Michelle Bridges: ‘Eat for nourishment, not for comfort’

Reward yourself without using your stomach.

I know only too well how food can be used as an anaesthetic, an antidepressant, a toast for celebration, a time-filler, a control mechanism, a diversion – anything besides actually satisfying genuine hunger. And what’s even more bizarre is that many of us have forgotten what hunger is, and what it really feels like.

For many of us, eating and drinking are closely connected to our emotions, whether we are aware of it or not. We might reach for a glass of wine (or five) when we are feeling stressed or angry; hoe into a family block of chocolate when we feel down or lonely; or use coffee and cake as a reward for doing chores that we don’t enjoy. This is emotional eating, and is rampant among my clients.

When you are emotional, do you tell yourself you’ll feel better if you eat, whether you are hungry or not? And afterwards, do you feel worse because on top of your original feelings, you’ve now got a heap of guilt and shame?

The key to changing this eating pattern is to become aware of your triggers – to notice the thoughts that go through your head before you reach for the fridge door and to challenge them; ‘I will not feel better if I eat this.’ And to do something else, ideally something that makes you feel better about yourself:

Call a friend.

Go for a walk or a run.

Weed the garden.

Wash the dog.

Clean something.

A radiant Michelle Bridges gave an intimate interview to The Weekly just before the birth of her first child, Axel.

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Reward yourself without using your stomach

Over the years, I’ve seen a stack of people work like demons in the gym and then undo all of their hard work by rewarding themselves with sugary, fatty foods.

Although they might build some muscle and get fitter, they don’t lose weight. Food is nourishment. Every time you prepare a meal, think of it as an opportunity to take care of yourself; as a way of giving yourself the love you deserve.

This might sound selfish, especially if you are used to putting everyone else first.

In fact the opposite is true, because by looking after yourself, they get a better version of you – they get someone who feels happy about herself, and is kinder, patient and more generous – not the resentful version.

When you take positive steps towards your health goals, whether they be about weight loss, fitness or wellbeing, don’t reward yourself with food. Put aside the money you save by not buying chocolates, junk food or wine, and use it to treat yourself in other ways:

Have a massage, a manicure or get your hair done.

Buy a new workout outfit or a Fitbit.

Save it all up for a holiday or a retreat.

This is an extract from FOOD FOR LIFE by Michelle Bridges is published by Pan Macmillan, RRP $39.99.

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