Okay, so today I’m wondering how many people can relate to this scenario: You get some good news and immediately crave a certain kind of food. For me, it’s cakes, muffins, or cookies. (In my book, Getting Out of B.E.D., I mentioned that these things were previously on my “Forbidden Food List”.) If you’re like me, you don’t even hear that internal voice telling you you’re craving a particular food. You just suddenly find yourself walking towards the kitchen, rummaging through the cabinets, or buying something to eat. Has that ever happened to you? Does it happen in response to “bad news” or painful emotions, as well as good news?
For me, eating seems to be my response to any heightened emotion, be it painful or joyful. I notice that it’s only when I feel a sense of calm or inner peace that I don’t feel the urge to eat. While it’s certainly not a problem to eat a snack when you’re feeling low or have a celebratory meal, for some, eating when not hungry can lead to an all-out binge.
This instinct to eat in response to emotional states is still so strong in me! I marvel at its grip on my life. Although I am certainly aware of this knee-jerk reaction, I still (even today) find myself wanting to celebrate life with food or drown out life’s pain with food.
So, what’s the best way to cope with heightened emotion when that’s your internal (seemingly fixed) response? My educated guess is to first, make yourself aware of the emotional state (be it sadness, shame, anger, excitement, joy, etc.) and then, challenge yourself to sit with the emotion, without judging it as good or bad, for a few minutes. Only then, after you’ve sat with the emotion, ask yourself whether you’re truly hungry? Maybe you are. Maybe not. That may sound scary, but I believe it’s possible. In my graduate school work as a counselor-in-training, I’ve seen just how strong humans are and just how much pain we can tolerate (when we have adequate healthy support). Challenge yourself to feel, rather than feed, your emotions just once today.