So just exactly what is it that you are seeking as you eat that next bowl of pasta, that next ice cream sundae, that next peanut bar, that next piece of cheesecake? Do you really think you will get that fulfillment, for lack of a better word, out of something you put in your mouth? The sad fact is you most likely won’t. Other, non-eating, behaviors are the ones that will scratch that itch.
Is it just a bad habit, this eating and seeking something beyond nourishment that we’ve learned from this rush rush society, in which no one seems to have any time to connect?
So often we seem to eat for entertainment, or enjoyment, or even boredom. We eat, even stuff ourselves, when we aren’t truly hungry, but looking, searching for something to calm that longing. Maybe it’s time to investigate that longing, or desire. What is lacking in your life and what are you filling with food that could be more appropriately filled by something else? Do you have any sense of that? Does that speak to you, or simply fall on deaf ears? For some of you, nothing is lacking and you are not eating for emotional reasons. For others, you are, and are not even in tune with it yet. Still others, and you know who you are, you’ve been eating for emotional reasons for years, with full knowledge of this behavior.
Your boyfriend breaks up with you, and you hit the grocery store, and by three kinds of ice cream, 3 kinds of cookies and comfort food for an army. You then go home, with the concrete plan to assuage your feelings of abandonment by eating cookies and ice cream. Or perhaps you got passed over at your job, and you know the person who got promoted is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Again, you seek solace in food. Likewise, you are fighting with a sibling, or a good friend, and can’t even figure out how the damn thing started. Food is your friend, waiting to provide comfort, as long as you seek it. The house you really wanted to buy after four years of searching got purchased right out from underneath you. Food is there. You’re pregnant after five years of trying. A celebration with your spouse at your favorite restaraunt sounds perfect. You are sales person of the year in your division, and a trip to the Bahamas with your spouse is your reward, complete with reservations at a five star hotel, with fine dining included.
Food is used to provide comfort when you are sad, anxious, distressed, or angry. Food is something you can control in a way you can’t control other life events. But it’s complicated, because it’s also used to celebrate in joyous occasions. Food is used in every culture, on the planet, as part of our rituals. Food plays a role in engagement parties, weddings, graduations, baby showers, sweet sixteen parties, birthday parties, retirement parties, Christmas parties, Hannukah parties, and Thanksgiving. The list goes on! We never cease to find reasons to celebrate. Eating occasions are everywhere!
So what type of emotional reasons do you eat for? Try to be specific. Can you remember a specific time when you ate, or overate, or consumed foods you wouldn’t have, had you not felt overwrought with emotion? What emotions seem to be triggers for you? Are there several, or just two, or three. Again, the more specific you can be about it, the better handle you’ll have on it, and the more likely you’ll be to be able to watch out for those behaviors to rear their ugly heads, under particular circumstances.
This investigative work could really help you out. You are changing your eating regimen, and when life hands you something you really have to grapple with, you need to know exactly where your Achilles’ heel is. If you know your weakness, you can set a plan in place to handle any obstacle, so you don’t get weigh laid from your new eating lifestyle. Preparation really helps perseverance!
For those of you still having trouble grasping this, let’s look at it from another vantage point. Do any emotions cause you to actually lose your appetite? We are all individual and different things affect us in different ways. For one person, the thought of a feared object, say spiders, or maybe flying, could cause them to first blanch, and then completely lose their appetite. For someone else, it could be some vulgar talk at the table. Just simply not for them. Their appetite is gone for the time being, and their meal spoiled. Given enough time, and the right circumstances, their appetite will resume, to be sure. For another person, illness or the change of season could bring on poor appetite. For me, the one sure fire way I will lose my appetite is when I first fall in love. Food just tastes how I imagine cardboard would taste. No flavor whatsoever and absolutely not of any interest to me! I literally have to get away from the person to eat, and sleep, so I won’t get sick! Go figure! But this is the flip side of eating for emotional reasons. It kind of conveys the picture in a sneaky way, for those who aren’t quite in tune with eating for emotional reasons.
If this has still all alluded you, please watch yourself, and your eating, with specific plans to notice what seems to precede episodes of overeating, or eating the wrong foods. Then specifically ask yourself, “Was I feeling sad?” Lonely? Distressed? Anxious? Angry? Bored? Fatigued? These questions will hopefully give you some insights, as to how you are using food, and what you hope to accomplish, by eating various foods. As you notice connections, please keep tabs in writing, so you can review it overtime.
Did you know that some people eat specific foods to put themselves in a specific state? They will eat pasta, or something heavy to calm down, and sugary foods to temporarily pep themselves up? Do you do this? Are you sure? Please watch your behavior, and record it over the course of the next month, to look for clues to ascertain whether you too use food in such a fashion.
Don’t forget that next forkful is unlikely to satisfy your deep seated desires. Working with a health coach may help you ferret out what would create more balance and less longing in your life. For the time being, I hope these clues will prove to be helpful to you, as you embark on your journey to solve what motivates your eating!
Lisa J Lafave, PhD, MBA, ACC, BCC
CEO & Founder of Coaching Rocks, LCC
The Wellness Coach at Building Better Bodies Rocks
A Single Mom By Choice Raising Surrogacy Twin Boys
Written in My Little Brick in University Heights, Ohio
Leap Into Action!