People who don't eat their feelings

…What do you do with them?

I’m losing weight. I’ve already started losing, but I’ve decided that being left to my own devices as far as food choice goes is not getting me any closer to my goal of using food as fuel and not as, well, a pacifier I suppose.

To this end, I have used to build a weekly menu designed to meet my nutritional needs, stretch out my skinny jeans and push the needle on my scales back a few notches. Go me! I’m excited about this development and the fun officially starts on Sunday as grocery shopping happens Saturday afternoon.

As the day draws closer though, I’m getting a bit more anxious about no longer eating by whim or because I’m “hungry”. I’m anxious about checking off the items on my food plan and realizing that I’m still unsatisfied. But beyond all of that, I’m terrified of having an emotional break as a result of my no longer knowing WTF to do with my feelings. I mean, literally since I can remember, I’ve taken ice cream over crying, Oreo’s over losing my shit at a co-worker or boss, chicken wings over spending any amount of time feeling lost, hopeless, unhappy, bored, or sad.

Past attempts to cut my food intake have resulted in crying at what seems like the drop of a hat, or an increased interest in gambling and/or shopping, which are habits I don’t wish to pick up as a replacement for this one.

I quit smoking two years, one week ago so I won’t be able to turn to cigarettes this time around either.

So tell me, always-thin and newly-thin people, what do you do with your feelings? If you have a shit day at work, get bad news about a family member, lose a pet, get in an argument with your SO, feel a bit blue or (deep sapphire blue) how do you cope?

I literally have no idea what to do with myself when these moments hit (and they will). So far, I’ve decided that going for a short walk and/or drinking water might be good replacements.

Any other suggestions?

I hate to seem obvious, but I think if what you describe is real, then you need to find other ways to deal with your feelings. Rather than burying them with food (or with alcohol or drugs or gambling or shopping or…), you could learn to deal with them.

Therapy is a long, tough, expensive road, and will only work if you are motivated. But it sounds like you are a prime candidate.

Full disclosure: I have been fat, and I have had therapy, and I still sometimes indulge in food for non-nutritional reasons, but not enough to cause me to be fat again. I can’t guarantee that my problem with stuffing my feelings with food was as severe as yours.

Good luck,

I have to say (as an always-thin) that it’s never occurred to me to ‘eat my feelings,’ as you put it. I will occasionally celebrate with food, as in, ‘yay! finished big project! time for ice cream!,’ but this is relatively rare. Back when I was in school, I found that I snacked more frequently when studying, mostly because my brain went through an unconscious process of being so unbearably bored by, say, chemistry notes, that it would shuffle through the list of ‘acceptable excuses’ and pull one out (‘Ah! I must be hungry!’), just to stop having to think about the dull things anymore. (I also ended up taking a lot of bathroom breaks for the same reason.) I don’t think either really qualifies as emotional eating.

When I’m upset, I tend to start by setting it aside and do something distracting. Distraction is best in two opposite situations - I’m so upset that I can’t even talk about it rationally now, or I’m upset but realize that it’s ultimately a small issue that will bother me less when I’m not quite so wound up about it. Sometimes the distracting thing is practical (eg cook something/clean something/catch up on my email), but more often it’s a pleasant, unrelated activity like reading or playing a small game online. If it’s a conflict with a person, discussing the problem with him/her after I’ve taken the time to cool down is the best way to go. Talking my problems out with an uninvolved close friend or family member can be very helpful, in many ways: it lets me vent, helps me clarify for myself what the issue is, lets me feel as though I’m not alone, and lets me get advice from an outside party. This tends to be best for more long-term issues, or relatively big ones, rather than an irritating but ultimately brief spat with my husband.

If I am very sad or upset, and not in a professional situation, crying is an acceptable (and sometimes unavoidable) way to deal with serious emotional pain. If you get bad news about a family member, or lose a pet, I don’t think that crying is a bad way to give some sort of outlet to your grief and pain.

I hesitate to say this (not wanting to seem patronizing as someone who has never had eating issues), but it seems like your problem isn’t really eating, it’s learning how to manage and live with unpleasant feelings. I agree with Roderick that therapy might be helpful in doing so.

I’m a thin person who doesn’t eat her feelings, but I’ve had a roommate who did. My roommate had a hard time with her weight as a result and I sympathize with you. I think it’s great that you’re looking to other options.

I’m a anxious person by nature and I’ve found that exercise really helped me out tremendously. A run around the neighborhood really helps use up my excess endorphins and calm my mind. Yoga also helps me relax both physically and mentally. You don’t have to run a mile or do hardcore yoga - I think I end up walking more than I run and for yoga, I tend to stick to the beginner DVDs. The exercise is like a release valve for all of my anxieties and problems. I always feel more relieved afterwards. What’s funny is that I find I run better when I’m super anxious - maybe it’s the endorphins?

The guys I know use video games as an outlet for their issues. Something about testosterone and pretending to kill people seems to make them feel better.

Something that took me a long while to figure out: Ignoring my feelings was not the same as handling them. Really. I honestly had this confused in my head for the longest time.

It’s ok to feel upset about something that is upsetting. If you can’t be upset right then for some reason, then push it aside for a bit, but it is perfectly ok to be upset later. Gripe and complain and rage at the sky. Commiserate with someone/thing you trust (a good friend, facebook, your ficus, whatever). After a bit, you’ll run out of energy and your thoughts will naturally turn towards reasonable steps you can take to avoid the upsetting situation (for those things under your control). As you go on, your thoughts will turn back to that upsetting thing again, and you’ll be upset all over again, and get wore out again, but it’ll be less of an upheaval and the return to not-upset will be faster. And, gradually, the wound will heal.

And, like others have said, doing something active helps a lot of people when they are feeling depressed or anxious. I find my thoughts don’t leave me when I’m active though, so I end up both pissed and sweaty. I’d rather just be pissed. But, if it’s a choice between pissed+sweaty and pissed+angry at myself for eating a whole ham, I’ll pick sweaty.

I believe that this is sound advice and I did, in fact, see a few therapists awhile back for reasons unrelated to my eating, although we definitely touched on that subject. At one therapists request I even took up OA for awhile, but my tenuous grasp of a higher power made it difficult to relate to people who believe that God keeps them from eating a HoHo but unleashes giant earthquakes on poverty stricken countries on a whim. :rolleyes:

I think that, back then, I just wasn’t really willing to let go of food as a coping mechanism and that made it difficult to get anywhere. I was going through a separation, my son was diagnosed bipolar, the family cat we had 16 years died AND I’d just quit smoking all in the course of about a month and a half. I really felt like I needed to keep something comfortable and familiar.

And while I do admit that my whole life has been pretty food-centric, but I truly believe that sheer ignorance is my biggest stumbling block to putting that aside.

Here’s an example; a couple of years ago I discovered pedicures as a way to pamper myself and I was **shocked **that I could do something for myself that didn’t involve celebratory dinner or dessert. As time went by, I discovered purchasing higher end makeup, treating myself to a cute scarf or giving myself a couple of hours to read a not-work-related book as a reward as well.

If this attempt to structure my eating results in a crash and burn (which I really don’t think it will, but if…) I’m absolutely willing to give therapy another go.

Right now, though, I feel like I’ve taken a strong inventory of my behavior and have made the resolute decision to change it, deliberately and by using structured guidelines, which has done wonders for me in other areas of my life. I’m confident of my ability to succeed, but I’m just a little lost on what to do with the puzzle pieces now that I can’t gnaw off the mismatched ones to make them fit. :wink:

In fairness, I’m down 25ish lbs just from logging my food intake, focusing on having healthy snacks available most of the time and exercising a couple of times a week. My issue is that I spend a LOT of time trying to decide what I should and shouldn’t eat, goofing on my breakfast by eating toast because I forgot to buy eggs and then spending all day hungrier than I need to be because I kicked off the day with carbs, meticulously trying to get the most “bang for my buck” out of my calorie allotment, etc.

Ideally, I’d like food to just be automatic. 3 regular portion controlled meals and a small snack for the 3:30p “How long til dinner!?” slump. It seems very simple, but I find myself feeling a little lost on how to fill up those parts of my day where I would naturally turn to snacking in order to ease boredom, quiet stress, etc.

I don’t feel like this is patronizing at all. In fact, I think you’re absolutely right that sometimes I need to just accept that I’m gonna cry over things and it’s not the end of the world or even a shortcoming to do so.

Additionally, I love your recommendation for distraction while you work through being upset. I definitely know that no good has ever come from me instantly reacting to being upset, I’m just never sure what to do in the meantime. Maybe it’s time to put a few popcap games on my phone or make a concerted effort to bring a good novel to work and make some time to read it on what would have previously been a snack break.

Writing it all out in a free flowing way

Do you do Yoga on a daily basis or just when you’re feeling stressed (I’m guessing you’re not often near your DVD player when you’re stressed, so probably not)? Is it something you like to use to start your day or do you find it’s better to do in the evening to kind of “shake off the day”, as it were?

Running is right out for now, although walking has gotten much easier and more pleasant than it was when I first started, for sure. I’m guessing the endorphin release probably kicks in more when you’re running than walking, so I do look forward to running as I drop more weight. Just don’t want to blow out an already junk knee by putting unnecessary wear and tear on it.

Ah-HA! **That’s **what he’s doing on the Xbox. :smiley:

Buy a ficus… check!

I laughed out loud at this! You definitely put it in perspective for me. Logically, I’d totally rather be pissed at my coworker for being a tool than pissed at my coworker for being a tool AND angry with myself for eating a bunch of junk.

A friend who attends OA said something to me once about eating to deal with stress. “Right now, I only have one problem. If I eat that piece of cake, I will have two problems.” Same concept, totally accurate.

Play games on the PS3 or PC
Read something mindless and entertaining
Watch old episodes of something I love (Rome, West Wing)
Plink on the guitar
Go for a drink (not to the point of getting drunk though, just a couple to unwind)
Buy something nice for myself

I have found that most of these work in times of stress. Sometimes I bake something as well, although that can be problematic if you’re trying to avoid eating, I suppose.

You know, for years I kept an online journal. When my ex-husband and I got together, I stopped writing in it because he was also on my friends list (Ah, internet.) and I didn’t want him to feel put on blast when I was struggling with our relationship. I hadn’t thought much about it until you mentioned this. Writing seems like a great idea.

Exercise, as mentioned upthread, is also definitely on my short list of things to do.

Meditation, however, is just an awful scene for me. I’m never sure what I’m supposed to be doing so my brain just races and tries to plan out the rest of my day and run through various mental checklists until I get annoyed and eventually give up.

If I may ask, what steps do you take to quiet your mind for meditation? Is there music, etc. involved?

Frankly, for the vast majority of us there is absolutely zero connection between food and emotions. I eat because I need to. I certainly enjoy food. Occasionally I might feel hungry if I’m up late on the weekend and it’s been 5 or 6 hours since supper. Food and emotions have never, ever been connected for me. You might as well make a connection between sleeping and … I don’t know, haircuts.

You somehow need to decouple two very disparate biological issues: food and emotions. How you do that is the issue.

Exercise is always option number one if it’s available, for me. An hour of running, or lifting, or playing basketball… it’s fun, it takes my mind off whatever is making me mad or sad, and it leaves me with a nice high for the next hour or three.

After that, or if for some reason I can’t exercise, I go to HazelNutCoffee’s list, pretty much line for line. I think it’s a matter of slipping into something familiar that makes me think (but not too hard) about what I’m doing, and enjoy it while I’m doing it.

(Baking actually used to be another big one for me as well, but that worked a lot better in college when there were roommates to eat the brownies/cookies. Definitely not recommended if you’re the only audience to get rid of the results!)

Personally, I’ve always been the opposite. If I’m really depressed or something, I can’t even think of eating. I feel sick to my stomach even. There have even been times in my life when I was depressed for a while and probably didn’t get a full meal for a month straight - I had to force-feed myself just to make sure that I got something.

In the past, instead of eating my feelings, I let them eat me. Still working on not doing that anymore.

Eating your feelings doesn’t have to involve thousands of calories. A big cup of coffee and a long walk do it for me.

Also try waiting 24 hours. “If I feel the same this time tomorrow I’ll eat my head off.” Chances are you won’t.

I do eat my feelings, so perhaps I shouldn’t be answering this. But the best thing I’ve found to do is to call someone and talk about what’s upsetting me. It’s a way to otherwise occupy my time, and we all know it’s rude to eat when you’re talking on the phone!

Are you sure it’s the “vast majority” that doesn’t? I know I sure as heck do, but I’m not using that as my reasoning (since I’m this way, most people are, too!!!1111). The obesity epidemic running rampant in the US isn’t because of a sudden leap in glandular disorders. :wink: Of course a chunk of it is the more sedentary lives we lead…

However, along with sedentary lives, we have our increased workaholic attitudes, both parents often working, less time for fun, more stress, yadda yadda. I think a lot of people are using food as a coping or stress relieving mechanism. It’s more common now because we actually have an abundance of food and it’s easy to get (unlike decades and centuries ago).

Personally, I think a lot of the root causes of overeating are psychological and if more people dealt with it that way, there’d be a far higher long term weight loss success rate than there currently is (it’s around 5%).

I used to drink to cover up my feelings instead of dealing with them. I learned that instead of this, I have to actually FEEL my feelings. I cry, I get angry, I am hurt, but I sit down and feel what my brain wants me to feel and then I work through it. A combination of not feeling my feelings and drinking them away led to panic attacks as well. Once I started to allow myself to deal, the panic attacks started going away and I was able to stop drinking.

I learned to distract myself. I am sure the same tactic would work when it comes to food. I exercise almost daily and I have a lot of hobbies. I generally don’t watch a lot of TV either. I just do something else.

You fill them up in the same way you filled all the gaps in your day that you used to spend smoking–one at a time and with whatever activity you have until you don’t notice those gaps any more. When you first quite smoking, you didn’t just get up the next morning and have not smoking just be automatic right off the bat, right? If you’re like most people, you spent a whole lot of time consciously thinking about smoking–how much you want to do it, why you shouldn’t do it, how you are NOT going to pick up that cigarette, yadda yadda yadda until you were just thoroughly sick of the whole damn thing. But eventually, you found yourself having those mental conversations with yourself a lot less frequently as your new habits became more ingrained, until not smoking was just automatic for you.

That’s how it’s probably going to be with this. It’s how changing just about any habit goes, really. There’s no cure for something not being automatic yet except tincture of time.

Hi malky malk. I don’t have any advice or anecdotes, I just wanted to say you rock, and I know you can do this, and you are beautiful. :slight_smile: