I think that emotional eaters can get caught up in the thought that some deep-seated psychological problem causes us to eat. In a lot of cases, this is probably true. However, eating doesn’t have to be the only thing we do to soothe ourselves and that’s where some of the misconceptions kick in and warp our sense of self. We get to the point where we think that they only way we can deal with the stupid comment our boss made is to unwind with a candy bar from the vending machine.
How to Undo a Healthy Diet with a Bad Day
We push ourselves all day, end up exhausted, and then we criticize ourselves for all we didn’t get done (I do this constantly). The self-recrimination is too much and we zone out with a bag of Doritos or a dozen donuts. The next morning, we feel crappy, which leads to a horrible day of one draining event after another and yet another evening of binge eating.
Susan Albers, in her book 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself without Food (New Harbinger Publications, 2009) points out that cravings can start from both positive and negative emotions. While eating, we feel an initial relief from the emotions we experienced. So, finding non-food ways to deal with our emotions is a valuable step toward eliminating (or reducing) emotional eating and compulsive eating from our lives.
Compulsive Eating for All the Wrong Reasons
Do you eat to relax? Do you eat during or after a stressful event? Do you eat when you are nervous? Do you eat when you are bored? I think a lot of compulsive overeaters at some point compare their behaviors to those of drug addicts and alcoholics. Maybe you are even envious of a person who can give up an addiction that they don’t have to face at three meals and two snacks each day.
Food surrounds us – and it’s legal. When I eat and tell myself it is because I’m stressed, I’m essentially giving myself permission to zone out, to ignore my emotions. But why? Why ignore my emotions? Well, they are uncomfortable. I’ve ignored a lot of anger by eating. Instead of hurting someone else’s feelings, I’ve eaten until I was in a food trance and I couldn’t concentrate on the emotion I felt that started the binge eating. I’ve eaten food that tastes horrible or wasn’t in great condition all because I needed comfort.
What is sadder – that I binge eat to avoid my emotions or that I eat a dozen cupcakes that I found shoved in the back of the freezer?
Although I engage in emotional eating, I find it ironic that I can’t really identify the emotions that cause me to overeat. Am I bored or is my boredom masking fear about taking a necessary but scary step in my career? Emotional eating is tricky. Although a therapist may ask us questions that uncover our emotions, we have to deal with those emotions 24/7. Or we could deal with those emotions providing we don’t mask them beneath mood-altering food.