Coping with the challenges of life can be really tough. But you know what makes it even harder? Our society equates coping with being dismissive of feelings. Part of what makes us human is our ability to feel emotions, but our culture tells us there’s something wrong with our emotions:
- Angry? You have an anger management problem.
- Sad? You must be depressed. Take an anti-depressant.
- Anxious? There’s a pill for that, too.
- Scared? Be strong! Fight! Don’t give in to fear!
No wonder so many of us often have difficulty recognizing that emotions, needs, desires and reactions are part of being human, not a defect. Keep in mind:
A feeling is a reaction to a situation, not a reflection of your character.
When you have a tough time processing uncomfortable or intolerable feelings, because the mere existence of those feelings is viewed as weak, bad or wrong, you might turn to (or from) food as a way of dealing with those feelings.
As counterintuitive as it may sound, the only way to get rid of feelings is to actually feel them. First, you have to identify what you’re feeling. Here are three feelings that can be problematic:
#1 ANGER: Annoyance, frustration, rage and fury are all derivatives of anger. It helps to make a gauge of what you’re feeling. On a scale of 1-10, what’s a 10? Rage? Fury? What’s a 2? Frustration? Annoyance?
If you don’t gauge feelings, every emotion seems like a 10. Everything feels like too much. And if your feelings are overwhelming, you’re more vulnerable to turning to food for relief.
Here are some questions to help you pinpoint why you avoid anger.
I don’t like getting angry because:
I’m afraid to feel angry because it reminds me of:
#2 SADNESS: Gloomy, unhappy, glum, hurt, dejected, depressed, grieving, are forms of sadness.
I don’t like feeling sad because:
I’m afraid to feel sad because it reminds me of:
#3 HAPPINESS: You may be thinking, "What’s difficult about being happy? Happiness is a good thing. All I want is to be happy!" People are often nervous to be happy, afraid the rug is going to be pulled out from under them. They don’t let themselves get too happy because they’re afraid they’ll lose that good feeling, so they sabotage themselves.
Also, food is associated with celebration and reward. We commemorate birthdays, achievements and transitions food and allow ourselves a “treat” for a job well done. If food is associated with special celebrations, it’s difficult not to eat or overeat on those occasions.
I’ll know when I’m happy when:
If I let myself be happy, then:
When you can identify, gauge, and process a range of emotions, won’t need food to escape, numb or distract yourself from those feelings.
And that's how you make peace with food!
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