I totally planned to post about something else this evening, but this came up and I want to talk about it.
What I want to talk about today is emotional eating. I know eating mindfully is an important part of a maintaining a healthy relationship with food. We’re supposed to eat when we’re hungry, stop when we’re satified and find productive ways to deal with the rest of our negative emotions.
But where does comfort food and emotional eating come into the picture? Is it something that should be considered “all bad”? Is it accptable to reach for a block of chocolate when we’re feeling sad, stressed, angry or just in need of a pick me up? If you crave something to eat – not because you’re actually hungry but because you crave the enjoyment that comes with partaking of that particular treat, is it wrong to indulge?
The reason I’m asking all these quiestions is not because I’ve formulated an opinion on the matter, but because I have a confession to make. I emotionally ate today. I just found out my little brother has a severe case of pnemounia, I am taking my drivers exam soon, and there are a bunch of things piling up that left me feeling stressed and pressured at dinner time.
After eating dinner I was craving something sweet. Usually a cracker, banana, and some nut butter fill that craving, but since I’m down to my last bit of nut butter and am saving it for tomorrows breakfast I didn’t want to eat it. So I settled for some cereal with almond and yogurt. that worked great till I put some honey in it, and had to trash the last bit because it tasted so bad. But after eating I STILL wanted something so I had a cracker and cottage cheese. After that I had a little voice at the back of my head telling me to stop eating, but I STILL was craving something. So I had another 1.2 cup cereal with almond and yogurt and figs. Then the guilt set in because I realized that I was emotionally eating as opposed to trying to satify my hunger. I was trying to relieve my stress, worries about my brother, and the pressure of all the other things I still had to do by eating.
For most people this wouldn’t be SUCH a big deal, but seeing as I have suffered from an ED in the past, this was extremely hard for me to cope with. I kept beating myself up, thinking I was being a little piggy and overeating because I was feeling worried and stressed. Eating disorders are all about control and this was so “uncontrolled” that it scarred the heck out of me.
Now that I’ve calmed down a little I realize it is not such a big deal. I mean one cup of cereal with yogurt, almonds and a chopped up fig won’t kill me. But I am wondering if what I did was so wrong? Ok, for me personally eating does not do anything to calm my negative emotions, but what about the people that it does? My mom for instance eats a block of chocolate whenever she’s feeling really irritable and 5 times out of 6 it works. So is it really such bad thing?
I know boredom eating/nibbling is generally very discouraged on healthy living blogs and I’ve read some post when people beat themselves up over eating “too many evening snacks” or “eating although they weren’t really hungry”. So I’m wondering if there is a discretionary allowance for eating simply for pleasure or other emotional reasons (a.k.a comfort eating) in a healthy lifestyle? Is there a balance to be found in not only eating for the sheer, biological necessity of it, but for the emotional satisfaction and feeling of well being it give us?
Please feel free to share your thoughts, because I want to hear your opinions on the matter.