I was recently at a fun summer barbecue. Most people hovered and chatted around the seemingly endless platter of chips and creamy dip or cheesy cracker appetizers.
It all looked and tasted so good, and eating something I really enjoyed, like the unbelievably addictive mayo smothered macaroni salad, was comforting and sent my pleasure centers into overdrive.
I knew I had to slow down or I was headed for regret. Luckily, my cousin brought his motorcycle to the party, and I desperately wanted to go for a ride. I’ve always liked fast things, but with a full-time job and a family, I rarely get to indulge this kind of excitement.
I asked if he could give me a ride, and we took a break from the barbecue. As I put my helmet on, I got a little scared, but felt my whole frame tingle with nervous excitement. He was a safe driver, and as we rode through the tall evergreen trees, I felt an absolute rush and couldn’t stop smiling.
Food or hunger were the last things on my mind during the motorcycle ride. When we returned, I felt so satisfied and fulfilled with my experience, that I didn’t even feel the pressure of the snack table anymore. My heart raced, my perspective broadened and I felt light and exhilarated.
I realized that I had tapped into a new method of self-care: engaging something exciting that meets my emotional needs and completely removes my tendency to fall back on food.
For the rest of the day, I drew my pleasure from talking to people, still high from my little thrill ride. In fact, when dessert came, I was having such a great conversation with someone that I didn’t even care.
We associate a lot of enjoyment and comfort with food. It’s the center of so many social outings, it’s a reward, and it’s an easy way to comfort ourselves or deal with stress.
Food can be an emotional tool.
We often elevate food to be so much more than what it’s actually supposed to be: nourishment for our bodies.
See my article, Why We Crave Chocolate More Than Sex, to read more about the way food such as chocolate stimulates our bodies to seemingly meet our emotional needs.
I challenge you to find new ways to give yourself the emotional benefits that food can give.
It’s important to enjoy life and deal with what needs to be dealt with in a healthy way. First listen to your body and understand what it wants.
Below are ten ways to practice self-care without relying on food. I recommend trying one or two of these during the upcoming week—especially when you want to feel comforted, need to alleviate stress or boredom or want some excitement, as these are the most common reasons for turning to food.
Look at this like an experiment; try a few things and see what works. When something does work, do it again and again until it becomes habit.
Ten ways to practice self-care without relying on food:
- Take a warm shower with a aromatic shower gel.
- Give someone a hug for six seconds. (This is the minimum time needed to get the emotional benefits of a hug, which we all need.)
- Read a few pages of a stimulating, interesting book like this one.
- Drink your coffee without sugar or dairy from a beautiful mug like this one.
- Write how you feel in a gorgeous journal.
- Write a letter to a loved one (a hand-written one or a quick email).
- Meditate for five minutes wherever you are.
- Take a 15-minute walk.
- Do something exciting, like bike riding, motorcycle riding, horseback riding, or race car driving (safely, of course).
- Call your best girlfriend.
When you find other ways to give yourself what your body and mind really want and need, you’ll find you slim down much more easily and feel authentically happier from within.
Author: Nagina Abdullah
Editor: Evan Yerburgh
Photo: Author’s Own