An incredible amount of eating is triggered by anger, anxiety, depression, happiness, frustration, boredom, fatigue, and other emotional states. Food is a sort of instant fix, a way to dull the pain and make ourselves feel good. Unfortunately, this instant fix can turn into a long-term problem if it’s overdone.
A 26-year-old woman named Jennifer came to see me because she was feeling weak and tired. When I asked her what was going on in her life, she replied, “My daughter died of leukemia, so I’ve been binge-eating, shoving down the equivalent of 3-4 meals at a time. I eat because it feels comforting-Then I realize I ate too much and don’t want to get fat, so I throw up.”
Jennifer’s case was extreme, but she’s not the only one to eat when she’s unhappy. Ann, a 48-year-old woman I hadn’t seen for a couple years, was red-faced when she came to my office. “I’ve gained 50 pounds, Dr. Fox,” she said. “The problem is I feel so alone and unhappy since my divorce. I have this wonderful job in which I get praised all day long. Then I come home to my apartment and my cat. The phone never rings on the weekend. It never rings at all. I just eat and eat; it’s the only thing that gives me satisfaction. It’s also made me 50 pounds heavier.”
We eat when we’re unhappy, and we eat when we’re happy-Weddings, graduations, birthday parties, confirmations, bar mitzvahs, promotions: We celebrate all our important life events and joys by eating. Joy is intimately associated with food.
But now that we’ve discovered the link between eating and emotions, we can plan alternatives. And where an alternative is either impractical or undesirable (after all, a slice of your daughter’s wedding cake is more than a mere snack), you can compensate by taking extra Chitosan.
However, if you find that you’re eating a package of cookies to make yourself feel better when you get angry, anxious, frustrated, or stressed out, try one of the following instead.
♦ Confront the problem or the problem person.
♦ Exercise. Go for a walk or a run, take a dance class, go to the gym and work out.
♦ Try relaxation techniques. Follow along with a relaxation tape, go to a yoga class, get a
massage, meditate, lie down and take a nap.
♦ Forgive the person who has harmed you. Remember that forgiveness is a gift to yourself. If
forgiving someone helps you avoid overeating and damaging your health, it’s a very important
If boredom is the culprit that makes you eat:
♦ Keep your hands busy—clean out a cupboard or do a hands-on project.
♦ Visit a friend.
♦ See a movie.
Remember: Food is for satisfying physical, not emotional, hunger. Next time you get the urge to splurge, ask yourself, “Am I really hungry, or am I trying to make myself feel better for some other reason?”