Weighty Matters

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Emotional Eating

on September 3, 2013

I’m having an emotional day. Nothing specifically happened to cause it, but I’m a little moody and reacting less reasonably to somewhat minor things. Most people would shrug it off and go on. It’s a little more challenging for those who are emotional eaters.

Does that sound as much like whining as I think it does? I typed it, re-read it and all I hear in my head is “Wah wah wah, nanny nanny boo hoo.” Okay, that might just be more evidence of me being moody and out of sorts. Anyway, the thing is that when I’m emotionally off-kilter, I instinctively want to eat. It has nothing to do with physical hunger. Instead, I’m trying to feed another need. It’s like I know that I’m being irrational so I want to squelch it and the reflex behavior for me when I need to squelch is to smother the feelings with food.

I have peanuts in the house and I was just going back to the cabinet for another snack-sized serving when I realized that the action doesn’t really stop the feelings. Instead, it merely gives me something else to do in that moment. I engage in another activity rather than interact with my own emotions. That could sound a little twisted, but what resembles pretzel logic to some makes perfect sense on some level to me.

What really makes perfect sense is substituting some other behavior than eating. By the way, it doesn’t matter if I only took a snack-sized portion. It’s the behavior, the action of choosing to eat compulsively, that causes the problems. There are at least a dozen other things I could do at any given time rather than reach for food. Here’s a preliminary list of alternative behaviors the next time I’m tempted to compulsively eat over my emotions:

Pet a dog (I have two. One is always within reach.)
Do a Tai Chi move, or series of moves, or entire set depending on the strength of the compulsion at the time
Do a few squats, leg lifts, triceps dip or bicep curls
Sing out loud to whatever song is on the radio
Play air drums or air guitar to whatever song is on the radio (Mary trivia: I once broke a finger playing air guitar.)
Walk outside onto the porch and look at the stars (Night time.)
Walk outside and look at the water, count how many different birds I see (Day time.)
Drink a glass of water
Write haiku
Phone a friend
File something (My nails, something from the mountains of unfiled papers in my office, anything!)
Pamper myself in some way – apply cuticle oil, rub scented lotion into my hands
Take a hot bath with a good book

Looking back on the last hour or so, I’m sorry I didn’t think of this list sooner. On the other hand, at least I’ve made it up now so I can call on it if I get another urge between now and bedtime. In fact, after I hit Publish, I’m going to do some Tai Chi and then take a bath. That will put an end to any more emotional eating tonight!

2 responses to “Emotional Eating

  1. Hope says:

    I’m an emotional eater as well. Sometimes I have to stop and tell myself: “don’t try and eat your feelings.” Because it (eating feelings) never works.

  2. Skye says:

    I hear you. The past few days I’ve been engaging in emotional eating, something I haven’t really done in months. And the more I have, the more I want. Yet it doesn’t actually fill the hole I feel. It’s not working, yet I continue the behavior. It makes no sense.

    Your ideas are excellent. I think I’ll make my own list. At least it will feel as if I’ve accomplished something. 🙂

    Good luck to you and I hope tomorrow is easier.

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