"If there is no struggle, there is no progress." -Frederick Douglass
by: Stephanie Horton
Chocolate is one of my favorite things. And when chocolate is one of your favorite things, it's not easy to resist. And despite what popular media may have told you, chocolate is not "healthy" due to it's antioxidant content. (Please, I WISH!) It does contain some antioxidants but has only been scientifically proven to have cardiovascular benefits in the elderly in very small doses. So unless you're 80 years old and nibbling on a 1" piece of dark chocolate every other day, chocolate is still an indulgence.
So why in the world am I writing about it? Because yesterday, I had a "chocolate breakdown" and I was not "guiltless" about it. I was pretty stressed out over an exam in Metabolic Regulation...this stress resulted in stress-chocolate-eating which resulted in the consumption of one candy bar followed by a mini chocolate pumpkin (yes, it was cute). Normally, I am great about indulging in basically whatever I want, but there was something different about it this time. I wasn't doing it to enjoy it...I was doing it because I was stressed out! And there is a big difference here, and I think this might be a major key to being "Guiltless."
Take a look at these two scenarios:
Scenario 1: Steph comes home from a long day at school and needs a break. She decides to walk up to the square in her neighborhood and buy a cappuccino and a few gourmet chocolates from the specialty chocolate store. She enjoys both in the comfort of her own home, probably watching an episode of Grey's Anatomy or reading a magazine. Later that evening, she whips up a healthy dinner and enjoys a glass of wine with a friend...feeling great
Scenario 2: Steph is sitting across the table from her study-partner Sarah, and she feels like ripping her hair out. She can't remember if the liver can oxidize ketones! (They can't, by the way). She spots a Musketeers candy bar in the vending machine to her right. Suddenly, a single dollar bill flies out of her wallet, into the vending machine, and within the blink of an eye, that candy bar wrapper is empty. She feels ok about the exam, but during the next class, she's having a tough time paying attention, because she's having a bit of a sugar withdrawal. She spots a pumpkin chocolate, and takes one b/c this might help her focus a little better. She gets out of class at 8:30, is home by 9:00 and has a few cocktails for dinner...not feeling so great.
What's the main difference here? STRESS. Learning how to cope with stress is a huge part of feeling good about ourselves, and I don't think I realized this until I observed my own behavior last night. How can we feel guiltless about our choices if we allow our emotions to make the decisions? Instead of shoving the candy bar in my face, I should have acknowledged my stress and determined whether I really was hungry or if maybe I just needed to take a breather. And if I was hungry, I had an apple in my bag! The mindlessness of my snacking is what made me feel guilty last night...It wasn't the chocolate's fault! (I still love you, Chocolate).
A few months back, I wrote a post on Food For Real about our relationships with food. Along the same line of thought, I also wrote a post on why we eat (reasons other than being hungry). One thing I wrote was, "I am a tried and true study/stress eater. During finals and midterms, it’s nearly impossible for me to sit down for a long study session without snacking." Yup! I continue to give snacking advice, saying that it's best to snack on low cal foods like grapes and veggies, etc. But I think that there is something else that must be acknowledged here. It's not the food choices that we need to work on (though this is certainly one of the puzzle pieces)...it's how we manage our stress. After we get a handle on that, the better choices will roll into place.
This is all part of our quest toward mindful eating. It really is a journey, and as we can see from my night last night, there are some bumps in the road here and there. But it's good to have obstacles once in a while, because it helps us reflect on the things that matter to us.
What's your breakdown scenario? What's your take on mindful eating and stress?