When Emotional Eating Feels Like The Answer… Take A Bite Out of Loneliness Instead

By Jacki Monaco on 02/20/2014
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Jacki and friends

Jacki and friends

Loneliness and Emotional Eating

Why I get a little lonely:

1. Work Space Bubble: I currently work for an entrepreneur in her home along with one other employee. This lack of social interaction can lead to loneliness and contributes to the familiar reflex of “hand into lunch bag to retrieve snack” because…

Loneliness + Food = A Little Less Lonely

If you’d asked me who my best friends were during my darkest binging hours, I could have truthfully introduced them as Frozen Chicken Patty, Angel Hair Spaghetti, and Large Cheese Pizza. But, I wouldn’t have. They were my secret.

2. Scheduling My Love Life: My boyfriend and I have drastically different schedules. His workday begins right around when mine is ending. There’s no feeling of “Yay! It’s time to go home and cook, eat, and hang out together” when the clock strikes five. My nights feel very long as I strain to stay to up for my reward – my hour of social time with my person.

3. New In Town: So I’ve lived in California for over two years, but friendships are hard to create and even harder to hold onto when you’re not in school and you don’t have a wardrobe of co-workers to try on for size. The good news is that I’m now on the hunt for groups of people with whom I have something in common – be it emotional eating, anxiety, or good old arts and crafts. I’m ready to bond over anything… bring it on!

Food Over Friends

While I’ve always been an anxious pain in my own ass, I used to be a lot more social than I am now, but I have never truly recovered from years of choosing food over friends. People were terrifying when I was binging on the regular.

Even though I share my stories openly and freely over the internet – we all know the difference. Here, I can hide safely behind my ancient MacBook. In person, you’d see my body and right then and there 50% of my self-confidence would crawl beneath my rib cage, rattling my bones and yanking on my fear strings. (This percentage used to be higher…so…progress!)

Why Do We Think Food Is The Ultimate Friend?

  • It can’t talk back
  • It won’t betray us
  • It won’t break plans last minute
  • It’s always available (and my favorite binging foods were usually affordable)
  • It nourishes us physically and psychologically

Why Food Is FAR From The Ultimate Friend

  • It may not be able to talk back, but it can’t talk at all. Food can make me smile, but it can’t tell a joke and it can’t make me laugh.
  • It may not betray us and tell the world our emotional eating secrets, but it encourages us to betray our own physical cues and our underlying emotional upsets.
  • I once counted my Strategic Binges as actual plans and I would get just as excited as I once got for a night out on the town, but I was left with zero memories (I would numb myself in its presence), a heavy heart, and an uncomfortable body.
  • Availability – You know how when you start dating someone, the more available they are – the less exciting and mysterious they can become? I often wonder why the formula has never been the same with my relationship with food… It’s been hard to reconnect with the idea that “just because it’s there doesn’t mean I need, doesn’t mean I even really want it, and it doesn’t mean it’s going to fix anything” (Unless I’m actually hungry. Then food can truly do its job).
  • Affordability – As far as affordability is concerned, of course large quantities of cheap processed foods are more affordable than quality edibles… but does any kind of food actually fill the void we are trying to fill? Or does it just fill our tummies?
  • Food does nourish us – that is its primary job – but at one point the nourishment turns to discomfort. While food doesn’t have a mind of its own and can’t actively try to hurt us, we can easily give it the power to do so. And a real friend would never take advantage of that power.

Let’s Take A Bite…

…out of loneliness. What can we ultimately do to separate the extra space and time from the overwhelmingly convincing idea that food can fill them both? This is one of those times when I’m going to hit the electronic gong and we are going to sit in silence in the Blogosphere and reflect.

Why the hell are we so lonely, when the hell did it start, and what the hell used to fill that space and time before food won the comfort race?

Me, personally…I like to write. Clearly. Look at me rambling on. Sometimes, writing (as my favorite pastime) feels like too much work when I’m lonely. It feels like more “me” time and I’ve about had it up to HERE with “me” time.  Don’t get me wrong, personal time and self care are extremely important, but one can only take so many doses of “self” in a single day. Then again, loneliness doesn’t have to be about filling the void with another person (or other people), just like it doesn’t have to be about filling it with food.

Maybe you want a shot of social in your day or maybe you’re looking to become your own best friend again and tying the BFF knot with something to do, not someone to do it with. Loneliness is up for interpretation and it feels all kinds of ways to all kinds of people. With a little reflection, a pinch of imagination, and a dash of brainstorming, we can each take a bite out of our loneliness as we search to replace food with something that really makes us feel as incredible and unique as we truly are.

8 Responses (Add Yours)

  • Dhiraj says:

    Amazing blog. Very useful & informative. Please keep going.

    • Jace says:

      Dhiraj,

      Thank you so much for reading this blog and for taking the time to write that beautiful comment.

      Jace

  • Erin says:

    Love this…I was just talking about the tie between loneliness and emotional eating in class yesterday and you capture the essence of this connection so well…I will be referring participants to this blog! Thank you…

    • Jace says:

      Hi Erin,

      Thank you so much for reading and for commenting. How wonderful that this blog corresponded with your class. I love when “learning” and “life” meet outside of the classroom. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment and it would be absolutely wonderful if you felt inspired to refer others to this blog!

      Jace

  • John Monaco says:

    As Usual… Your writngs “Blow Me Away” !!!! Luv Ya :) Dad

  • Kathy says:

    Sitting here in the middle of the night. Still overfull from a big dinner but eating two bags of something I don’t even like. Twice the weight that would be healthy for me. Sixty five years old and beginning to have the more serious consequences from a lifetime of overeating. Knowing that I have been self soothing with food for a lifetime. The tears came when I found your site. You helped me to see that loneliness is my key. That word is coming alive for me now as I am tracing it back through all of my years, back to my very birth. I’m looking forward to reading more of your writings. Thank you.

  • Jace says:

    Hi Kathy,

    Thank you so much reading and sharing your words with us. I am so familiar with “eating two bags of something I don’t even like.” That phrase really resonated with me. What an incredible step you are taking by tracing back the roots of your loneliness. Figuring out the “why”, when it comes to eating, is such a difficult but eye-opening and wonderful experience, as it takes a lot of important self-assessment. Thank you again for sharing this with our readers and with me. I hope you continue to look to this site for support and understanding.

    Jace

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