Are you working from home? Have you eaten your week’s supply of snacks in one day?
I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I’m faced with challenges and uncertainty, I feel anxious and stressed.
When we feel anxious and stressed, for some of us (myself included), our response is to reach for ‘comfort’ food. We don’t reach for carrots and celery sticks – we tend to crave the stuff we know we shouldn’t – sugar, fat etc. Think Nutella by the spoonful, donuts, chips, etc. We know we should be eating healthy food that supports our immune system – yet we do the opposite; we buy the Tim Tams.
The risk is, when we give into temptation, we may feel guilt and even self-loathing for not having had the ability to overcome the temptation. And to alleviate these feelings of guilt and self-loathing, we eat even more! We get trapped in the cycle of feeling bad, so we eat to alleviate feeling bad, but then we feel bad for eating more, so then we eat more…….
What can we do about it?
Researchers conducted a study where they asked participants to eat junk food (donuts and lollies). One group was taught about self-compassion, and the other group was not.
Read more about it here.
The participants who were taught self-compassion ate less than half the amount of donuts and lollies as the participants who were not. This result is the same for gambling and procrastination.
The three components to self-compassion (according to the researchers):
According to Canadian Neuro-scientist, Dr Irena O’Brien,
’What this says is that when we are feeling guilty and ashamed, the more stressed out we are; it puts us in that version of ourselves that is susceptible, that wants immediate gratification to alleviate the anxiety. It’s actually the biological opposite of what needs to happen; to remember your long-term goals and be that other version of yourself, the willpower version. And as soon as you pile on that guilt and shame, it puts us into that state of anxiety and your brain is going to switch over into that other mode where everything is more tempting, including procrastinating or eating or drinking, in order to alleviate the guilt and anxiety’.
Cut yourself some slack. Talk to yourself in a way you would a friend who you are encouraging. (Research has shown that talking to yourself in this way is more effective at quitting smoking than nicotine replacement therapy).
Dr. Irena O’Brien:
‘The first thing is to notice all the feelings: guilt, shame, anger; because a big reason why people give into those feelings is because they want to distract themselves from them with something that’s going to get them into further trouble. One of the reasons that we lose our willpower is because we feel that there’s something broken within us; there is something about who we are that is wrong and weak. And that mindset makes it difficult to tap into that motivation or strength’.
We are not robots; we are humans who experience human emotions. We fail, we make mistakes. It’s how we respond to these mistakes that is important. Sometimes we procrastinate, sometimes we fall off the wagon.
We are all in this together.