I've been thinking a lot about emotional eating lately. There's no doubt that for me, food is a major part of all things important in my life. It plays a role in every celebration, every ritual, every trauma, and every drama. I know I'm not the only one who lives this way. What is it about food and all things associated that lead us into uncontrollable, emotional eating?
The past week has been a little tough on me, and often I've caught myself eating things I know aren't healthy. And it's not really funny how the eating only complicates an already complicated situation. I eat because I feel too upset, and then I'm upset because I'm eating too much. I'm trying to put my finger on why but there seem to be so many answers surfacing that it gets confusing to think about it. And good god, all that thinking and confusion just makes me want to eat! I asked a few of my friends and my mom what they think the reasons behind emotional eating are, and I got some pretty interesting answers.
Friend One: Food has become so ingrained in social settings that when we are alone, we eat to not to feel so alone. Food can fill you emotionally just as it does physically. Food can be a friend. It is a known fact that eating favorite foods produces serotonin (the brain's "feel-good" chemical). Eating just makes you feel good, at least for the time-being.
Friend Two: When we were kids, our parents used to reward us with food treats when we did something good. If the report card was good, Mom made our favorite meal. If we won the soccer game, we were treated to pizza or ice cream. Lots of happy childhood memories are associate with food, so it's no surprise that when something good happens as adults, we celebrate with it still.
Mom: For her, food was often associated with upsetting or difficult memories. When she was a child, her dad used to pick dinnertime as his favorite time to come down on her. She was also forced to eat food that she didn't like, and clean her plate entirely. She now recognizes that this may be the reason why she often doesn't eat, even when she is hungry. Or why she sometimes over eats her favorites...after so long of being forced to eat foods she hated, she overcompensates on the goodies.
All of these reasons make perfect sense to me, and I know I'm probably dealing with a little of everything. My childhood was pretty happy. My parents did reward me with treats but never made me eat things I hated (I only had to try). Dinnertime was always fun and interactive with my family. I guess this all explains why I do a lot of celebration and social eating. But when I'm upset and give into my every food whim, I'm not sure what to chalk that up to. I do know that the excuse I tend to use to anyone within listening distance is that I'm having a bad day, and I just need it. I deserve it. I always talk about good health being its own reward, but taking that bit of wisdom to heart is another story. I talk the talk, but definitely don't always walk the walk. Maybe the best way to start 2011 would be to take a deeper look at my personal reasons for emotional eating. The answers may be the missing piece to my success, and if nothing else has worked thus far, I may have no choice but to step outside of the box and face the tough stuff head-on
Published On: December 26, 2010