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What is Causing Your Love-Hate Relationship with Food?

Angela Slade, MA, RCC
Registered Clinical Counselor
Woodgrove Pines Clinic

Angela Slade, Registered Clinical Counsellor provides an opportunity for individuals to explore behaviors, relationships, feelings or thoughts which may be limiting your health and wellness success.

She specializes in helping people overcome limitations regarding lifestyle habits, self-esteem, body image, disordered eating, depression/anxiety, or other barriers you may have that is hindering you from being your healthiest version of you!

If it’s any consolation, almost every woman in North America, Europe and India (according to current statistics) struggles with their relationship with food. In fact, these days, only 9% of women in North America never diet.

Any form of food restriction, whether just not eating much during the day or actively engaging in a calorie restricted diet, is likely to lead to binging at some point. This binge eating then triggers feelings of self-loathing, being out of control, and more restriction, which will end in a binge even sooner the next time.  This is why the average woman can only stick to a diet for 2 weeks. And it’s also why most people are not successful in keeping any weight they lose on a diet off for any significant length of time.

I’ll bet you’ve personally experienced each of these things and thought there was something wrong with you: ‘You didn’t have enough willpower’; ‘you just don’t care enough about yourself etc. etc.’ These stories of personal failings are actually the myths that our diet-laden society tells us to make you feel bad and wrong for not being able to achieve something that statistics show most people can’t achieve. That being said, despite failed attempts at reaching weight loss and self-esteem goals through restriction, we don’t seem to trust ourselves enough to accept that the answers do not lie in dieting. This is typically because no one in our social sphere, let alone the multi-billion dollar diet industry, is actively promoting these statistics and being honest that diets are not the solution to our weight loss or health and wellness woes. Thus we are left to assume that they work for everyone else and that means there must be something wrong with me. Our eagerness to feel good about our bodies and feel confident in ourselves, coupled with the fact that no one else seems to have a better idea of how to go about it, lead to one staying on the diet roller coaster.

What we need to understand, as women and men who struggle with weight loss, self-esteem, and/or body image issues is that while it is obvious that what we eat does have an impact on our weight, it’s why we’re eating, what we’re eating, and how much we’re eating that we need to identify and resolve before anyone can be successful with weight loss and feel comfortable around any food, anytime, anywhere.

Through my past personal and professional experiences with binge eating, I have come to understand there are reasons why people eat more than they are hungry for or eat things that they know aren’t in their best interest for their health and wellness goals. Here is the main one:

You want to feel good fast!

People overeat because they are feeling down, lonely, stressed, agitated, and they want to feel good fast.

It’s fairly rare that someone binges on “healthy foods”. This is because, whether we know it or not consciously, our instinctive brain craves certain foods like unhealthy fats, dairy products, processed carbohydrates, and refined sugars (basically everything that is NOT ALLOWED on a typical diet) to feel better, fast. Not just because they taste good.

Here’s why:

Those foods: unhealthy fats, dairy, processed carbohydrates, and refined sugars trigger an immediate release of chemicals in the body and blood stream which has n immediate and positive effect the brains dopamine levels.

Dopamine is the ‘feel good’ hormone in our brains. When dopamine levels are balanced we naturally feel happy and relatively anxiety free. When we are thinking thoughts that are stressful, or experiencing frustration or sadness in our lives, our dopamine levels naturally decrease which makes us feel down. It’s meant to be a call to action from our bodies that something is up and we need to stop and find a solution to our problem.

Instead of reading those cues as “What’s going on here?” Most of us have been trained to feel quite helpless and doubtful of our ability to find effective and lasting solutions to our problems and so we reach for the quick fix. And one can instinctively turn to those foods that quickly raise dopamine levels, despite the many side effects including excess weight on our bodies, feeling bloated and tired, and strong emotional swings in the other direction once the chemical effect of those foods wears off unless one keeps on eating more…and more…and more….

Now, in your eagerness to get a grip on food, it isn’t necessary that you rush out to ask your doctor for dopamine. In my professional and personal experience, you can feel peaceful and happy and confident in yourself and your body and keep those dopamine levels naturally raised simply by exploring what’s triggering you to feel down in the first place and by taking steps to solve those issues.

For now, if you want to explore this a bit for yourself, maybe just notice when you want to eat when you are not hungry, or if you are reaching /craving for something that you know isn’t in alignment with your health goals.  Start to build your self-awareness of your own inner connection between thoughts/life stressors, dopamine levels and eating. If you would like to explore this deeper, I offer counseling that will help you break free from the grip of food and weight issues that may be limiting your overall health and wellness goals!

In Health,

Angela Slade, MA, RCC
Registered Clinical Counselor
Woodgrove Pines Clinic
6135 Metral Drive, Nanaimo, BC
T: (250) 390-2003
E: angela-slade@shaw.ca

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