Does stress, depression, anxiety, or loneliness cause you to reach for food for comfort? Many of us seek out food for pleasure or to numb emotions we are feeling. We try to “stuff” ourselves to alleviate pain, to distract ourselves, or to calm us down when we are feeling stressed.
Some of us will find ourselves cradling a pint of ice cream or curled up to a bag of chips while watching TV to make us feel less alone or to achieve some kind of temporary pleasure. Sugar and salt can act like drugs in our system triggering serotonin to make us feel momentarily happy. Eating can make us forget about things that are bothering us and take our minds away from how we are truly feeling.
Using food for comfort forces us to ignore our feelings and emotions pushing them deep inside so we do not have to confront them. Escaping this habit, or addiction, can be very difficult. Sometimes we will sneak food and stuff ourselves when no one is looking. This is easiest for those of us who live alone. We can eat as much as we want without judgment.
After it’s over, we feel guilty and angry with ourselves and the negative thoughts creep in. This leads to deeper depression and stress and more emotional eating- a negative cycle.
It can be important for us to sit with our pain and acknowledge it- recognize what it is telling us- instead of trying to numb ourselves with food.
Emotional eating is a difficult disorder to overcome- it often requires professional support or counseling, but there are a couple of strategies that one can try on their own. Employing these two strategies can be the first steps in overcoming emotional and binge eating and to help you get to a healthier, happier place.
- Do not eat in front of the TV- ever. Food and TV do not mix. Eating in front of the TV almost always leads to overeating. When you are distracted by what’s on TV, you can’t monitor what you are eating or fully enjoy what you are eating. Your brain might not have registered that you just had a satisfying bowl of ice cream, so you have another. Commercials can also trigger cravings and drive us to eat more than we want- and within a few minutes, you might have eaten all five servings contained within that one bag of chips.
- Eat within full view of others. Try it- what if you only ate food while you were in front of other people? Would you eat the same way? Would you eat as much? If you live alone, this could be tricky. Instead- serve yourself one plate of your food- put away the rest, and eat at the table without distractions focusing just on the food in front of you while practicing mindfulness.
Above all, know that feeling stressed, depressed, and lonely are important feelings to feel. Don’t ignore them- think about the messages they are telling you, make note of how you’re feeling and the circumstances. These are necessary feelings too. They help us grow, to find our paths, and to achieve strength- they should not be hidden, ignored, and should not cause shame.
Photo: Los Liones Trail, Los Angeles, CA