Where your body is concerned, survival is the name of the game. It has a deep investment in keeping you alive. And the proverbial Food Police can be a very real threat to this endeavor….and the Food Police this holiday season are especially active.
In order to do its job of keeping you alive, your body needs to maintain homeostasis. Homeostasis can be defined in the body as:
“Homeostasis is any self-regulating process by which an organism tends to maintain stability while adjusting to conditions that are best for its survival. If homeostasis is successful, life continues; if it’s unsuccessful, it results in a disaster or death of the organism. The “stability” that the organism reaches is rarely around an exact point (such as the idealized human body temperature of 37 °C [98.6 °F]). Stability takes place as part of a dynamic equilibrium, which can be thought of as a cloud of values within a tight range in which continuous change occurs. The result is that relatively uniform conditions prevail.” (1)
As the definition suggests, it’s the best or most ideal state for your body to live in. Living outside of homeostasis suggests peril…so clearly your body will adapt and adjust things to maintain homeostasis. What that looks like then becomes your experience and body that you live in. It becomes how you feel and look.
And that’s where you as a human will start to judge. You judge your body if it doesn’t feel enough energy. You judge your body if it doesn’t look the way you think it’s supposed to or if it gained weight and you don’t have a clue as to why.
Here’s your clue….when this homeostasis, or harmony, is threatened, your body is going to do anything in its power to overcome that danger. Including storing more energy as fat (weight gain) and slowing your energy burn down (feeling sluggish).
What Constitutes a Threat?
Threats can be a lot of different things. They come in many different forms. But there’s always one common thread in all threats to your homeostasis…your body recognizes it physically.
Some physical dangers are obvious. For example an open wound or frostbite. These types of threats are relatively easy for you to recognize and understand that the body is going to activate it’s defenses. It’s also easy for you to understand and accept the changes that happen because of them, like the scars left behind.
Less Obvious Threats?
Sometimes there are threats that start out as invisible to the naked eye. These would be mental and emotional threats that lead to physical responses. Let me explain.
You’ve no doubt heard the saying “thoughts become things”, right? What that means is that when you think something, you have a feeling about it. That feeling results in actions that you do or don’t take (not doing something is in and of itself an action). And those actions will have results.
So when you’re scrolling through your social media feed or watching a television program and you see a post or commercial for someone who has lost weight, what types of thoughts do you have? Do you tell yourself that you should look more like they do? Do you tell yourself that you shouldn’t have eaten so much at dinner because you’ll never look like they do if you keep eating too much?
When you tell yourself these things (think these thoughts), what feelings do you have? What emotions are elicited by this self-talk? Are you now feeling sad? Maybe you’re mad at yourself? Maybe you feel a little of the green monster jealousy sneaking in?
And then what do you DO? What are your actions as a result of these emotions? Do you not eat anything for the rest of the night? Or maybe you skip breakfast the next day? Perhaps you go out and buy all the salads and swear to only eat greens until Christmas because come hell or high water you’re not going to look like you do today on Christmas day?
Too dramatic? Perhaps. But what you’ve just experienced is what we in the Intuitive Eating world call…
Dun dun dun….
The Food Police
The Food Police. (I feel like there should be some dramatic deep voice announcing that right there, complete with flashing lights and thunder effects.)
And the Food Police are an invisible source of a threat that turns into a physical response in your body.
The Food Police are essentially just thoughts in your head. The problem, or threat, is that they result in emotions that lead you to action in ways that threaten your homeostasis.
Because what do you think your body is going to do when you suddenly stop feeding it? Or only feed it minimal amounts of energy (aka, only eating salads or not eating dinner and breakfast the next day)?
Yep. It’s going to feel threatened. And it’s going to go into defense mode. What does defense mode look like in an energy deficient state? It looks like massive amounts of hunger hormones being dumped into the body to push you to feel the hunger and eat. It looks like hormones and neurons firing to cause you to lose focus and start to feel distracted and crabby (hangry anyone?). And if/when these methods don’t work, it looks like signals sent out to slow your metabolism to burn less energy (sluggish energy levels) and conserve the energy you’ve got (more fat storage).
Not exactly the end result you were hoping for is it?
Is There Another Option?
Yes! It turns out that honoring your true hunger, fullness, satisfaction and eating, as well as moving your body in ways that honor your enjoyment and help you feel good all work in harmony to help the body achieve and maintain it’s ideal homeostasis.
Okay so what am I suggesting you do?
You Need to Change SOMETHING
My family plays golf every year when we get together for our family reunion. The past couple years (okay, not last year because of you know what), we have had t-shirts made up with a slogan for the year. One of the years our slogan was “We have options” because we play a best-ball round where everyone hits and you use the “best ball”.
So what I’m saying is that in order to survive the Food Police this holiday season, you too have options. You can change any or both of two things. Change your circumstances and/or change your thoughts about your circumstances. These two things will dictate your results based on the feelings they elicit and the actions you take because of those feelings.
We’ve talked about the “thing” that happens. Let’s call that the circumstance. It’s the post you see in your social feed or the commercial on television (or it could be something someone said or the way they look, it could be a perception on your part, true or not).
Circumstances are not always easily changed. The holidays are coming, like it or not. Social media is a part of your life (maybe even your business).
You may not want to change your circumstances. Outside the pressure you feel to look perfect, you actually enjoy getting together with your friends and family. Even if it is mostly via zoom these days. You enjoy and (mostly) relax to a good social media scroll after work. You really don’t want to give this up because it helps you feel connected to your friends and family in these times of social distancing.
So maybe modifying the circumstances is what you CAN do. Maybe you make choices about what television shows and whose social feeds you subject yourself to. Maybe you set some boundaries with the people contributing to the triggering circumstances.
Your thoughts are something you can use to push back and take control of the Food Police this holiday season.
We’ve talked about the thoughts that go through your head. Did you know you have control over the thoughts you choose?
Taking control of your thoughts requires self-awareness. Becoming self-aware requires curiosity. Get curious with the talk you hear in your head. Ask questions about why it’s there and what it means and how it developed?
This might require some flexibility, vulnerability, and imagination. So you may need to allow (be flexible) yourself to think new thoughts that don’t feel completely comfortable (vulnerable). They may feel uncomfortable because you’ve not thought them before. Or you may need to invoke some imagination. Imagination helps you to create thoughts that are BIG and WILD and feel a little crazy or out of reach. Doing this actually opens up your mind to more possibilities and can bring on good feelings of optimism and hope.
The Food Police elicit strong emotions.
We’ve also discussed the feelings brought about by those thoughts. While this is not something you are likely to have any amount of control over, it’s important for you to understand that The Food Police impact your feelings. And that changing your thoughts and circumstances around The Food Police lead to different emotions.
Your actions will demonstrate the power (or lack of power) you allow the Food police to have over you this holiday season.
And then the actions that you take because of those feelings are going to lead to your results. Go back through the circumstances and Food Police thoughts that came to mind for you while reading this and write down how they make you feel. What actions do you take because of these? And what results have you been getting? Is this adding up for you now?
And Finally, Your Results
In the end, your results are what tell you whether or not you are on the right track. Helping your body maintain that homeostasis with as little chaos as possible is the goal. If you feel you need help to get on track, we should talk. I can help you keep those Food Police in check this holiday season. Join me over on Instagram to help you overcome your own Food Police this holiday season!