permission to relax and take things easy on those difficult days, it is on the days that you feel. you can't rest/relax that you often most need to give yourself permission to switch-off for a bit and to rest/relax.
- Practise self-compassion and being kind to yourself (on those bad days it can be all to easy to be very harsh on ourselves).
- Allow yourself to enjoy some comforting food as a meal without guilt (we all ultimately use food for comfort sometimes but how we use it for comfort is key, allowing yourself to enjoy a more indulgent meal without feeling guilty may just be what you need on that day).
If you would like to rebuild your relationship with food, please get in touch with us at email@example.com to book in a free consultation.