Many of my clients tell me that they strongly associate food with celebration due to experiences they had in childhood. Who hasn’t been to a birthday party where cake and ice cream are the main event? Children often receive candy and treats during major (and minor) holidays, times that are associated with feelings of happiness and togetherness. Is it any surprise, then, that many of us find it difficult to hold back from eating during times of celebration?
In childhood, many of us also learn to use food for emotional reasons. Many parents seek to soothe their child’s pain by offering them something tasty to eat. While this is often done out of love, it can lead to emotional eating later on in life.
We also learn to use food as a reward. How often was a trip out to dinner a reward for an accomplishment? How do you continue to reward yourself with food now? How often have you said, “Well, it was a tough week, I really need some ice cream”?
Being mindful of your hunger signals is a good place to start when trying to overcome the food celebration pattern. Remind yourself that there is nothing wrong with indulging in a treat as long as your body is asking you for nourishment. If you are finding the sights and smells of party food difficult to resist, try to find a spot to socialize away from the treats. Finally, consider hosting the next holiday and start to build traditions that don’t focus on eating.
Overcoming childhood habits of using food to soothe yourself can be much easier if you can find a different way to help ease feelings of sadness or pain. Reaching out to a friend, going for a walk, or indulging in a good book or movie can all help to improve your mood without looking to food.
Find other ways to reward your accomplishments by acknowledging your success with a pedicure, new outfit or fun activity, you can break the connection of food rewards.
By changing these behavior patterns, you can begin to heal your relationship with food. You can stop emotional eating in its tracks and end the battle with your body for weight loss.