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The Role Emotions Play In Your Relationship To Food

I was reading an article by Dr. Oz the other day regarding Beating Emotional Eating. I found the points actually quite valuable (which isn’t always the case) and thought it would be important to share them along with my spin on how the same points could apply if you restrict your food intake as is the case for anorexics or bulimics. The original points will be in black and my additions in blue. I would love to hear your thoughts on the tips, so feel free to comment below!

1. If you are eating to deal with stress, what you really need is a mental distraction – anything fun that takes your mind off your worries. In a study that looked at how nurses cope with stress, distraction was an effective method. Instead of relying on food, call a friend or listen to music to get your mind off troubling thoughts.

If you restrict and are struggling to eat on a regular basis (or not purge after eating) I would encourage you to use the art of eating disorder help, emotional eating help and tipsdistraction as well. Sitting down and focusing on the food will likely only leave you feeling anxious and/or overwhelmed, which may make the process seem impossible. Instead, I recommend eating while watching your favorite tv show, or snack while doing household chores. If you are comfortable eating in front of people, have someone over so you can talk the whole time which hopefully will provide the distraction you need to get the food down and have it stay down.

2. If you are eating to feel better emotionally, here’s some good news. You don’t need a lot of comfort food to improve your outlook. Go for quality, not quantity. Research has found that just a bit of chocolate may trigger a release of mood-boosting opioids. And a 2004 study showed that around 2 ounces of chocolate can have a positive affect on food.

Often part of the reason we restrict is to deal with emotions that we’ve convinced ourselves are too difficult to feel. In other words, it is “easier” focusing on our eating disorder and what we aren’t eating than to sit with the emotions that are painful to us. The sad part is that those emotions never go away and restricting usually heightens our emotions and worsens how we physically feel. This is where trying to incorporate even a small amount of food into your diet is a really healthy goal. It doesn’t have to be a whole meal if you aren’t ready for that yet and to begin it can be whatever food you like or feel safe with. Having a few bites of food will actually increase your ability to cope and will physically make you more able to tackle day-to-day life than if you don’t eat at all. If you are really struggling dealing with your emotions, reach out to someone who can help you: life gets better when we process and release the things we are holding in.

3. Finally, beware of food pushers, people who encourage you to try the cookies they baked or have another serving of cake. Turning them down can be difficult, so if a simple “No, thank-you” doesn’t work, ask to take some home instead – where you can decide how much to taste.

We all know that being told to “eat a burger” isn’t the solution to an eating disorder, but neither is giving people tips on how to restrict. Sadly, sometimes people view your eating disorder as a great “diet” and start complementing you on your will power, or how great you look while asking you what your “secret” is. These things only feed your eating disorder and make the process of recovery more challenging. If you have people like this in your life, let them know that this makes things harder for you and that having an eating disorder is really unhealthy and painful and not something that should be encouraged. If you are hesitant to let them know about your eating disorder, then just work consistently to change the subject so that they understand that you aren’t going to engage with them in conversations that are toxic and unhealthy.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • lisa Freedman January 16, 2013, 9:52 pm

    Hi Kaela…I read the article today , and you make some very good points. This may sound strange but something I have had my partner help me with ( also works with friends ) As I am eating and he senses my growing anxiety. I have asked him to say one phrase and this keeps me in the meal….”This is not a choice, you need this food “….So I tell myself that this is not a choice….so I continue with my meal…no matter how long it takes..he tells me I am doing a good job..even though I feel like a failure. He tells me I was successful and I try to believe him.

    • kaela January 16, 2013, 9:59 pm

      Hi Lisa,

      This is an awesome thing to have your partner help you with! Bravo…what a great idea and something I am sure others will find helpful as well. Thanks for posting Lisa!

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