You know how in life we all have roles to play? Well, food has roles too! And just like in life, those different rolls can take the power away from you, and makes you feel like you are unable to make beneficial choices that bring lasting change in your life.
Food has four main roles in our life: Social, Emotional, Fuel and Nourishment. Each role is a power play where you can either come out on top, feeling empowered and confident, or be defeated, and feel guilty and powerless. Let's take a look at the four roles food plays:
It’s amazing how being with other people when we eat impacts our choices! Especially when it comes to holidays, special occasions and celebrations. Or if you have a job in an environment where food is brought in frequently (ie: hospital, office, school etc). So many of my clients struggle to make choices about food in social situations due to peer pressure or feeling like they have to eat something, or they will make someone feel bad.
Another angle of this is the FOMO. Yup, the fear of missing out. “It’s the holidays!” you say. It’s so and so’s birthday, there’s cake!! It’s the fear of being left out of the party if you choose not to partake in the offering.
It’s easy to see how your power to make the choices that you feel good about goes out the window in social situations. The good news is, you can take it back!! But before we get there, let’s look at the other three roles.
This is probably the most powerful of the three roles and the one that takes control most quickly. Emotional eating can include snacking out of boredom, chowing-down to hide uncomfortable emotions, “rewarding” yourself for a job well-done, and everything in between. This is the role of food that we try to control, but often feel like we’re failing at.
Emotional eating can be defined by eating when you’re more “head hungry” rather than stomach hungry. If you’re head hungry, it usually shows up in the form of eating when you’re bored, craving something or distracted. Some of these times are more habitual than others, which compounds the struggle to overcome it.
Food as fuel is the role that gets confusing and convoluted. Each body is fueled by different types of food. Some people thrive on carbohydrates and others on fat. You can start to feel powerless when you try and eat according to a diet or article saying what and when you should eat and it doesn’t produce the promised results.
Food is used as fuel when eating after noticing you are tummy hungry, and getting that rush of grhelin (the hunger hormone that makes your tummy growl). We often still make unwise choices in deciding what type of fuel we put into our bodies however, and you can also feel powerless to control the hunger when it keeps coming back due to the wrong kind of fuel choice for your body.
Nourishing foods are different from comfort foods. Comfort foods fall under emotional eating. The role of food as nourishment comes from a place where we eat “clean” or “healthy”- or what we determine that to be. For example, you know what foods you “should” be eating that are “healthy and nourishing” but those are the foods you crave and desire less often, making them harder to eat. Think chicken and broccoli.
Part of the powerlessness here comes from not knowing what foods nourish your body and which don’t. Just because broccoli is deemed healthy does not mean it’s for everybody. Some people get extremely gassy and bloated when they eat cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage etc. Understanding what foods make you feel energized, pain free, and happy is part of the process of taking your power back.
There is a 5th role that food plays and that is the role of enjoyment. There will be times where you eat food simply because it is pleasurable and enjoyable. I normally put this under Emotional, but I wanted to point out that just because something is yummy does not mean it needs to be controlling or take power away from you. This is also a whole other topic surrounding awareness and intuitive eating that we will explore next week.
So, let’s get down to it! How do you take the power away from these different food roles and wield it to make empowering choices for yourself?
First, you have to be aware of what role food is taking for you in any given moment. Is it celebratory? Boredom? Stress? What emotions and thoughts are you having around your food? In the Captivatingly Confident Small Group we dive deep into understanding how to identify these thoughts and emotions and use them to better understand food roles.
Once you are aware of what role it’s taking, you can decide if you are truly hungry or just eating from one of the roles. If you are truly hungry, then you can decide what food would satisfy the hunger and balance your HEC.
HEC is your Hunger, Energy and Cravings (I borrowed this concept from Metabolic Effect). You can choose foods that fulfill your hunger (spoiler alert- carbs by themselves will not satiate you even if it is fruit or veggies. Put some protein and fat with those carbs). You want to aim for foods that give you Energy, not drain it. You should not need a nap after you eat. And finally, foods that help reduce your Cravings. Hyperpalatable foods (processed foods that are designed to be super yummy, like chips, fries, ice cream, candy, fast food) generally increase your cravings for them.
Understanding how foods impact your HEC takes some awareness and practice, but the more you do it in the beginning, the less conscious of it you will have to be in the long run. It becomes second nature to choose foods that balance HEC and get you where you want to be long term.
Identifying food roles (Social, Emotional, Fuel, and Nourishment) when you are eating is one of the main keys to unlocking health, weight loss, and having a body and life you cherish!
Make sure you join us in the Captivatingly Confident Facebook group where we will flesh this out some more on Sunday for Captivating Convos LIVE!