updated Aug 20, 2018
Empower: to equip or supply with an ability; enable.
Such a strong word. It makes me think of strength, power, success, bravery... Do you feel it? Too often we are not empowered - we don't have the tools (or confidence) to do what we want to succeed; sometimes it is with career or finances, education, or even with nutrition.
Why is that? Why does food have such control over us? Why is it that we feel very able and positive, and then the plate of nachos is passed in front of us, maybe the candy bowl on our coworker's desk calls our names, or our daily soda habit takes control of us? "I was doing so well, then made some brownies for work and ate the whole pan," "I couldn't possibly give up bread." or "I did great for 3 weeks then fell off the wagon, and have not gotten back on." I hear this all the time.
FOOD is powerful. Most of our social experiences revolve around FOOD. We go on dates, and have FOOD. We have parties, with FOOD. Sunday dinner, birthday parties, work and church pot-lucks...FOOD, FOOD, FOOD - all events that make it very difficult to eat the way we want or need.
Part of the reason is tradition. It is difficult to be invited almost anywhere and not have food or drink involved. Another reason is conditioning - eat ice cream when sad, drink alcohol when stressed: self medication with food and drink. One more reason is entitlement. In our country we get almost anything we want, anytime we want it. To say no makes us feel "deprived." I hear it all the time: "I will not deprive myself, everything in moderation". However new research has shown that currently "moderation" means that 40% of women and 38% of men are obese! (Summary of studies).
How can we change this? What do we need to do?
First, we need to change how we see food. When we do our best to stay away from certain foods and they show up in our day, we have to consciously make the decision whether or not to eat them. Instead of feeling deprived we need to look at the foods as toxic, and then decide that we don't WANT them. If you were walking down the street with your friend and she got punched in the face, would you feel deprived if you missed getting punched in the face as well? Of course not! But to some of us, eating that brownie is much worse in the long term than a punch in the face, yet we do it anyway.
Second, we need to see insulin resistance and diabetes (and obesity) as what they are: carbohydrate intolerance and carbohydrate toxicity. If you were gluten intolerant, you would certainly do everything in your power to avoid gluten in foods because of the resulting gut symptoms and sickness you would feel. A big difference really is that carbohydrate intolerance doesn't give as many fast/short term symptoms, although in the long term sugar and carbs are very toxic to someone who is carbohydrate intolerant (Is Sugar Toxic?). The same can be said for something like a peanut allergy (toxicity) - if you had one, you wouldn't give yourself a shot of epinephrine and then eat peanuts. Insulin dependent diabetics do it all the time - shoot the insulin to account for the sugar and carbs they are going to eat.
Sugar is a drug, and most highly processed foods are either loaded in sugar or in substances that turn into sugar. Our minds respond to sugar like they do other drugs - we crave it, we eat it, and then it makes us feel good. The problem is we feel good for only a few minutes as it hits that pleasure center in the brain. After that we usually feel bad - more tired and sluggish, full and bloated, and guilty for not being able to stop ourselves from eating.
How do we stop this cycle? One good way is to take ourselves away from the situations that make it difficult for us to refuse. Stop buying the foods that cause you to eat uncontrollably. Give yourself a day per week, and if you want something wait until that free day - if you still want it then go buy it. If it is a family member who buys it, ask them to stop. Let them know that when they buy those foods or eat them in front of you, it is like bringing alcohol into the house of an alcoholic and expecting him not to drink. I have had people go as far as locking the tempting food in a cooler in the garage or in a safe place so they will not have to make the attempt to stay away.
Avoid the break room at work if it commonly has those food-like substances and high sugar treats. Pack a lunch and make a menu and plan for meals and snacks so you are never left hungry when there are no good options. Ask your coworker to put the candy IN their desks. Go on a hiking date. Celebrate with a new shirt or game, or treat sadness with a walk or a good tear jerker. Find friends who eat the same way you do or get your friends to understand it - then plan meals or parties together. There are many ways to change your outlook or to say no. And then when you do, you will feel stronger, braver, and be EMPOWERED! And every time you do it, you will feel it more and more, and feel so much better about yourself!