I don’t think I have ever met anyone who hasn’t used some type of substance to “take the edge off”. Whether it’s having a glass of wine the size of a human head, smoking a joint or several, or eating comfort foods until you fall asleep in a food coma, we all are likely to have used some type mechanism to escape the pain of the moment. Indulging in any of these behaviors on very rare occasions may not hurt if all else is done in a healthy way, but we start down a slippery slope when we use substances to dull the emotion we aren’t allowing ourselves to feel.
Pain is awful, and chronic pain whether it’s physical or emotional, is almost unbearable at times. When we lose a loved one or we discover our body is betraying us by developing a disease or disorder that will alter our lives forever in a significant way, or we find a loved one is betraying our trust and love, it’s hard to look that pain in the eye and confront it head on. But the alternative to that is to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms that only temporarily mask the pain but they don’t address the underlying grief that will rear its ugly head at the most inopportune times. Trust me, that has been my story more times than I care to count.
So what do we do to deal with such strong emotion that we are terrified to confront? Certainly numbing the pain is a temporary bandaid but eventually that pain will bleed through and no amount of chocolate will stop the hemorrhage of emotion that is bound to flow forth.
Because nutrition and lifestyle is my jam (see how cool I can be?) I’ll focus here on emotional eating rather than the abuse of other substances. You don’t need to be completely distraught to use food as a numbing agent. You might be responding to a particularly stressful situation that is temporary but still nerve-wracking. You may also use food as a celebration or a reward more often than you should.
When you turn to food for comfort, you may temporarily feel better because the rush of dopamine that floods your brain from eating something that tastes good. But that good feeling is fleeting and soon you will feel worse than you did before eating it. Going back for more food, you will likely discover that you need more and more to regain that false feeling of well-being you found when you first started down the path of eating comfort food. And you haven’t addressed the underlying problem that caused you to eat the food in the first place. By avoiding the problem, you cause yourself more stress and anxiety and then it piles on because you feel badly about eating the food that you just consumed. It becomes a downward spiral into the abyss of overeating/feeling guilty/feeling sick/ getting more anxious/eating more and so on. This is when we find ourselves in trouble.
If you find yourself in a situation where you want to make questionable food choices, here are some strategies to help you through:
These are a few strategies to use to replace emotional eating. Most of my clients find themselves in this situation at some times in their lives. I help them to develop the healthy coping skills to make better choices in their responses to stressful life events. You can’t avoid the stress but you can control how you respond to it. Take control today.
Are you dreading the holidays, knowing that you won’t be able to wear the same clothes on New Years that you wore at the beginning of the feeding frenzy we call the holiday season? Are you worried that you might undo all the good you have done recently for your health? Do you think you might go off the rails with your food choices? Do the holidays get really stressful and cause you to make food choices that may not be very healthy?
If any of the above scares you, I can help you get through the next two months with my Healthy Holidays program. And you won’t even have to leave the comfort of your home.
I am offering SPECIAL PRICING until THURSDAY 11/14 for anyone who signs up by then. The regular price of this program is $297 but until 11/7, the price is only $247…that’s a $50 savings!
If you would like to have a free consultation about the Healthy Holidays program, click here to schedule a no strings attached call.