Chocolate-Covered Anxiety: Notes on Emotional Eating

Ah blregh! I’ve done it again! I’m not actually craving sweets or feeling hungry. I'm trying to wash away my feelings with a sugar rush.

I eat my feelings. Why do I do this? Is it a distraction? Comfort? I’m reading this book that encourages me to develop my ‘inner-mother.’ It tells me to practice self-love and provides me with gentle boosts to get me back on track to a healthy lifestyle.

As I become aware of my inner mother, I’m starting to realize that she might be the sassy one from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. “Oh, Toula — eat something, please!”

All day I do great: no sugar, low carbs, and I feel fine. I feel great. I’m proud of myself, I feel healthy and in control. I’m rocketing around getting stuff done, being a nice person, coming up with great ideas. Suddenly, things start to go downhill. Maybe there are mice in the shed again; a negative comment on a blog post I wrote; perhaps a diminutive whiner or a computer crash — and I instinctively run for the cupboards.

It’s not until I’m contemplating what sinfully delicious treat I’ll consume that I realize what’s going on. Ah blregh! I’ve done it again! I’m not actually craving sweets or feeling hungry. I’m just feeling feels, and it’s uncomfortable.

I’m trying to wash away my feelings with a sugar rush.

Feelings. They’re such a nuisance. How can I rocket around getting stuff done with all these feelings in the way? If I just eat them, they melt away with the hormones, and I can move on.

I don’t want to sit and have feels about how that editor never called me back, so I’ll help myself to a nice, hot, rejection-stuffed cinnamon bun; maybe another.

Do I want to go to that emotional place when I don’t get this kid’s rash under control? No, I don’t. Thank goodness for this box of chocolate-covered anxiety. A few more bites, and I’m subdued, calm and numb enough to move on.

Remember those Vulcan guys from Star Trek? They knew the value of suppressed emotions. Like Spock, you’re so much more brilliant and useful when you don’t emote all over the place.

Suffice it to say, emotional consumption is a special talent of mine. Once I became aware of it, I realized it was everywhere. Celebratory eating after the kids go to bed was actually about preventing myself from sitting in silence and feeling how the day went — even if it went great!

Don’t get me wrong. Though I love health stuff, I am not a health nut, even in my ideal image of myself. I want to eat food, think about food, share food, talk about food, look at food, make food, try food. All the foods. I don’t really need that to change. It’s me. I’m OK being me.

What I want is to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I’d like to be able to consistently feel and acknowledge my feelings. Then I can send them on their way instead of stuffing them back down with butter. They always come back stronger anyway — a jelly-filled Feelings Monster disguised as some other trivial matter.

So before I indulge in a pint of Peanut Butter Deadline Crunch, I’ll just sit a minute here and check in with myself. Writing works for me. I have an ugly notebook for my feelings, where I write my stream of consciousness and determine what I actually think and feel. That helps.

You will find what works for you. In a culture where expressing your strong feelings (negative or positive) is frowned upon, you have to find your own rebel outlet. Food is good, but it is not an outlet. It’s an inlet. Find a way to absorb what you’re feelings need you to know, and then let them go.

I’m not seeking perfection. I will still eat my share of chocolate-covered anxiety, but I will also experience the anxiety-release of allowing myself the anxiety in the first place. That’s what a good inner-mother would do.

Need to feel some feels and send them on their way? Try letting go while you do:

  • Crazy living-room dancing
  • Writing
  • Yoga
  • Painting
  • Knitting
  • Woodworking
  • Drumming
  • Singing
  • Walking alone in the woods
  • Sitting in a dark room with a sad song on the radio
  • Building a fire
  • Gregorian chant
  • Going for a run
  • Doing a Soul Collage
  • Bellydancing
  • Talking it out with (at) someone who promises to listen only — no feedback
  • Crying to your mom

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