Monday, December 14, 2009

from Dr. Denise, Emotional Eating Expert: We eat to medicate ourselves

We sometimes eat to anesthetize uncomfortable feelings. This is emotional eating. Change is a part of life and it is generally accompanied by many feelings. Some may be pleasant, some not, but all feelings are valid and necessary. If we pay attention to our cravings and urges to eat we can use our experiences with food as barometers that give us valuable information about our feelings. For example if we crave crunchy foods that allow us to use our jaws powerfully, we might be angry. If we seek creamy, soothing foods, such as ice cream or puddings, we might be lonely or sad and seeking consolation.

If we notice what we are feeling and then pay attention to these feelings they will give us valuable information about the choices we are making and the experiences we are having. Often, however, we fail to pay attention to these urges and act on them instead. When we fail to attend to our feelings and deny or suppress them instead we set ourselves up to binge. Food provides a way of medicating ourselves so we will not feel difficult feelings and many of us learned how effective this is long ago. If we feel anxious, tense, depressed, bored or scared, for example, we might head for the kitchen to sedate ourselves with sugars, fats and carbohydrates. If we feel angry, we might stuff ourselves to keep a lid on things. This often works in the short term but, in the long run, we still have to deal with the situations that provoked these feelings. The longer we wait to deal with difficult situations, the harder they are to confront.

Our feelings are to be honored and valued – not numbed with food or other substances. There are healthier ways to cope with life situations and to deal with distressing feelings. There are other ways – ways that are far more effective and satisfying. For the moment, it is enough just to realize that our feelings are interwoven with our eating behaviors and that we don’t need to use food to manage our feelings.

No comments: