Self-soothing without food

For my post this week, I thought I would share some wise words from Susan Albers, PsyD, author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food. This is a terrific little book that’s easy to read and has lots of (well, 50) things you can do to replace emotional- and stress-eating with activities that have more long-lasting calming effects. Many of the techniques are rooted in the age old Buddhist concept of “mindfulness” (non-judgmental awareness of the present moment and all feelings and senses related to that moment). Other techniques are rooted in cognitive-behavioral therapy (changing your thoughts in order to change your emotions). Still others are simply about increasing your social support, a topic which I explored in last week’s post.

So here are a few words from 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food: “Many eating problems aren’t really about food. They are about self-soothing. Self-soothing techniques are methods to calm and relax your body and mind, as well as soothe your nerves. They are the actions you take every day to calm yourself down. The absence of self-soothing techniques is why many diet books help people only up to a certain point. Too often, they don’t help their readers lose weight in the first place. Then if the weight is lost, they don’t tell their readers how to keep it off over the long term. Diet books address only what you eat. They guide you to make nutritional changes. But far too often they don’t cover the reason why you consume too much food…” (Albers, p.4)

“Many people have been taught very ineffective ways to self-soothe from an early age. These ways are mainly about finding an escape parachute to avoid whatever is bothering you. The message is distract yourself, focus on things that feel good, or entertain yourself. Typically, self-soothing means turning to food, TV, gambling, alcohol, work, the Internet, or drugs. For a short time, these activities can take the edge off feeling stressed. In the long run, however, they are temporary solutions that actually can become the problem, even an addiction…” (Albers, p. 5)

“The fifty soothing techniques in this book are grouped into five major skill areas: mindfulness techniques, strategies to change your thoughts, strategies to calm your body, finding distractions, and gaining support.” (Albers, p. 10)

If you haven’t found some self-soothing techniques that work for you, I encourage you to check out this book. The whole idea of self-soothing is relevant to our topic of disordered eating in older adults. The worries over living alone or contemplating living alone, the frustration of increased physical limitations, and the transition into a stage of life where one potentially has more unstructured time each day all lead to frazzled nerves and a need to self-soothe. Check out this book for ways to self-soothe without food.

Peace, joy, and health!

–Megan

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