Time to embrace your flabs (and it’s not what you think)

Time to embrace your flabs (and it’s not what you think)

I guessed that would get your attention. Let’s talk about flabs. And as the title says, it is not what you think. When people think of flabs they think of ‘fat’, of ‘love handles’ (quite pertinent especially as yesterday was Valentine’s Day – I hope you had a good day 🙂 ), of ‘winter insulation’ (my personal favourite). The word flab often brings negative images and ideas to mind. I’m here today though challenging that assumption and suggesting that flabs are actually something you should embrace and acknowledge. Follow along with me. It will all make sense soon.

So I have been following a calorie deficit programme and a weight training routine for a few weeks and have been beginning to see results. I am beginning to look better and feel better. My partner has also been incredibly supportive along the process, finding and sharing media about weight loss and weight management. After a healthy supper of rice and steak (she cooked – it was amazing) we sat down and watched a YouTube video, about food addiction.

Now for those who may know me, and as something I may have mentioned in previous blogs, I love food. I love the smell of food. I love the texture of food. I love the taste of food. Well prepared food is like heaven for me. Which is why some tasteless repetitive diets are the idea of absolute hell. After some reading and research though, I found some absolutely delicious and healthy low calorie high protein meals ( http://fitforanyage.co.uk/2019/02/08/eating-healthily-in-a-busy-work-environment/ ). 

But it also made me look at not only my physical enjoyment of food, but my emotional connection to food. In talking to my partner and reflecting, I realised that I have used food not only to nourish my body, but my spirit as well: I have comfort eaten. I have eaten when I have been stressed. I have eaten when I have been sad. I have eaten when I have been feeling low. I can put my hand up and know that there have been times when I thought nothing bad of putting a pizza in the oven and eating the whole thing whilst binging on Netflix.

If you scroll down, you will find an interview with Dr Ramani Durvasula, a Clinical Psychologist in America and author of the book “You are what you eat”. She is a fascinating person to listen to and she presents some very pertinent home truths about our emotional connection to food and how we use food emotionally. She brings home some other truths: we eat way beyond the point of being full and we have been programmed as children to feel that we have to finish what is on the plate.

This is such an important thing to note. We sometimes feel obliged to eat more and more and to finish what has been put on our plates. We feel that it is bad to leave a clean plate. What we should feel comfortable leaving is a dirty plate. What we should be doing is listening to our bodies and listening to our guts. If you are full, there is no shame in putting your hand up and saying, “I am full. I have had enough.” There is no harm or offence of leaving a dirty plate, where all the food has not been eaten. Listen to your body. When you have had enough, your body will tell you. And when it does tell you, listen to it.

What we also need to do it to change our association with foods that are high sugar and high fat. The reason why we crave these foods is because they TASTE GOOD. There is no other reason. Given the choice of an apple or a bag of crisps, I know most people would feel inclined to choose the bag of crisps, not because of its nutritional content (far from it) but because of the way it makes us feel. It makes us feel good, if only for a short period of time, but after the feel good moment wears off, we feel lousy and demotivated. Its about acknowledging and recognising our emotional relationship with food, about embracing the relationship – and taking ownership.

“If your cravings seem more geared toward high fat foods, you’re most likely feeling some insecurity that you’re trying to fill with fat. Fat stays in the stomach long after other forms of food have been digested and emptied. So, fat cravings often occur in people who feel that their life lacks meaning, who feel empty, or who feel financially or emotionally insecure.” – Dr Doreen Virtue

There is a lot of research that has been done to explore the emotional relationship that people have with food, as well as looking at what we crave when we crave it and what it means.

One suggestion of what makes up the emotional relationship with food and our related food cravings is the idea of ‘flabs’.

According to Dr Durvasula, FLABS stands for:

F – frustrated

L – lonely

A – angry / anxious

B – bored

S – stressed

These are the reasons people eat when they are not hungry. Think of a moment when you have been frustrated. What type of food did you reach for? Think of a time when you were lonely. Did you feel like you wanted to eat a salad or a tub of ice-cream? Think of a time when you were anxious or bored or stressed. I can think of times in my life when I was all three. And I can tell you exactly what I ate: cookies and crisps.

It is only after realising and acknowledging your ‘flabs’ are you able to do something about them. Embrace your ‘flabs’. Accept the fact that you eat rubbish when you are bored, lonely or stressed. Now: instead of eating rubbish, think about how else you may handle these emotionally uncomfortable scenarios. Next time you feel lonely, call a friend or go for a walk. Next time you are bored, again, maybe go for a walk, go to the gym, meet a friend. Once you recognise and realise the power that emotional eating has over you, you are in a position to gain power over emotional eating. Recognise when you are stressed. Recognise and deal with the stress separately and then approach your eating objectively and make healthier food choices that do not rely on soothing an emotional ill.

MAY I PLEASE NOTE: If you have a legitimate mental illness such as depression, please seek clinical advice and support. This approach to approaching emotional eating should not act as a substitute to seeking treatment for mental illnesses which may cause you to eat in a negative way.

If you like the video and what I may have spoken about in this blog, please check out Dr Ramani Durvasula on YouTube. She is a very interesting clinician and has some fascinating ideas and suggestions toward healthy eating and healthy living. There are also several other great videos and literature out there by experienced clinicians around the subject and I encourage you to have a read and look.

I hope that has been of some help. Remember: it’s a journey. It will take time. Have patience in the process. You will get there. Until then, stay happy, stay healthy, and have a lovely weekend wherever you are on the planet.

A bit about the author:I am a guy who is (nearly) 40, who is sharing a journey of weight management and wellbeing.I am also a mental health professional with a wealth of years of experience in supporting individuals who have challenging mental illnesses and personality disorders. Prior to my current professional role, I spent several years supporting members of the community as a fitness professional, assisting individuals with weight loss and health improvement programmes.I completed a PGDip in Mental Health Nursing in 2013, and an MSc in Advanced Practice in 2016 in which I looked at improving nurses’ level of engagement with patients with challenging personality disorders. In 2018 I successfully undertook a Clinical reasoning in Physical Assessments course with the view to start studying toward becoming an Advanced Nurse Practitioner in late 2019.In 2015 I also undertook a Mentorship for practice (BSc Hons) course and have been supporting future nurses with their training and development. I have also recently supported a Healthcare Assistant Staff toward training in and successfully passing and achieving a Foundation Degree in Mental Health Nursing.In my current role I am a person looking to support the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the individual. As part of my role within the health services in supporting individuals with mental health care needs, I am also currently looking to develop myself as a Wellness Coach, to support the individual with weekly wellness blogs, with the view to support individuals on a 1:1 basis as well as holding motivational lectures and seminars. 

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