Stress is dysregulated emotion and using food to cope is just a form of emotional eating.
Anxiety, depression, despair and shame are all different ways of saying stress. Stress can be anything that puts a load on our bodies and nervous systems. When we feel overwhelmed with stress we often look for ways to cope with it since it feels like it’s too much to handle. One of the ways we do that is with food.
In the same way an alcoholic reaches for a drink at the end of the day to “take the edge off,” a person who uses food will sit in front of the TV with a box of cookies and a bowl of ice cream to do the same.
Taking the edge off really just means reducing the feeling of being anxious or calming down somewhat.
Taking Apart the Stress
Where does it come from? Most people lead busy lives and think that the stress they feel is the result of taking on too much or being in a position where they have to do multiple things in a day.
So logically they’ll be tense for most of it and the result is stress. Being busy and having lots to do can be stressful and add to the tension and worry people feel, but it’s usually not the source of their stress.
The source is generally their latent anxiety. The part of their psyche that they either ignore or are unaware of and as a result is now manifesting itself in the form of being anxious and stressed.
Most people aren’t aware of their emotions and that usually makes the whole situation worse because avoiding your anxiety is the best way to increase it. There are 2 things that increase anxiety and one of them as mentioned is to ignore it, and the other is an authentic, stressful situation. An example of one would be telling your anti social neighbors to turn their music down when they are in their worst mood, or finding out your roof is in need of repair and you don’t have the money.
For most of us it’s the former that wreaks havoc with our lives, ignoring or simply being unaware of it. It has been that way for so long that it becomes something we’re used to and feel is completely normal.
In fact we can’t even see it until it either becomes too painful or disruptive in our lives. It’s only at that point we seek help.
How Food Helps
We get through our day and are feeling depressed or just plain overwhelmed. We get comfortable and reach for that plate of date squares and pretzels and proceed to soothe ourself with our “drug.”
As the food goes down so does our level of tension as we slip into that feeling of relief. Looking at that scene from the outside shows that it’s very much like an addict getting their fix.
The intense need before the food, the greediness in consuming it and then the release that comes afterwards. Of course, like any drug, the positive effects only last a short while and then the stress comes right back and along with it are the hangover effects – feeling full, tired, uncomfortable.
Overeating doesn’t feel that good in general so why do we use it to cope? Because for a short time we get a break from the anxiety and stress which is unrelenting and so we’ll do anything to get away from it, even if it has a cost.
Overcoming the use of Food to Cope
As we’ve seen above, using food is very much like using a narcotic to control our stress. You’ve probably already heard that to control emotional eating you need to get to the root and work on that.
Easy enough to tell people but what does that mean?
It means that it’s going to take some time because it’s not really a food and weight issue. It’s an emotional one and they don’t resolve that quickly. They take small, consistent efforts over time and gradually you see change and relief. You’ll find you no longer need to take your food or whatever else you use to cope.
[Check out the free guide on the main page of this website for a detailed explanation on how to do that.]
You can’t beat this using willpower or any trick. What happens is that after applying the work everyday, even if it’s just 5 minutes, you start to feel like you don’t need as much of the food as you used to.
It’s automatic and requires no effort on your part (the not needing food.) The work requires some though and there are people who are put off by the time frame of the process but it’s worth it.
Not only does it help with the food issue, it changes almost every part of your life from your sleeping to your work, relationships and more.
It’s the best investment you’ll make and the sooner you start the better.
THE EATING LOVE GUIDE (FREE)
The Eating Love Guide has helped many people regain control of their eating patterns, resulting not only in weight loss but also better health and improved self-esteem. To read it online, click here.