Eating Your Way Through Tough Times

With all the tragic events that have taken place over the past few weeks and months, like me, you may be experiencing a wide range of emotions, from disbelief, sadness and despair to helplessness, anger and anxiety.

You may have also noticed yourself more frequently reaching for a pint of ice cream, bag of chips or box of cookies to alleviate these strong emotions.

This is totally okay.

Eating sometimes for emotional reasons is part of normal eating.

It’s simply an attempt to take care of yourself—a coping strategy when times are tough.

The important thing is to not beat yourself up over it. 

It’s much more helpful to view each experience as an opportunity to learn more about yourself—to expand your self-awareness and cultivate more wisdom.

Doing so will help you approach future emotional eating episodes with a greater understanding of your true needs and a larger set of tools for fulfilling them.

Pause and Reflect
When you find yourself turning to food to regulate uncomfortable emotions, hit pause and ask yourself:

What need am I trying to fulfill with this food?

Maybe it’s comfort, pleasure, relief, distraction or connection.

Once you’ve identified what it is you really need, reflect on what will help you get it.

For example, if you discover what you’re really seeking is connection (not cookies), consider how you can meet this deeper need.

Perhaps it’s talking with a loved one, support group or therapist; playing with your dog; spending time with Mother Nature; volunteering in your community; or engaging with like-minded activists.

Whatever you come up with, add it to your toolbox.

Curiosity and Compassion
Sometimes you won’t know what you truly need until after you’ve brushed the chip crumbs off your shirt or washed the chocolate off your fingers. Keep reflecting; the answer will eventually come to you.

The key is to approach your emotional eating with curiosity and compassion, rather than criticism and judgment.

Doing so will enable you to become more aware of what drives your eating decisions, and empower you to have a different relationship with food—not a perfect one, but a more relaxed, trusting and peaceful one.

Screw It!
Even as you become more attuned to your true needs, you may sometimes say, “screw it!” and choose to emotionally eat. Again, this is totally okay and normal.

When you do make this more conscious choice, let go of any negative self-talk.

You know, that voice in your head that says, “I shouldn’t be doing this. I’m breaking the rules and being bad. I’m must make up for this food sin by working out extra hard and skipping breakfast and lunch tomorrow.”

Instead, squash that voice, sit down, and slowly savor every single bite.