Emotional eating

In a recent post, Shari asked us how we stave off emotional eating.  As a 17th-degree rainbow-belt Master of Emotional Eating (which means I’ve done it a lot and have also kicked its ass a lot), I had a big ol’ long answer that I thought was better as a post, so I re-routed it here.

While the answer discusses children, having kids of your own is not required to put it into practice:  any child that you know and love works well, spouse is okay but they are usually independent enough that it doesn’t carry the same weight in your mind.  A younger sibling might work or even imagining that you have a chance to teach your younger self.

I have a hard answer that sounds all righteous or something, and SO isn’t, but honest to God, it’s the thing that works best for me (when something works):

Never do to yourself what you would never do to your child — because they learn how to be from watching you.

(This applies to soooo much more than food. In fact, I’d say nothing has changed my behavior in my life more than this single statement.)   So if you don’t want your child to be an emotional eater, you can’t be one; you have to force yourself to do something else when faced with it.  There are two paths to take.   In the beginning, the first one is slow and deliberate, as you teach yourself the habit.

Path #1 – Figure it out.
A.  What are you feeling?  Anxious, afraid, frustrated, angry, stressed, sad, etc.
B.  Why are you feeling this way?  Car won’t run, money is tight, the injustice of life, etc.
C.  What can be done about B.?  Get it fixed (again), buy meat only in family packs this month, not a dang thing, etc.
D.  Make a plan for C.   (This part may come later, after you’ve conquered the feeling, or right away as the way to conquer the feeling – depends on the issue and the person.)   If the planning is to come later, you’ll probably need to proceed to path #2 now.   If you are in a situation where you can’t stop and take the time to work through path #1, then take a quick second to figure out A and B, if possible, and then go with #2, coming back to #1 later when you can.  (This sounds like a bathroom lesson…)

Path #2
How would I want my child to work through this feeling?   This question automatically negates eating and basically anything else bad for you and can usually adjust your mindset frighteningly quickly.   Warning, the first couple of times you ask yourself this question, you’ll be terrified because you won’t have an answer.  That’s okay.  Just try to figure something out pretty quickly if your child is with you.  If you have small kids, I highly recommend lying down on the floor, putting the kiddo on your feet and doing the “airplane” thing.   It’s almost impossible to feel anything but joy when giving an airplane to a small chid.  😉  My kid is older, so we will do something physical like take a walk, chase each other around the house (silly is good), or something that needs to be done around the house — a sense of accomplishment, even for a ‘menial’ task, puts me in a better place to then stop and deal with my feelings.   If I’m by myself, I’ve been known to do something aerobic, blog (for those times when I can’t jump up and down), write something scathing that I save as a draft and will probably never post but at least I’ve gotten the feelings OUT, clean house (again, sense of accomplishment).   The important part is to go back to path #1 to make sure that you recognize your feelings and why you’re feeling that way and then figure out a plan to deal with the situation and/or your feelings about it if you can’t do something about it right away.  Again, it’s a habit you’re trying to build, so it takes time and practice and practice and practice.

And to not buy oatmeal cream pies.   Because if it’s right there, it’s like waving raw meat in front of a lion – eventually, you’re going to eat it!

(Years of therapy, by the way, for the process, but the original statement was from life coach, Martha Beck.)


5 Responses to Emotional eating

  1. Laura says:

    Hah. I’m emotionally eating RIGHT NOW, but since I’ve only eaten 250 calories yet today, and I’m having rice crackers with cream cheese (so, not like, a whole tub of ice cream) I figure I can afford it today. My A? I’m in a HORRIBLE mood. I mean, so much so that I’m kinda glad Calvin isn’t home right now. My B? PMS UP THE WAZOO, BABY. My C? Not a damn thing (forgot the Midol at the store when I went this morning, grrr…). My D? See the aforementioned emotional eating.

    Good timing, you has it.

    • dyskinesia says:

      PMS is the only time that you should punch something to deal with your stress (See TB’s comment on Kim’s post, uh, someplace — I’m terrible with keeping post titles straight!), because with PMS, violence is ALWAYS the answer!!! (Ummm, j/k? heh)

      Nah, with PMS, you have to just try to think of something you can do FOR yourself that is NICE. For example, Oreos are n.o.t. nice.

      Saying screw this, I’m taking a 10-minute break to go sit in the arboretum/cafeteria/whatever and read a passage of my favorite book and I just damn well might take 3 or 4 of these breaks today — that’s being nice to yourself. 🙂 Cut a flower and take it to work to sit on your desk. Smell it when you’re stressing. Go Blip something cheesy and listen to it 3 times in a row. These are your projects for work tomorrow. 😀

      At home, I have 2 words that go with PMS and they are: foot rub – and not the kind you give yourself! Around the ankles (ovaries) and I think around the ball of the foot is the uterus (don’t quote me on that one, but helped me — hmm, especially with nausea, so maybe that’s gastric).

      Be good to you. And don’t damn starve yourself or your body will start hoarding its fat cells, girl!

  2. Kimmothy says:

    What a GREAT friggin’ post!
    And just because I’m kidless, I can still apply a lot of those things to myself. Doing something productive goes a long way – afterwards you get the reward of feeling good and righteous instead of shitty and guilty.
    As for the kid thing – another thing I’ve noticed, especially around girl children (most of my kid experience has been with my best friend’s daughter), you really have to watch what you say when it comes to your weight and how you feel about it. I was shocked to hear her say “I’m so fat” when she was nine years old. I love my best friend to death, but she has always complained about her weight in front of her daughter and it rubbed off.

    • dyskinesia says:

      Thanks! 🙂 Yep, and that righteous feeling does double-duty because you have the added bonus of knowing that you thumbed your nose at the voice in your head that told you to suck down an entire bag of Frito Lay!

      Ugh, I can never, never express how glad I am that I did not have a daughter. It would have been too much pressure for me to bear, and I would have felt personally responsible for every bad thought she ever had about her body. I can honestly say that my mom didn’t really do that to me, which is kind of surprising because she was one skinny chick and I was a pretty big girl from the day I was born (maybe that’s why she didn’t harp on it).

      I’ve been honest with my son about my weight (another post forthcoming on that one), but it may be that his dad needs to talk to him about things in a different way than I do because he knows his dad works out and lift weights — and we have talked about that being an avenue to being big and strong so it is probably time to bring that back into the frame of ‘activity for health.’ I’m really glad you brought up that point because it’s a VERY important one!

  3. Shari says:

    Great reminder to be mindful for their sake, even when we feel like reacting out of habit. Especially with young girls, we need to keep their heads on straight from a young age, because there are so many sources out there ready and waiting to tell them that they are “not good enough.” We are all fabulous, no matter what weight we are!

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