We are a culture that loves our food—we celebrate with it, plan events around it, and just plain enjoy it. Eating is an emotional experience. It can make or break an event. Why? Because it has become part of our culture and is a way we express our gratitude, love, and appreciation of others.
Take weddings for instance. When people talk about a wedding they just attended, the first topic is usually how beautiful the bride is. And the second? How good or bad the food was. Not only do we enjoy when food tastes good, we should enjoy it.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this on any level.
Food as a Coping Method
The problem is when food becomes a way to cope with life—when it becomes your best friend, enemy, shoulder to cry on, reward and punishment. Emotional eating has little to do with food. With emotional eating, what you eat becomes nothing more than a portal for the feelings and emotions that you are attempting to avoid.
Behind emotional eating lies days, weeks, months and sometimes years of avoidance of dealing with issues that consciously, and subconsciously, have caused tremendous distress in your life.
It is like anything else that is used to cope with feelings, stress and life problems in general. Is it a problem to drink a glass of wine with dinner? No. Is it a problem when you drink an excessive amount of wine? Yes. When we start to use unhealthy methods to cope with our problems, there will be consequences for that behavior.
Those who use food to manage their emotions will see noticeable psychological and physiological problems start to emerge. They will not emerge overnight as the consequences of emotional eating are usually gradual and escalate over time.
Most of the time, emotional eating occurs when you are not hungry and often results in an overconsumption of calories. Your body can’t burn off the calories at the pace you are consuming them so all that excess is getting stored rather than burned off. As a result, there are many weight related health problems that can emerge such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
The psychological ramifications can be endless—low self-esteem, selfhatred, self-sabotage, loneliness, fear, poor body image, hopelessness, worthlessness, anger, guilt, shame, anxiety and embarrassment.
Food for Enjoyment
Food is something that we all need to survive but we also have the luxury of enjoying it—the preparation of it, smell, taste, excitement and memories that it produces. The good times that food can bring us should be thoroughly enjoyed and treasured. However, we also need to recognize that for some, food has become a method of not only coping, but punishment.
For those who struggle with food, the process of healing starts with recognizing that food has become a coping skill and gaining awareness as to why this problem started. As you do the work to resolve the underlying issues, you start to return to a place where food can once again—or for the first time—be enjoyed.
Michelle Bybel is a local licensed clinical social worker and certified holistic health coach. She specializes in working with professional women/entrepreneurs who have felt held back in both their professional and personal lives as a result of their struggles with emotional eating. She can be reached at info@ healthymindsetcoaching.com or visit HealthyMindsetCoaching.com or call 888-570-5751.