This is for when you feel out of control around food. Stress kicks in, you’re hangry, it can be anything. What matters most is that you give yourself grace.
This week, I had a couple of stress-eating episodes. And a couple of times where I felt out of control around food. I could give you some reasons why I think it happened. Stress was one of them. A weekend without much of a schedule. Going too long in between meals because I was studying and kept thinking, “just a couple more minutes.” I’m not a “perfect” intuitive eater, in any way, shape or form. (Surprise, surprise, right? Not.) That’s because it’s a learning experience.
And while I didn’t let a few less-than-stellar days send me backwards into a downward spiral of food guilt or shame, it still wasn’t ideal. Or pleasant. But looking back with that lovely 20-20 hindsight vision, it allowed me to break down what was going on. And what to do moving forward.
When you feel out of control around food, maybe think through/do some of these things, if they’re helpful to you.
First, pause take a deep breath. Or five or ten. Remember that emotional eating is okay. You don’t want it to be your only coping mechanism, of course. But it doesn’t make you a bad person. Nor will does it automatically make you an unhealthy person. We eat for emotional reasons all the time, but we tend not to notice it until we eat mass quantities of peanut butter, followed by a whole bar of dark chocolate in one sitting (speaking from recent experience–like, as in, last week). So deep breaths.
If you’re in the middle of it, recognize it, then ask yourself if you want to continue. Name it. Not to shame yourself. Recognition is the first step to making a decision about where to go next. I’m pretty sure I learned this from a podcast with Isabel Foxen Duke, but I can’t remember which one. With my chocolate bar/peanut butter example from last week, I stopped. Recognized that I was stress-eating. Asked myself if I wanted to keep stress-eating. It’s up to you–maybe you do want to finish off the pint of ice cream anyways. Or maybe your body says, no, we’re good.
Figure out what’s going on. To keep going with my chocolate example, I didn’t stop to get to the bottom of things until the whole bar was gone. If that’s you too, it’s okay. The important thing is that you think through things at some point, because it will help you figure out what you really need. Maybe you’re stressed. Sad. Whatever the case is, think of your emotional eating experience as an indicator that you’re feeling something and need something. What can you do to fill that need? And it might be that food is really something you need in that moment. For me, I was stressed out about school. I was homesick. And I also probably didn’t have a big enough lunch/should have eaten a snack. Take it as a learning experience.
Don’t beat yourself up about it. This is a huge one. When I find myself stress-eating and my response is, “I can’t believe I’m doing this!”, my following choices tend not to be ones that add more stress instead of take away from my existing stress. Don’t let an instance of when you feel out of control around food dictate your thoughts and actions in a negative way. Just as acting on bad body image thoughts will only cause you to spiral down following up a stress-eating episode with shaming yourself or vowing to have more self-control will only set you up for another uncomfortable experience.
Trust your body. Even if you feel uncomfortably full, know that you will use up that energy and you will be hungry again. After I demolished that peanut butter and chocolate (and that was right after lunch), I thought my stomach was going to feel blech for the rest of the day. But it didn’t. And I was hungry for dinner. I’ll admit, I was surprised. But I still ate. Because I knew that if I tried to ignore my hunger, 1. I’d be miserable, and 2. I would only be setting myself up for more feeling out of control. So eat when you’re hungry.
And above all, when you feel out of control around food, give yourself grace. Instead of telling yourself, “um, girl, no more chocolate for half a million years”, tell yourself you have permission to eat. Also tell yourself that something’s up, and that you’re going to figure out what that is and do what you can to take care of yourself.
And never hesitate to reach out for help, or support, or a “hey, I’ve been there too”! If you don’t have a local food-freedom-cheerleader, I’m only an email or DM away!
We’re in this together.
Linking up for Thinking out Loud!