Weight loss: A personal journey – Part 2: Learning to cope with the mood-food-mood connection

Recognize moods as moods and foods as food.

Mayo Clinic says that “sometimes the strongest cravings for food happen when you're at your weakest point emotionally. You may turn to food for comfort — consciously or unconsciously — when you're facing a difficult problem, stress or just looking to keep yourself occupied.”

One challenge I go through on my weight loss journey is learning not to turn to food for comfort. We all have good days and bad days. When those bad days hit me full force, I found it overwhelming not to listen to my old self-talk and turn to fatty, salty and sweet foods for a quick fix to calm me down. For me, that would be followed with extreme guilt over making poor choices and sabotaging my efforts to being a healthier person. I was on quite a roller-coaster ride. Unfortunately, without that jolt of junk food, I was also a little cranky, and most of the people around me seemed to notice.

First of all, I had to learn to accept that sometimes you just have stressful, bad days. Something that has worked for me has been to learn better coping skills, which I teach others as a part of my job with Michigan State University Extension. RELAX: Alternatives to Anger is a four-part series that helps people deal with recognizing their own anger cues, calming down, problem solving skills and letting go of the past. From teaching this program I have implemented changes that have been beneficial in my own life.

  • Take deep breaths. I take the time to take some deep breaths when I am stressed, angry or frustrated. It gives me some time to think about what sort of choices I have to respond to, or perhaps not respond to a situation.
  • Walk it out and talk it out. Research shows that even a brisk 10 minute walk can lower your stress levels up to 75 percent. When you feel better, you can think more clearly about your negative feelings and work on ways to solve problems. Next comes actually talking to people, with respectful words, to express what I am thinking, feeling or what I need.

In addition, I am learning that I don’t always have to be the agreeable one, and I can still be likeable and loveable. I learned when I was more open and honest with the people around me, and I asked for support, and patience, I received it!

With a little gentle humor sprinkled in, I seemed to make it through the tough parts without damaging close relationships. In fact, I am feeling a little more powerful now that I am actually working on expressing my thoughts and feelings instead of eating them. A bonus is the people around me are getting to know me better, and I am getting to know them too!

Check back in a couple of weeks for Weight loss: A personal journey – Part 3: Getting a good start.

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