Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Overeating and stress

When we are experiencing any stressor, our whole being reacts. Emotions surface and we flood with feelings. We may feel scared at times -- unsafe, helpless, furious, overwhelmed, or sad, to name just a few possible stressful feelings. Sometimes we become depressed or anxious and do not understand why.

As human beings we act and react. Part of us tries to suppress or deny our uncomfortable feelings while another part of us is reacting to situations all around us. There is no one right way to react or to feel in any given situation. When we are experiencing emotions, some that we understand and some that we may not understand, the end result is that we are in distress. So many triggers cause stress and we often turn to unhealthy, old patterns in search of relief. We may seek food for comfort. So many of us do!

This is natural, so please don’t beat yourself up if you have indulged in some extra goodies lately. We learn at a tender age that sugars and carbohydrates will take away our pain. These substances mask themselves as our friends. They urge us to take care of our uncomfortable feelings by stuffing our bellies with creamy pastas, pastries and chocolate. The hard part is that they deliver what they promise. These foods help us in the short term to stuff our feelings deep inside where we don’t have to deal with them.

When the effects of our “anesthetics” wear off, our physical bodies scream for MORE and our emotional selves (which haven’t yet recognized and experienced our emotions) join the chorus and demand more “treats” to continue keeping feelings at bay, soothing emotional eating. Some of us may seek alcohol, sex, gambling or drugs to avoid the complex emotions of everyday life. We Chew Tamer’s may be more likely to prowl the bakery aisle at the grocery store or to use any combination of escape mechanisms.

Remember, your feelings exist for a reason. Each feeling is telling you something. Each is bringing you valuable information about what’s going on around and within you. Listen. Experience your feelings and let yourself feel every high and low that life brings your way. No one ever said that life meant experiencing only pleasant emotions. In fact, we need the difficult ones to appreciate the joyous ones.

If you do choose (and it is a choice, though it may not feel like one at the time) to soothe yourself with food, please don’t beat yourself up when you are done. That NEVER helps! None of us can walk our paths perfectly at all times. We are all human and we all make less than self-loving choices at times. Move beyond the urge to punish yourself. Recall, as mentioned in The Taming of the Chew that there are no mistakes, only lessons. Be as gentle as possible with yourself.

And remind yourself that life flies by. It is a blink of time. Amidst the stress and turmoil, tap into the peace and quiet strength within yourself. Bypass unhealthy choices as often as you can and don’t beat yourself if occasionally you can’t. I also suggest the Bach Emotional Eating Support Kit to help you stay in control, learnthe lessons contained in your mistakes and foster appreciation of your body.

Most importantly, appreciate each moment of this exciting, emotional, and sometimes turbulent journey!

warmest wishes, Dr. Denise

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