I don’t know about any of you but on Tuesday night, in the midst of my anxiety about the unknown, I resorted to stress eating. Crackers, chocolate chips, and dried mango were my foods of choice. And here’s the thing: in the past I would have hated myself for doing it. I would have negotiated with myself for “one more” of this or that, and then would have ended up having five more. I would have eaten until I felt sick, and then possibly even eaten some more. But on Tuesday night I approached the situation differently than I would have done in the past in a couple of ways and the end result was a less guilt-ridden, overfull self.
I thought this would be a timely post because not only are some of us still feeling very stressed and anxious about what is to come, but we are also entering a time of year (holiday season) when old habits show up, when emotional buttons get pushed, and when we often lose track of our own self-care. So if stress eating and/or “eating your feelings” tend to be a fall back for you, maybe hearing how I handled it differently this time will help.
- I was honest with myself. I actually said out loud to myself and my husband, “I am going to stress eat.” I wanted to be up front with myself about where this craving was coming from (stress) and then honest about the fact that I was allowing myself to succumb to the desire to stuff my face.
- I stayed in tune with my body’s queues. Even if I was going to eat, I wanted to be able to check in with my body about how full I was feeling and also what I truly desired.
- I paced myself. In the past, when I stress ate and lied to myself about what I was doing, I would stuff the food in, almost like someone was going to take it away from me. This time I took my time and actually enjoyed the food I was eating.
- I didn’t set limits, but did stop when I was full. I think this was actually the key to the success of my stress eating (if there is such a thing as success in this context, but that’s a topic for another post) on Tuesday night. I didn’t make any deals with myself. I told myself that it was ok to eat until I was done and I helped myself to stay attuned to my mind and body’s needs by taking small amounts at a time and leaving the bag in the kitchen. This helped me to slow it down, stay tuned in to myself, and stop when I was satisfied.
- I drank lots of water. I made sure that I had a big glass of water next to me the whole time. This helped me to stay hydrated and fill my stomach a bit with water as well.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for stress eating. In the long term, eating our feelings is never going to take care of the underlying problems that we may need to face. But if we are being honest, there are going to be times in our lives when stress eating is just going to happen and sometimes we need to honor that need to eat. But if we do it mindfully, then maybe, just maybe, there won’t be regret and self-loathing on the other side.