*So Many Emotions, So Many Things To Eat (Or Not Eat)*
As a dietitian working in the hospital, I meet a lot of different people and hear a lot of different stories. I get consulted to see people for many different reasons, but one of these reasons is for unintentional weight loss and decreased appetite. Some people understand that a dietitian is there to talk about more topics than just what’s on the menu for today. And then there are some that want to ramble off their lunch order (there is always the jokester who says that they would like a steak and a baked potato and I give them a courteous laugh and continue with the real reason that I am in there to see them).
I hear A LOT of stories you guys. I mean, I think anyone who works in the medical or health field and works with patients hear a lot of stories because everyone has a story and for some reason, in desperate and vulnerable places, these stories tend to come out.
For me, it usually starts with one simple question: "Have you lost weight recently?”
Sometimes that is all I need to ask to get people to open up and share their story (and sometimes overshare their story). Some have simple but tragic answers to why they have had weight changes, such as “I have been going through chemotherapy,” “I have Crohn's and had part of my stomach removed,” or “I had a heart attack a couple of months ago and have been trying to eat right and lose weight.”
Then there are some whose answers are more emotionally driven and yet still very tragic. I hear from my patients about a husband, wife, or child who has passed away recently and they have been so upset that they have not been able to eat. I’ve also heard from those who are so financially unstable that they can’t afford to feed themselves because they have to make sure that their children eat first. I had one woman tell me about how she was sexually, physically, and verbally abused all her life that it had led her to an eating disorder that she is still recovering from. Then, I had a lady tell me about how she had lost weight after getting out of prison after serving fourteen years for a crime that she was wrongfully accused of and was found not guilty on the day they were planning to execute her (I mean I wasn’t lying when I said I hear crazy stories and I swear I don’t ask many question that lead them to tell me their stories).
There is a common denominator in my field that gets people talking about their problems, their deepest emotions, and their stories that have shaped them into the broken and lost state that they are in. That one thing is food.
Our emotions and our relationship with food are so closely connected that I guess you could say food tends to own us and control us when it should be the other way around, shouldn’t it? For some of us, we tend to overeat when we are stressed, unhappy, hurting, or hiding from something. For others, we tend to stop eating because of the exact same reasons. Either way, if we are under-eating or overeating, we are letting our emotions and our relationship with food control us.
What if we stopped being emotional eaters (or non-eaters)? What if we stopped letting food control us? Or better yet, what if we stopped letting our emotions control our food???
I know it is not always that simple and it is definitely not easy. Emotions are powerful and food is our comfort and something we can control when nothing else seems to want to go our way.
Let’s break this emotional eating cycle. Here are some quick tips and steps to take that may help you break the chains that food has on you!
It is important to be mindful when it comes to eating and your emotions. I encourage my patients and clients who struggle with emotional eating to use a notebook to write down what they are feeling when they are hungry. Is there anything underlying such as stress from work or a relationship that could be fueling this need for food? Being aware of your emotions can help to take control of them and the power that they have over food. Sometimes the best way to be aware is to write it down on paper.
Find A New Therapy
Try to find something else to take your stress out on. Pick up a new hobby, take a yoga class, or go for a run...just do something else besides eating or thinking about eating.
Phone A Friend
Friends are definitely our biggest lifelines aren’t they? I don’t know what I would do without mine. Maybe instead of opening up the fridge for the third time in thirty minutes, call up your friend and catch up. Take your mind off of the stress that is causing you to overeat and focus on building your friendships. For those of you who may turn to not eating at all when you are stressed, maybe calling up your friend and going to eat with them will help you to relax and enjoy food more (or just remind you that you need to eat).
Loving yourself means taking care of yourself. You wouldn’t starve your friend, husband, or child; or shove mountainous amounts of food in their mouths, would you? I mean I would hope not. If you love that person, you are going to treat him/her well, giving them the tools and encouragement to care for themselves. Treat your body the way you treat your loved ones. Give it the daily love that it deserves.
I am just going to end with this quote right here...
“and I said to my body, softly. ‘I want to be your friend.’ it took a long breath and replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this’” -Nayyirah Waheed