Just as a quick recap, if you’re following the Clean Eating Boot Camp, you should be abstaining from fast food restaurants and cooking dinner at home every night thus far. It might be a struggle, but feel free to use the recipes on this site to help you plan a little. In preparation for the upcoming week, be sure to save a little money because we’re going to begin stocking the kitchen next week.

My daughter and I love to eat together. She’s not even able to tell time just yet, but she always knows when it’s time to eat – the same time every day.

For us, eating is a big thing. We set the table, she helps me pick out the veggies, she sits down, I serve us both, and we eat together. I always finish before she does, so I stay at the table with her until the end. If she finishes before me, I make us a little dessert to enjoy together. She cleans off the table (by, unfortunately, dropping my darn dishes in the sink), and we go off to do whatever we were doing before we sat down together. I enjoy these times together because the memories are powerful.

I remember when she was too small to sit at the table, and I sat her in a high chair next to me at the table. I remember sitting her on my lap and feeding her from my plate. I remember when she’d sit at the table in anticipation, and her little forehead was the only thing peeking out above the table. She had to raise her eyebrows and strain her neck pretty high up to even see above the table.

I remember teaching her how to use a fork. I remember when she couldn’t fit her mouth around the spoon. I even remember when every time she picked up a glass to drink, she’d drop it – she hadn’t realized she’d need both hands to hold a glass, and I hadn’t yet realized to only give her an ounce at a time… to help minimize the amount of mess she’d make. We both learned alot from one another at the dinner table. I remember the days when she couldn’t converse during dinner (secretly, I sometimes miss those… ’cause now, I can’t get her to hush.)

For me, a lot of my favorite memories of my little one come from our moments together dining. That’s where many of our memories are made each day. I look forward to sitting with her and watching her dive, nose first, into an ear of corn… because she does it just like her Mommy. I get pleasure and satisfaction from these moments with her. No interruptions via phone, no company, no TV… just us two. I leave the table feeling satiated through the food, and fulfilled through the company of my family.

I can’t say “Oh, good grief, I’m so stressed out… let me hurry up and make dinner so I can feel better” because this isn’t an experience that you speed through just to get the “satisfaction” at the end. The satisfaction isn’t at the end – it’s throughout the meal… and rushing through it causes you to miss it. There is no bingeing on this experience. You have to take your time to truly experience the benefit.

Compare this to emotional eating – a mindless experience that reverts us back to our most prehistoric desires. As I wrote before:

Once upon a time, in a land not very far from your home… lived mankind. No fast cars, no shiny structures, no skyscrapers, nothing. Just man.. rock… and animals.

See, this worked for man because his only task was to hunt wildlife, and gather his kill for his family. That was his responsibility. His purpose was to bring the salt and fat from the animal to the family. Not work, not bills… just hunt. Because life was much simpler then, this was man’s sole source of stress.

One day, man could not hunt. Every time he threw his spear, he’d miss his prey. He just couldn’t catch SQUAT! His family was to go hungry and he just… he couldn’t take it. The stress started to build up inside of him.

Because stress about the inability to eat is the only source of stress for man, his body became used to the eventual chain of events. His body knows: Lots of stress = lack of food coming in. How did his body react? His body decided to hold on to what it had – by way of diminishing the amount of energy his body could exert all at one time, by way of making sure his body took a very long time to lose weight, by way of making sure it held onto every pound and fat cell it could. This bodily reaction would only further compel man to step up his hunting skills… why? Because he didn’t want to feel that way! He didn’t want his family to feel that way! He had to get his caveman hustle on! When man was finally able to tackle that antelope or whatever-what-have-you, the fats and salts in the meat were sooooo satisfying that they would cure man of the bodily reaction to stress.

Compare this to emotional eating. The body’s reaction doesn’t change no matter what variables you swap out. Regardless if the stress comes from traffic, bad work day, or family problems… the body’s reaction to stress has not evolved as fast as society has. Now, we can get food within ten minutes if we drive or own a microwave. So presuming our body believes that stress is caused by a “famine on the way,” then it’s going to trigger feelings to make you go hunt! Our bodies just don’t know how easy it is to get food in the 21st century. It hasn’t caught up.

This is why emotional eating “works.” Emotional eating is not enjoying food, it is enjoying the feeling derived from food. The fats, salts and sugars that are so prominent in the processed foods we buy regularly are, essentially, a method of self-medication. No, really: if fat and salt from the animal curbed the hunger – thereby curbing the stress – and sugar only temporarily curbed the hunger (because man needed fat and salt)… then the way we use those three in food today to “cure” stress is a form of using a legal substance for the unintended purpose of making us feel better emotionally.

Enjoying eating is about the experience you derive from the meal. It includes your company – even if you are by yourself, you are in excellent company – and your conversation. Eating emotionally is about hiding from a very prominent problem in your food. Something – whatever it is – that causes you stress or trauma all day… causes you to go hide in an entire pint of ice cream (which, if I’m not mistaken, is usually four servings.) Add to that the fact that you very well might scarf the entire thing down? That’s 800 calories. If you’re calorie counting, that can be anywhere from a half to a third of your day’s intake just off of emotional eating alone.

Emotional eating is a problem.. because it causes a cycle of self-hate. If we DO scarf down the entire pint, then we hate ourselves for not having any self-control, thereby not only adding more pressure to ourselves… but demeaning our own self-worth because it’s one more thing we don’t have and can’t do. In reality, emotional eating doesn’t even foster a healthy enjoyment of food – not only do you “hate yourself” after a binge session, but you start to hate that which “did this to you”… the food.

Learning how to enjoy a dining experience overpowers what emotional eating can do for you. It gives you a lifetime of good feelings to look back on and smile. Emotional eating gives you maybe 20 minutes to willfully avoid addressing a problem, only to revert back to anger or sadness once the “high” comes down. Recognize which one you truly want and need, and start moving in the direction to obtain it.

Are you an emotional eater? Do you know which situations trigger bouts of binging for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

PS: Show a little love by voting for me in the Black Weblog Awards for Best Health or Wellness Blog category! That’s right – BGG2WL is a finalist thanks to you! Let’s do what we can to bring it home!