I’ve always said that eating well is key to health and a healthy weight. But getting to the ‘eating well’ part isn’t just about the food. If it were, many of us would not be struggling with weight issues. This is even more true once you reach the 60s.
Your emotions factor into eating in very deep ways. If you go way back, you may remember a parent or well-meaning adult put a lollipop in your mouth after you fell off your tricycle and skinned your knee – when you really needed a hug and reassurance that you’d be okay.
You may also remember getting a treat for good grades, or a grandmother saying “Eat, eat, eat – I baked all day for you!”
These experiences planted the seeds that link emotions to food. Even though you’re past the age when somebody gave you treats for getting hurt, you’re still experiencing the effects of emotional eating.
A guy was terribly hurt in grade school when he learned he was the only one in his class who was not invited to a birthday party. To comfort him, his Mom took him out for an ice cream sundae. The association remains strong today.
A client of mine has been caregiving for family members. She gained a lot of weight because she ‘rewarded’ herself with huge amounts of junk food when she really needed a break and a show of appreciation.
The good news is, you can unlearn the emotional association to food, even after you’ve blown those 60 candles.
The first step is to get in touch with your physical body. Recognize the true physical feeling of hunger. This is very important. You need to know what hunger feels like, so you can eat when you are hungry and pass up food when you are not.
The second step is critical – you need to know how you feel about things. If you have been an emotional eater for a long time, you have been anesthetizing yourself with food. When you do that, it is very easy to get out of touch with your authentic emotions. Basically, you zone out.
So, the next time something upsets you, check in with yourself. Do you feel angry? Hurt? Disappointed? Lonely? When you connect with that feeling, you will have a chance to resolve it in a way that doesn’t involve food.
You can blame it on food, or blame it on the scale, or blame it on the things or the people who upset you. But to have a healthy relationship with food, you need to take care of your emotions and remind yourself that you are a lovable human being.
And you are. With that acknowledgement, learning to eat for the right reasons becomes much easier.
My client who had been eating junk food as a reward for caregiving is doing something different now. She spoke with her family and told them she’s happy to help them, but she is putting some boundaries around the time that she gives them.
She now has time to socialize with friends at least once weekly. And, per my advice, she gives herself a big hug every day and appreciates herself for getting more balance in her life. In doing this, the junk food that once soothed her is no longer needed.
We all have the potential to be a healthy weight in our 60s and beyond. Tapping into the emotional aspects of eating is a sure way to put you on a path to healthy eating that you will benefit from for the rest of your life.
Have you found yourself eating to ease your stress, anger, boredom or loneliness? What do you think is a workable solution for you? What do you think are the keys to losing weight after 60? Please join the conversation and share your story.