Emotional Eating: Asking The Scary Questions

By Mary on 10/14/2009
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Emotional eating is a hard habit to examine and change.  Many of us who struggle with it have developed the behavior for just that reason: we don’t want to examine anything.  We do it to cope with things we don’t want to think or feel.  Coping with the ‘real problems’ in our lives sometimes seems too overwhelming; so  distracting ourselves with worries about food and our weight can seem easier.

Something I’ve learned at Green Mountain is that ignoring the real issue doesn’t help.  Turning to food hasn’t gotten me very far and I don’t know anyone who has solved their problems by eating.  Food is not the issue, nor is it the solution.  It only creates more stress and delays solving the real problems.  So instead of reaching for some chocolate when my emotions get the best of me, I’ve been learning how to relax and deal with stress in other ways.  For instance, to manage stress you can try physical activity like walks and dancing, taking a relaxing bubble bath, listening to calming music, reading a chapter or two of a good book, taking a nap, or meditating for a few minutes.

Also, I’ve learned how to asked the scary questions:  What am I feeling?  What do I really need?  Do I need support?

So often eating took the place of asking those questions because I didn’t want to feel what I was feeling.  As women we often think we shouldn’t feel the way we do or we don’t deserve to take time out to think about how we feel.  But getting to the root of those problem feelings by asking these self-nurturing questions is important to help stop emotional eating.

It is hard to admit when you feel things that aren’t fun.  Stress, pain, sadness, loneliness… These feelings are not pleasant to feel nor will they be helped by food.  Once the realization that food won’t help sinks in, it is easier to look for real solutions to problems and feelings.  I’m finally starting to catch myself going through the process, finding out what I’m feeling and really need instead of seeking out food.

Are you tuned into what you really need, or do you often reach for food just because that’s what you’re used to doing?

12 Responses (Add Yours)

  • Marsha says:

    Another great post, Mary. Those three questions are so important. If we can remember to slow down and think instead of automatically reacting, we find we can make much more supportive decisions about what we want to do at any moment. Of course, that’s what mindfulness is all about.

  • Amy says:

    Great to be reminder of this. I never want to deal with “issues” I am so not that type of person but I have been since GM and it is very helpful.

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Marsha Hudnall and GreenMtnFoxRun, Merry Mary. Merry Mary said: My new blog post on Emotional Eating: Asking The Scary Questions http://bit.ly/Apjne [...]

  • Lori says:

    I’ve always been an emotional eater, and I think a lot of my “emotions” stems from feeling lonely of when I’m stressed. It’s hard not to think that I “deserve” to eat badly, b/c I’ve had a bad day or to connect food with feelings. It’s something that I’ve had to work on a lot, and I’ve tried to replace exercising with food. Sometimes it works, other times not so much! lol But I guess it’s a balance overall.

  • FLG says:

    I really like this post. I’m not a woman, but I did pretty much the same thing, turning to food instead of dealing with problems. But for me, aside from admitting there were other thoughts and feelings at play rather than just my want for food, I also had to find a reason for me to feel like putting effort into dealing with those thoughts and feelings. I had to find a reason that I was worth looking after myself, that I deserved to live a full life, and that was pretty hard.
    .-= FLG’s last blog post..Forever Spicy =-.

  • Gina says:

    Great post. I used to have a lot of problems with emotional eating, but it was the other way around (Anorexia). I’ve obviously over eaten plenty of times, and many of those times have been due to reasons other than hunger (clearly emotional). Now that I have become true with myself and who I am, I live a much happier and healthy life. I really enjoyed reading this post.
    .-= Gina’s last blog post..Crazy POM and Some Sweet Indulgences =-.

  • Hopeful says:

    Wow. I think G-d is telling me something today. I’m reading all these posts about emotional eating. Thank you for this. It just reenforces that I’m treating myself right this week. Thank you thank you thank you!
    .-= Hopeful’s last blog post..No Catchy Title Tonight =-.

  • Mindfulness is a great word. I try to be aware and mindful of how I’m feeling, how food is nurturing me, and how it sometimes can make me feel uncomfortable if I’m not mindful. No one is perfect, but just having this awareness is a big thing in itself!
    .-= Nutrition to kitchen’s last blog post..Provence Salad =-.

  • [...] yeah, check out my post Emotional Eating: Asking the Scary Questions at A Weight Lifted.  I think it’s a pretty good post and explains a lot of my process for [...]

  • Cindy says:

    I really enjoy your posts, Mary. Even though I work at GM, it’s very easy to forget the wonderful things that are shared here each and every day. It’s great to be reminded each week of all the valuable lessons and insights. I think a catch 22 for some of us is when we believe we’re ‘fat’ we don’t feel like we deserve the vey things that would otherwise be great sources of reward and enjoyment. Love, meaningful relationships, a spa treatment, a shopping spree – you name it. Getting back in the game of life can be challenging when you feel you are underserving.

    As you say, food doesn’t solve problems or make for a very effective bandaid on whatever’s eating you.

  • Julie says:

    Wonderful post Mary, I think so often busy women get caught up in day to day things that we forget to get in touch and nurture ourselves before caring for everyone and everything else. Thanks for this “food” for thought.

  • merri says:

    Actually, except for a short time of binge eating, I am the exact opposite. I have emotional NOT eating (which at one point led to anorexia). When I get upset, I cant eat (I dunno, sort of like controlling something instead of the thing you cant control). That might seem great at first thought, however, if you think about it, its just as bad or worse (since you are more likely to die from undereating than over probably). Anyways, im much better at it now, and doing a great job at eating for nutrition and enjoyment, which are what food is made for. :) nice post as always!
    .-= merri’s last blog post..lmjwunderland [Flickr] =-.

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