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Comfort Eating – NO! Comfort Exercise – YES!

I love burgers! Big Macs, Double Whoppers with Cheese, Angus burgers, McSpicy burgers! You name ‘em - I love ‘em and the bigger the better!

When I moved to Singapore in 2010, the discovery of McDelivery (McDonald’s 24-hour delivery service here) was a key component in my ballooning waistline over the coming years (that and my ultra-crap working environment back then).

When I left the UK for warmer climates in 2010, there was no McDonald’s delivery service in the UK so McDelivery in Singapore was both a dream and a nightmare come true!

When I met my better half (Juliana Stryker) and wife-to-be, she was a little taken aback by my love for burgers but I never really gave it much thought UNTIL we went on holiday to Australia with my parents!

As soon as we met my parents at our hotel, the hunt was on for food and my parents immediately said let’s go to McDonald's!

Within moments, we found ourselves at one of the fanciest McDonald’s outlets we’ve ever seen, just moments away from our hotel in the heart of Sydney and quickly proceeded to stuff our faces with all kinds of goodness!

McDonald's Sydney
My parents and my wife outside a McDonald's outlet
Comfort eating Big Mac
My dad enjoying a Big Mac in my brother's car

Jules was shocked and enlightened, proclaiming, ‘This is why you love burgers so much!’

It was a lightbulb moment, she was right! Over the course of the week, we had some kind of burger almost every day!

As I looked back to my childhood, it dawned on me that some of my best and happiest memories were having burgers with my parents!

My amazing, great and late father would often work very long hours, think 8am to 8pm most days and sometimes he would come back from work at midnight. It was a rare treat if he had a day off or came home early and for me and my younger brother, it literally felt like a holiday or special occasion! We’d be so happy!

If my dad had a day off, typically we’d take a drive out to McDonald’s, Burger King or Yankee Burger and it was always a lot of fun! As I got older, into my teens and my dad was finally able to work less, he would often come home early with burger treats for all of us and we’d sit around the TV together watching Gladiators (the UK version) or some other prime time shows.

My fondness for burgers continued through university and into my adult life, I even remember people asking me why I love burgers so much and now I know why!

For me these sights, smells and tastes were associated with these great, simpler and happier times in my life.

I didn’t realise it before but my love for burgers was rooted in happy, comforting childhood memories and in some way, I was recreating those feelings every time I had a burger!

It’s almost as if I’d psychologically conditioned myself to feel good every time I had a burger!

Angus Burger Gold Class
These were all for me.

So, faced with feeling low, depressed, stressed, anxious, tired, bored or lonely, I would comfort eat, I’d reward myself with a burger (usually two) and during these COVID-times with lockdowns, unemployment and whatnot, I’m sure many of you are the same!

That’s what emotional eating often is, a way of connecting to a positive time in our lives, to make ourselves feel better.

The feeling is usually short-lived and calories being what they are, nasty little buggers when they team up, weight gain was inevitable!

Sadly, for me and many out there, my emotional connection with exercise was not so positive.

I was the kid that was picked last in PE class, I was the one who’d hate all our school cross country runs and I hated rolling around in the mud and dirt playing rugby.

When I was very young, if I was a brat and broke something, my mom would even get me to hold my ears and do squats! It was one of the worst punishments!

For many, their view of exercise is that it’s a punishment! Food is a reward, we comfort eat but exercise is the opposite!

It’s only as an adult, now I’m not being pushed to meet my school’s fitness standards, I’m not being shouted at by a crazed PE teacher, I’m not coming last in class, I’m not being compared to my schoolmates, now that I’m doing exercises on my own terms, it’s just me versus me, that I’m actually starting to enjoy exercise!

In fact, I’ve grown to love working out!

My earbuds go in, the music turns on, the world turns off and for a glorious hour or so, I can forget about any stress, financial concerns, worries, center myself and have some ‘me time’ before returning to the real world!

Of course, there are still exercises that I hate, I hate most forms of cardio but I’ve found stuff that I love! I love lifting weights! It doesn’t leave me gasping for breath and feeling like I’m going to die, instead, it makes me feel energized and I love seeing my physique slowly shifting the way I want it to!

Deadlift Flow Fysique Factory

I realise that I’ve been able to mentally reframe exercise so that I no longer see it as a punishment but as a reward for myself! It’s something I look forward to at the end of each day!

I don’t make excuses to get out of doing exercise, instead, I actually find myself making excuses not to do other stuff so that I CAN exercise! It’s a miracle! I just wish I’d done it sooner!

Have I been able to do the same with my diet? Nope!

I still indulge in the occasional burger but because I’ve spent years creating delicious, high protein, lower calorie versions of foods that I love (all in our Hyperthermic Cookbook), I’m able to stay in great shape while enjoying waffles, ice cream, crispy chicken burgers, spicy Korean stews and Asian curries everyday while needing that cheat meal less and less!

I’m comfort eating less and comfort exercising more!

Understanding where our cravings come from, having that knowledge, awareness and insight, developing new rewards and pleasures, will empower you to take control of your health, lose fat, get into shape and still enjoy the occasional cheat-meal, guilt free!

I still enjoy McDonald’s (lovingly calling it McDoogals or McDocs) but I need that fix less and less when everything else I eat is so delish!

How about you, do you have a comfort food? Do you know why? Is exercise a reward or a punishment for you?

Reflect on these questions and you too might be able to reframe things, take control of your emotions instead of being controlled by them and enjoy the fitness success I have!

This is what Flow is all about!

Welcome to Flow Fysique Factory!

Dr. Stryker

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