In Susan Albers’ book, 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself without Food (New Harbinger Publications, 2009), she states that “Many eating problems aren’t really about food. They are about self-soothing. Self-soothing techniques are methods to calm and relax your body and mind, as well as soothe your nerves.” This statement rings true for me. If I’m tired but keep pushing myself to get things done, part of me wants to be soothed for denying the rest my body is craving.
Stop Binge Eating and Compulsive Overeating
Albers lists some examples of self soothing with food that are behaviors I do engage in on a regular basis. I’ve added some details about my own life. See how many of these instances ring true with you. Once we can identify times when we eat for reasons other than hunger we can start to come up with alternative behaviors. Telling ourselves to read a book or take a hot bath as an alternative to overeating doesn’t work if those actions don’t address the emotions we are trying to avoid.
Leading to situations in which I eat in order to “numb out.” I did this more often years ago. After a day of teaching and wondering if the kids got anything out of the lesson plans that took me hours to create, I’d stop at the store and buy a bag of Doritos. I’d pop open the bag in the car so I could squeeze out the air, make the bag smaller and sneak it into the house in my backpack.
I’d eat dinner, go into my room, and sit in front of the computer or television and chow down the super-size bag. Things got worse when I needed a dozen bakery cookies to balance the saltiness of the chips. I’d wake in the morning with a food hangover – I’d feel tired, bloated, groggy, and headache-y.
Why It Isn’t Easy to Stop Overeating
Other times, I’d graze, nibbling this and that even though I wasn’t hungry but I “needed” to eat something. I’ve eaten gummy ice cream that overstayed its welcome in the freezer and freezer-burned cupcakes that tasted horrible, but they were there and I got to stay in a trancelike state instead of dealing with things in my life that I should have been dealing with instead.
Occasionally, I’d keep eating, a little of this and a little of that, trying to find something satisfying. However, the food didn’t make a difference because I wasn’t looking for food; but, by eating I felt numb and didn’t have to figure out what I really wanted. I’d have a slice of toast, a couple of waffles, some fruit, dried Ramen noodles all while trying to figure out what I wanted “to eat.”
I also have difficulty stopping eating, whether it is a snack or a meal. It is hard to describe the bubble of nervousness I feel at the idea of stopping when I’m simultaneously afraid that what I have in front of me isn’t enough. Again, I think this goes along with the idea that I’m searching for something that isn’t food.
This all boils down to the question, “What am I searching for?” The Day 16 article will continue with me looking at Susan Albers’ list of examples of self-soothing. What do I really want and do I need a therapist to help me figure it out? Can I try some of Albers’ 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself without Food and figure out what works best for me?