When I was in PA school, I found myself getting home after a long day and relying on food to comfort and self-soothe. I was completely overwhelmed with the work load and the drastic change in lifestyle, and I got into the habit of ignoring physical hunger cues and instead was consumed with emotional eating for just a moment of reprieve as coping mechanism.
Now this is a precarious topic to write about as it requires both external and internal wisdom – the rationalization from my education and nutrition Master’s of knowing which foods my body needs, while also acknowledging that food isn’t just physical. It also has very social and emotional components. Before going any further, I wanted to say up top that if you’re struggling with emotional eating, it’s best to find a nutritionist and/or therapist to work with individually.
Over the years, I’ve found that it’s only through the combination of both internal and external knowledge creates true wisdom when it comes to eating habits and patterns. And sometimes internal wisdom is REALLY difficult when you spend a lot of time in the food / nutrition space on the Internet. There was a time, in fact, that I wouldn’t put a full banana in a smoothie! A banana! A magical fruit brimming with prebiotic fiber, potassium, and magnesium. I remember once a few years ago I went to a smoothie bar and saw them make the smoothie and counted 3 frozen bananas in the smoothie and I actually hesitated before drinking it. I literally almost thought about throwing $9 right into the trash. And it was then I realized that I had to actively put in effort to prevent turning what I saw on the internet into fact in my brain.
And it’s not as simple as it sounds. But by reflecting on both my external and internal knowledge when it comes to nutrition, I can start to find balance and wisdom between the two of them.
- In meals and in snacks, I aim for high fiber, well-sourced protein (especially from plants), and healthy fats all coming from whole foods. For a more complete post about what I put on my plate, check out this post. In the snack department, ZENB snacks gets this done. It’s a good source of fiber as well as plant-based, gluten free, and non-GMO. PLUS no artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. And you can now pick your own trial pack based on all your favorite flavors! I always have a sweet potato stick and pumpkin stick in my backpack for snacking emergencies!
- If I eat balanced meals throughout the day, rather than skipping meals, it decreases the likelihood that I find myself either physically (or emotionally) hungry and therefore over-snacking or eating in the evening.
- Staying hydrated throughout the day allows my body to experience satiation when I eat.
- If I exercise, I will likely be more hunger and therefore have different caloric needs than a day that I don’t exercise.
- I enjoy eating socially with others – going out to eat with no restrictions and enjoying the experience of food with people I care about. Even if the foods I choose aren’t exactly the pinnacle of health (hello red wine and scallion pancakes).
- When I’m bored, I feel hungrier despite not physically or metabolically “needing” more food.
- Sometimes I get busy at work and go longer than I’d like to in between meals, and then snack or eat more than usual when I get home.
The wisdom magic
- I enjoy nutrient dense foods that keep me full, focused, and satiated (like ZENB snack bites), but I also enjoy going out to eat with a few cocktails or having a life-changing cinnamon bun for breakfast.
- I try my best to eat balanced meals throughout the day, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. And that means I eat more at night than typical. And that. is. okay.
My daily strategies for wise food choices:
- High fiber, well-sourced protein, omega-3 fats, and antioxidants via fruits and vegetables at every meal and/or snack. Eating at the same times every day, and spacing my meals out evenly. Maintaining hydration throughout the day.
- If I’ve already eaten and feel hungry again, I re-evaluate what I last ate. Was it balanced and containing the things listed in the last bullet point? If not, I’ll add more in. If it was, I’ll sip on some tea, drink water, go for a walk, lay on my yoga mat and ask myself what I’m really hungry for. Is it food or is it something different? If it’s something different, I’ll write or talk about it and see if I can get to where the feeling was coming from. If it’s not, I’ll eat! My body is really smart and knows when / what it needs and it’s my brain’s job to honor that.
- Integrating gratitude at every meal. Viewing each and every ingredient as wholesome and life giving. Slowing things down during meal times, chewing a lot, and reminding myself how incredibly lucky I am to have enough resources to support myself with wholesome nutrition.
- Living out my passions and purpose. This may seem irrelevant, but if I’m happy in my personal and professional life, I’m focused on the life stuff, not the food stuff.
It will never be a perfect system and perfection is never the goal. The goal is to know myself well enough to recognize if a pattern is forming that doesn’t benefit either my external or internal experience of food. What has helped over the years is not being too hard on myself, talking to someone about it (both a therapist and friends), and going with the flow! Because the goal is never the food. The goal is the after effects of the food – feeling vibrant and energized to go out in your community, enact your passions, and live out your purpose.
Thank you ZENB for sponsoring this post and providing snacks that fuel my internal and external wisdom of food each day. You are a joy to keep in my backpack every day and the perfect grab-and-go snack when I need it most.