Last updated on April 12th, 2017
Seven months ago, food played a different role in my life than it does now.
I used to see food as a way to relieve stress, to reward myself for a job done, or to compensate myself for a bad day. Chips were an appropriate side dish for any trouble. Cookies were an almost universal cure. The ultimate weapon against depression was a chocolate milkshake.
In a damp, drizzly November of the soul, Melville’s Ishmael took to sea. I took to the supermarket, or McDonald’s.
My destination was less romantic, but more practical. I could get there in minutes, keep my job, and avoid any unpleasantness with whales.
Today my attitude towards food has changed. First, I don’t eat carby junk-food. Second, I don’t depend on food as a mood enhancer.
Frankly, I’m as surprised by this psychological change as by any physical change resulting from my low-carb way of eating. It snuck up on me while I was tightening my belt another notch.
It’s a common-place in diet literature that using food as an emotional crutch contributes to our weight problems. I’m not sure that’s how it worked for me. After all, in losing weight, I did not try to change how I regard or use food. It just happened. I lost weight, and then I stopped relying on food as a psychological pick-me-up. Which way is the cause-effect arrow pointing? Or is there even a causal relationship between my attitude toward food and my weight?
Maybe it isn’t my attitude toward food in general that matters, but specifically my attitude toward starchy and sugary junk-food. When feeling blue or out of sorts, I never shopped for cauliflower or a t-bone steak. It was ready-to-eat food that I craved — products, not produce.
Now that I’m not eating that kind of food anymore, it can’t be an emotional crutch.
I enjoy fresh, whole foods, but I don’t seek them out to lift my spirits. Coffee may still play that role to a degree. But for the most part, I’m looking for food to fill me up, not fix me up. And it could be that my overall mood has improved, becoming more positive and stable; so perhaps my need for a crutch is diminished.
In short, I think I have a healthier relationship with food, but I take no credit for it. I made no effort to change my attitude.
As far as I can tell, my new attitude is a by-product of my success, not the cause.
It has been a strange journey in that sense. I have not had a binge since going low-carb. Certainly had emotional situations that would have brought on one though. I have just attributed it to the fact that I am no longer starving at the cellular level and so food is not the first thing I think of when I need something. Now I think “what do I need”. So much healthier in so many ways!
Mark Siegrist says
Really great post, as usual. You’re an excellent writer, with relevant thoughts – as a blogger myself on this very same journey/topic I appreciate very much what you’re doing.
It just hit this past week that I no longer use food as an emotional tool. I was wondering: did I knowingly crave the types of food (typically fast food, hoagies/sub sandwiches, etc.) because the taste made me feel better? Or, as I think, was my body addicted to the sugar rush. I used to be *extremely* moody – I didn’t realize just how moody I was until I kicked the carb habit/addiction.
Like you, I no longer think about ‘rewarding’ myself with junk food. And, like you, I also can’t say that I reward myself with good food (i.e., a big salad or scrumptious t-bone). I just don’t think that way anymore. It’s been 10 months since I kicked carbs (or started to). It took about 5 months before I no longer craved them though. But I made it, and continue to. I just take it one day at a time, like an alcoholic in regards to kicking whiskey, cus I know if I did eat carbs I’d deteriorate, and my life (not to mention health) is so much better now that it’s not even a thought in my mind.
I truly feel that, once I read Taubes’ WWGF and read the meta-research that confirmed what carbs can do, and also the dramatic weight loss and drastically improved health markers as a result of kicking carbs, that I have found ‘the cure’. I know that sounds crazy, but I feel like food no longer is this mysterious drug that I have to avoid. I can walk into a McDonalds now (if I wanted to…I don’t) and smell all that crap and sit at a table full of it and not want it. I kicked carb ass. : )
I recall very well the times in my life when carbs played a huge role in my fits of pity or “woe is me” phases. The love of my life, whom I lost too soon, was also a person who created extreme highs and lows in my life during my 30’s. Of course, if I hadn’t been one of those dumb women who fall in love with a guy, then spend the next 10 years trying to change him, life would have been far less of a roller coaster ride. LOL
After one of our arguments, I would head for the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts, purchase a dozen, assorted, with chocolate glaze or frosting, then drive to the nearest Baskin Robbins and purchase a quart of Rocky Road or Maple Walnut or Coffee Ice cream, then find a quiet, peaceful place and gorge myself.
Of course I would feel like total s*** then next day and vow to NEVER do that again. Till the next argument……………………..
Now, when bad days arrive or just stress filled situations, repeating that behavior would never occur to me.