Two weeks ago, me, my husband and a group of friends wasted $600 on a fancy dinner in Chicago. First off, don’t ever go to even a high-end steakhouse and expect to get a decent vegan meal. My plate of grilled peppers, onions and mushrooms was gross – I don’t even like peppers and onions. But it wasn’t a waste of money because the food was bad, it was a waste because six people chose to spend that much money on FOOD as their entertainment; it was so obvious they were trying to fill a void. It’s not a void I need to fill. I don’t need to eat 2,000 calories in one meal to feel satisfied, it makes me feel disgusting. Not because of all the calories but because of the bill. These people inhaled their dinners like heroin addicts shooting up because that was their entertainment for the night. I would rather spend $100 on a concert than at a restaurant. When I got in the car, I told my husband we are never spending that much money at a restaurant ever again
I’m not an emotional eater, but I know people that will plow through a tub of ice cream in one sitting because of how they’re feeling. I eat when I’m bored. I hate being bored. For me, its an awful feeling that I want to avoid. Eating gives me something to do. Now, I know I could go watch a movie or play with my kids. Instead, I make the choice to snack – again, I know I’m going to pay for it.
A client might come to me with a Ben & Jerry’s addiction. I tell them, ask yourself why you need to go there. What kind of emotional thoughts are going on behind that decision and can we approach it in a different way? Instead of trying to talk someone out of it, I try to figure out why they’re doing it.
Some people will eat because they’re lonely, because they had a bad day, or someone broke their heart. There are a million reasons around the emotion of depression that they use food like it’s an anti-anxiety drug, and their favorite comfort food makes them feel better. But, what is your thought process when you’re going for that ice cream?
Here are some tips that I hope will help you deal with your anxiety without reaching for the Ben & Jerry’s.
1. Stop Being Afraid of Your Feelings
IT’S OKAY TO HAVE FEELINGS!! Are you trying to bury your feelings in sugar, salt or fat? Put the spoon and the container of frosting down and be honest with yourself about what’s driving you to eat. Because the truth is that all the sugar and fat in the world is not going to make the problems go away. Sure, that first rush of endorphins in anticipation of how good that chocolate or pizza is going to taste feels awesome. The flavor or the texture have your seratonin shooting all over the place and you are in Heaven. But then the frosting container is empty and you realize that you just ate 2,000 calories in one sitting. Twenty minutes later, the sugar buzz wears off and now not only are you dealing with whatever sadness drove you to the frosting in the first place, you’re also dealing with a crash and all of your happy hormones are used up. Now, you don’t even have the energy to deal with what’s bugging you and it will only be there when you wake up from your food coma. It’s okay to cry, to feel sad, angry, hurt. Don’t run away from these feelings because they will only catch you later. Let yourself feel them. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel later when you do.
2. Shift Your Perspective
The fact is that things that are stressful are stressful because you say they are. Every time you give in to the tendency to panic, freak out, or give any event the energy of negativity, that is exactly how it’s going to be for you. You need to disrupt the behavior of reaching for food everytime you’re sad or angry. Find different, better ways to deal with how you’re feeling.
Feeling lonely and heading for the fridge? Get conscious about that auto-response and try something else. Pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t spoken to for a while. Body achy? Take a bath. Do something to make yourself feel better. Stop yourself before you reach the pantry and ask why you’re about to pig out, then find something else to do that will take your attention off food.
3. Move Your Body
A thirty minute brisk walk is not going to taste as good as that pizza or chocolate you’re craving, but it will start firing off brain chemicals that will make you feel better. Walk around the block, do a few yoga poses, heck… take out the mop or vacuum clean a room for thirty minutes! If after thirty minutes, you still need oral satisfaction, have a candy bar, or a slice of pizza. At least you’ll have burnt off some calories and gotten your metabolism up first.
Whatever you are feeling that has you reaching for comfort in the bottom of an ice cream tub or a potato chip bag is still going to be there when there’s no more food left.
The only way your problems are going to get resolved is to face them and figure out how to fix them. Give yourself permission to feel how you’re feeling, find an activity that makes you feel good and give your mind a break for a little bit. You’ll find your head is clearer, you are calmer, and good decisions will come.
I’ve just given you three tips for how to stop using food as an anxiety drug. Have you taught yourself to do something else besides eat? Share in the comments below.
Hayley Hobson is an author, speaker, business coach, yogi, Pilates instructor, and holistic nutritional expert based in Boulder, CO. Her unique and intelligent style promotes strengthening while softening—empowering her clients to heal not only their physical bodies but their hearts and minds as well. To learn more about her nutritional courses, events, and custom programs, visit hayleyhobson.com or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.