I Couldn’t Even Taste the Food: My Journey with Emotional Eating
Ugh. I have been eating so terribly lately. Due to a recent personal event I have been feeling awful, sleeping badly and not able to eat. Hang on a minute – did I just say that I’ve lost my appetite?
Previously, I always thought of myself as an emotional eater. I am a food lover and great cook, and my whole family is very enthusiastic about food. I’ve seen my father practically cry when he tastes a decent homemade jam, my sister will walk right across town for a bowl of homemade noodles and my mum used to bake these amazing cookies called snicekrdoodles which I always assumed she made up, but I have since found out are enormously popular. Here’s a great vegan snickerdoodle recipe.
My first significant experience with purely emotional eating
Emotional eating is a funny thing. The first time I really recall doing it was after having a very bad dream. I woke up around midnight and scoffed down a huge bowl of risotto – feeling that the warming comfort of arborio rice was what I needed to make myself feel less panicked. Elizabeth Gilbert also describes a scene in Eat, Pray, Love where she eats two pounds of buttery potatoes as a substitute for sex. That scene is not in the movie, needless to say.
Oprah admits to emotional eating
Oprah has often spoken about her struggles with emotional eating. This is from her website (written by her personal trainer Bob Greene) ‘Many of us have eaten beyond our hunger…Millions of people regularly turn to food during times of stress, sadness, anger or frustration. They eat in response to their emotions instead of their appetites. And once they get used to dealing with their feelings in this way, they find it almost impossible to remember what true hunger feels like.’
Portia de Rossi also speaks about emotional and binge eating in her terrific book Incredible Lightness. She goes through significant issues with food – from starvation, to binge eating, to bulimia, to using alcohol to control her appetite. It’s a full on read and I don’t recommend it to those recovering from eating disorders as it may be triggering.
There are ways to combat emotional eating. I recently came across a book by another wordpress blogger. There is a chapter on emotional eating. There are lots of techniques you can employ to bring your mind back into the present and connect with your body’s needs. If you’d like to buy the book, here’s the Amazon link to Therapeutic Hunger (this is a not-for profit exercise). However, they are also running free workshops online. You can sign up here. Or just read this great wordpress blog: http://bhardwazbhardwaz.wordpress.com/
Coping with emotional eating:
1. Try a diversion technique
Yeah, yeah, yeah I hear you say – heard that one before. The trick is to come up with something that works for you. Calming and relaxing works best. A walk around the block works for me. Smelling flowers also works (different senses employed) and also (and this may sound silly) window shopping. If I feel the need to eat when I am not hungry a few minutes browsing a book store or trying on jeans usually takes my mind off things.
2. Move your body!
Light stretching works, as does yoga. Personally, I like to have a quick, warm shower as I find the running water resets my mind. If you are desk-bound then get up and stretch or just go and sit in a different place for a short time, such as the staff kitchen or a meeting room. Take a few minutes to breathe.
3. Breathing is essential
I find breathing well a challenge, so I give up. In order to get anywhere, practise is essential. Often I have troubles with self discipline, but again, these are things that are learned and developed, not an inherent skill that we are born with. We are all disciplined with something. Make learning to breathe slowly, deeply and rhythmically a priority. It’s free and effective.
4. Meditate or pray
Heard this one too? Not religious? Doesn’t matter. If you get struck down with the urge to emotionally eat – find a quite spot and talk to your internal guides, your higher power. Even if you go on to eat emotionally, don’t feel like you’ve let yourself down. Start again. Forgive yourself.
Scarcity or obesity?
Many of us today have problems with food. We’ve gone from a culture of depression, war, scarcity and a “clean you plate/don’t waste food” mentality to a world full of preservatives, junk food, desk-bound jobs and obesity. Diets do not work, we’ve all heard that. The only chance we all have is to conquer our emotional demons and issues around food. This can be a lifetime process for some of us. For some of us, food has been a great source of pain, particularly those of us afflicted by eating disorders.
Hopefully, the world will eventually change, but I personally see a lot more struggles with world food and obesity issues. There is no magic cure. The only hope for peace is to do the internal work and hope for progress.
Good luck on your journey.