Emotional Eating


Emotional eating or often times referred to as stress eating is fueled by attempts to control or cope with distressing feelings or thoughts. It is also the act of using food to make oneself feel better, in an effort to satisfy emotional needs and not necessarily nutritional or physical hunger needs. Many people associate food with comfort, and often turn to it in high stress situations or prolonged periods of stress. We are all familiar with the term “comfort food” and its purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bowl of ice-cream or a handful of chocolate when feeling stressed every now and then, but turning to those things all the time would leave me with a pretty empty coping skills toolbox. 

Triggers to emotional eating can be anywhere from daily stressors to big life events. Somewhere in between are the distressing emotions we don’t want to feel such as sadness, fear, boredom, loneliness, emptiness, etc. It is sometimes easier to push them away and reach for some of the foods we know we shouldn’t. When emotional pain is high or something is missing from our lives, emotional eating can be an attempt to fill a void left by a past traumatic event or current problem. If emotional eating continues to be a main coping skill, it can lead to poor self-esteem, undesired weight gain, low sense of self-worth, depression, body-image issues, and possibly obesity. 

Reaching for food is a fast and easy way to try to control unwanted emotions or thoughts. Food doesn’t judge you for eating it; it is safe and always there waiting for us to eat it. It’s important to arm yourself for the stress that life inevitably brings so that you can tackle the stress head on!

Here are a few things to throw into your coping skills toolbox, along with your occasional favorite treat:

  1. Learn how to identify your triggers
  2. Practice mindfulness and meditation
  3. Use deep breathing and relaxation techniques
  4. Keep a journal 
  5. Don’t have an “off limits” list of foods—these are okay in moderation!
  6. See a nutritionist to learn how to fuel your body with the right kind of foods and learn how certain foods can impact your mood
  7. Learn to manage stress and schedule relaxation time 
  8. Go for a walk
  9. Join a support group
  10. Take inventory of your environment—relationships, work, home, and your fridge
  11. Allow yourself to make mistakes
  12. Let go of “all or nothing” thinking
  13. Practice self-compassion instead of self-criticism
  14. Allow yourself to experience unwanted emotions
  15. Don’t deny yourself pleasure
  16. Eat when you’re hungry
  17. Seek professional support

Our relationship with our body is significantly impacted by the food we choose to eat and when. The food, body, and mind connection is a relationship triangle that takes time build and balance. No one if perfect and no one expects you to be! We are all a work in progress. I’d be lying if I said there was nothing I had to work on. Remember to give yourself the space to be perfectly imperfect.

Eat because your body is telling you to, and not because your emotions are screaming at you.

Recovering From An Injury


If you’ve ever been injured and couldn’t do the things you love, you know that it can it is not an easy adjustment. Often times, recovering from an injury can take as much a toll on your emotional and mental health as it does on your physical health. 

I used to consider myself a runner, and like all runners, I like to push myself; farther, faster, you get the hint. One day I ran 6 miles and my time was a personal best. I noticed that my right hip was hurting afterwards, so I gave it a few days rest and tried to run again. Each time I ran, the distance would go down and my time would go up. I was getting slower and the pain was getting worse, until the point where I would try to take one running stride and feel sharp intense pain in my hip. It turns out that I had muscle fraying and cartilage damage. My runs were now replaced with physical therapy, and I was miserable.  I was young and naive, and I ignored everything my body was trying to tell me.

I was convinced that I would never be able to run again, and that no other workout out there would give me the same high as running did. Others around me started to notice how unhappy I was. 

I was denying the fact that I would have to give up running for a while, until my cousin said to me, “You need to find something to fill the place of running or else you will just continue to be miserable.”

Around this same time, I began to date my now husband and he taught me to love weightlifting and other types of cardio. This new exercise regimen taught me to respect my body, listen to it, and be appreciate how strong my body actually was. 

I learned that I didn’t have to give up my athletic identify, but I could embrace a whole new view on exercise and my body.

Things to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t let go of your athletic identity—show up to sporting events to supports others if you can’t participate. Don’t let your injury stand in the way of still being a part of the athletic and active community. 
  2. Be open to new experiences—I had to learn to find a new way of exercising, and in order to do that, I had to be open to trying new things!
  3. Try to focus on happiness and joy, over the pain—keeping a gratitude journal is great for this. Also, engaging in more meaningful activities can help keep you focused on positive things in your life. 
  4. Strive to keep a daily active routine—even if it is just being on a stationary bike, low impact exercises, or stretching, any physical activity is important to keeping your routine.
  5. Focus on moving forward and growing—put some focus on growing as a whole person and not just an athlete.
Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.
— Arnold Schwarzenegger

Dare To Compare


You know that person on social media who you just can't help but look at their posts? Or that one peer or coworker who is always impeccably dressed and seems to have it all? We've all been there at one time or another, caught in the vicious cycle of comparing ourselves to them. Often times, we can get sucked into comparing just about anything from our looks, athletic accomplishments, academic achievements, talent, and to anything else that we perceive others as "being better" than us.

Comparisons, however, come with consequences; consequences that can damage our mental health, emotional health, self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth. So compare if you dare!

Consequences of Comparing:

  • Most of the time we are comparing ourselves to an illusion. People may look like they have the perfect life on the outside, but we really have no idea what goes on behind closed doors and behind the face that they show to the world.
  • It can breed more judgment and negativity towards others. Our lens in which we view others can become clouded and we can become bitter towards them.
  • We can turn friends against us. Comparisons can cause us to stop celebrating others' successes. We stop being genuinely happy for others and start to creep towards feelings of jealousy and envy.
  • We stop seeing people as human beings.

As I am one who always tries to look on the bright side and see the good in things, comparing can have its benefits.

Benefits of Comparing:

  • It can help to motivate us to be a better version of our self. It can help to push us towards reaching personal goals and to strive for more.
  • It can help us problem solve. We can consider other solutions that we may have never thought of. We can look at others and see how they made it through a challenge and achieved something they are proud of.
  • It gives us the opportunity to build others up instead of knocking them down.

So why do get stuck in the thinking trap that leads us to believe that our self worth has to do with how we compare or measure up to others? It probably has something to do with the fact that we are always in competition with others from an early age. Whether it is in school or athletics, we strive to be the "best" and out perform others. As a society, we have been groomed to think this way. Don't get me wrong, competition is not a bad thing, but we need to be careful with our perception of it and how it applies to our self. Good news though, our self-worth has nothing to do with how we compare to others!

We ourselves have the power to determine our own self worth and no one else.

If you're struggling in the self worth department, here are

a few ways you can start building it up.

  1. Reassess your attitude towards yourself. If it's mostly negative, take steps to bring more positive thoughts into your day. "A bad attitude is like a flat tire, you can't get anywhere unless you change it." -Unknown
  2. Don't be afraid to love yourself!
  3. Practice self-compassion. If you're kind to others, why can't you be kind to yourself?
  4. Stay true to your values.

Post-Competition Blues?

When we think of competing in fitness and bodybuilding competitions, we tend to think of all the work that goes in to preparing and show day itself; the workouts, the meal plan, the tan, the glam, the suit, the cheat meal. But we hardly really ever think about the “after”. Competitors want to put all of their blood, sweat, and tears into making it to show day.


"How will I place?"

"Am I prepared? I think that I am."

"I plan to bring my best."

 However, the “after” is often the most important part when it comes to one’s own personal wellness. If one doesn't plan for the after, they can be blind-sided by rush of emotional challenges.

Post-competition “blues” can hit in different levels of severity, especially when one doesn’t prepare for post-show factors. If one doesn’t plan appropriately for life after show day, they could suffer some real emotional consequences. This is especially true for first time competitors.

Throughout their entire “prep”, they are working towards a goal and seeing progress. They make it to show day and see themselves as the best they’ve ever looked. They see the progress they’ve made, and then it’s over. Depending on their experience, they can be on a “high” from the excitement of the day and proud of their accomplishments. If they don’t do as well as they had hoped and did not mentally prepare themselves for disappointment, they can begin to experience negative thoughts about themselves and their appearance.

They can begin to second guess all of the work they put it.

"What did I do wrong?"

"What didn't the judges like about me?"

"But my coach said I looked great."

It’s hard to put yourself out there against a whole group of other competitors, and even harder to be judged on how you look and the package you brought that day. When first time competitors place well, they feel like all of their preparation was worth it, but if they don’t place well, they can feel like they wasted their time, money, energy and resources. Even long-time competitors can feel this exact same way. They all can forget about the fact that they just to step out on stage is in itself an accomplishment.

As they settle back into their routine, they are no longer working towards the same goal and are no longer holding onto that competition look. The tan fades and the leanness slips away. Often times, they can have unrealistic expectations and want to hold on to their competition look as long as possible. This is just simply unattainable; the body can’t handle it and there will be burnout, not to mention possible health consequences. During these times, one can see an increase in stress, depressive symptoms, body image issues, shame and guilt for not sticking to their diet, over eating, over exercising to compensate for eating, lack of sleep, etc. It can turn into a pretty dangerous cycle if they are unaware of what it is they are feeling.

In addition, during the prep, prep comes first. Workouts come first, meal plans come first, water consumption comes first, posing practice comes first. You get my drift. This may cause one to put other responsibilities and commitments on hold, like job responsibilities and relationships. Once show day comes and goes, one might find themselves overwhelmed with all they have put on the back burner. They can become distant, isolated, overwhelmed, stressed, and unmotivated.

It's extremely important for all competitors to have a plan once they step off the stage. Just like a reverse diet, there needs to be a plan put in place to adjust back to their normal way of life. Here's some ideas:

1. Reach out for support if you begin to feel overwhelmed or stressed.

2. Just like you plan your meals, plan time for you and other important things with your life

3. Don't be afraid to enjoy foods off your meal plan

4. Be kind with yourself when you have a cheat meal

5. Reconnect with other things in your life that bring you happiness

6. To avoid burnout, take some time off

7. Listen to your body

8. Try new things in your workouts

9. Be proud of what you accomplished, even if it wasn't what you had hoped

10. Love your body and respect it

11. Don't be afraid to seek out professional help if you need it

Feel free to share other ideas in the comments!

Exercise, The Brain, & Mental Health

Individuals who suffer from mental illnesses are at a higher risk for developing certain medical
issues. Exercise is often used to combat physical and medical issues, and less often used to help
alleviate mental health symptoms. When we think of treating mental illnesses, we rarely think of
incorporating exercise and physical activity. Through research, it has been shown that exercise
has a greater impact on the brain and mental health symptoms than was once originally thought.

It is common knowledge that often times, people experience a mood enhancement effect
after they exercise. This suggests that exercise and physical activity may be used as a treatment
for certain mental disorders in which calls for the regulation of mood. Exercise has also been shown to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. It has also been shown to improve the way that the brain functions, allowing us to better take in and process information. 

For more information about exercise, the brain, and mental health, refer to this literature review written by yours truly!