Do You Use Food to Calm the Anxiety of Uncertainty?

They say the future is in our hands...but not always! I have to remind myself this is okay sometimes!

I was reading yesterday’s  post and thinking about reader Yuki’s concerns about using food during a time when she is about to finish high school and the future remains uncertain. Whether it is the pressure of going to school or figuring out where you want to go in the next step of your life, I can totally relate to using food as a way to calm that sense of uncertainty and apprehension.

In fact, much of my history with this kind of stuff began towards the end of my high school experience as I was getting ready to go off to school as well. Looking back, I realize that a lot of it had to do with the looming dread of change, transition and ultimately uncertainty.

It is a very large idea to cope with, especially because it’s not like you can make it go away. You can’t treat uncertainty because it is always going to be there, we can only deal with the way that we react to it. When things are uncertain (hint: the future), it can be a difficult issue to “tackle,” because it is the reality of our everyday lives…pretty much forever.

As I have mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of not feeling out of control of my feelings, and I think that I also just don’t like to feel out of control of most things (yikes!). So naturally, not feeling in control is uncomfortable for me and thus the basis for a large portion of my eating to comfort or cope with this. Even though it doesn’t make logical sense, in those moments, at least I could be in control of something (food, my body), right? Even if it wasn’t always in the most healthy ways, I got to be the “controller” of that stuff.

But again, the difficulty with this is that uncertainty is pervasive and always will be, so the uncertainty doesn’t need to be changed, it’s the way I handle it that does, so that I can deal with it in a better way.

I went to a meditation conference and found something that I often think about to help me deal with my deep dislike for uncertainty and change in the future. The idea is that, “grasping” or attaching to things in life (especially ones we cannot control) is what ultimately leads to suffering, and that if we learn to let go a little of the tight grasp we have on wanting or needing to control everything, things are less difficult to deal with. It takes practice to truly embrace this idea into your everyday thinking, but I often remind myself of this when I can feel myself getting anxious about what lies ahead-which can sometimes lead to me back to old behaviors of using food in a way that isn’t helpful or food for me.

The future is forever going to be uncertain, so if I learn to let go of this need to always feel like I can control it, then I am able to cope and react towards the reality of it in more sane ways and without food!

How do you deal with uncertainty? Do you find that it makes you want to comfort or control things with food? -Morgan

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8 Responses to Do You Use Food to Calm the Anxiety of Uncertainty?

  1. Sunny says:

    Ugh-I hate uncertainty. It’s something that causes a lot of anxiety for me, and it used to definitely show up in my food. I love what you say here Morgan about learning to let go of the tightly grasping and trying to control things in life. Thanks for sharing these insights, Morgan! xo…Sunny

  2. Angie says:

    Hi - This post is so relevant / related to my eating behavior… For me it relates back to the book we are reading. When binging, I’m a ‘nail-biting binger’ that finds myself heading to food whenever I am stressed, panicked, freaked out… When I feel uncertainty (like now as I contemplate/start a huge career change), it is very tricky. I know that change is constant and I cannot avoid it, but yet uncertainty (will this work out…) is very scary. I have tried to embrace the ‘groundlessness’ feeling, but it is something I need to meditate about / work on constantly. Whenever I stop paying attention to the panic feeling (acknowledging it / dealing with it), I find myself binging on anything and everything.

    For today, I need to practice letting go, not controlling, just being. Deep breaths :) Thanks for reminding me about this trigger. I was on my way to a binge when I read this posting. Angie

  3. Heather says:

    I can also relate to the notion of using food as an anchor - as that solid, safe thing in your life - when everything else feels like it’s changing around you, and the world feels like it’s spinning out of control.

    I developed anorexia upon coming to University, and subsequently have been binge eating for the past four or five years pretty much constantly. The issues around food and control, for me, were different yet similar. In my anorexic head, limiting the food gave me something to feel in control of whilst I felt so lost, unhappy and lonely. Now when I binge (and indeed when I overeat more generally), it is often because I already feel out of control, so why bother trying to control my food. I feel like the anxiety justifies me eating to feel better, despite knowing it is likely to have the opposite effect.

    I’m not yet sure how this can be overcome. I am currently trying to instil more positive thoughts whenever these urges overwhelm me, and failing that, try to be present and mindful when I do binge. Despite it making me feel bad sometimes, I also feel proud that at least I’m having the guts to face up to what I’m doing to myself.

  4. CC says:

    Very relevant to how I binge…

    I had to share today- I haven’t binged in 16 days! It feels so much better:)

  5. CC says:

    One day over Easter break, I used an egg kit to decorate some hard boiled eggs and realized how VERY CALMING it was…

    So… I bought a coloring book and am coloring to relax:)

    Sounds crazy for someone who is almost 30, but my therapist loves it “taking care” of myself.

  6. Kate D says:

    Part of me overeats whenever I feel anxious and overwhelmed. I do it because I feel powerless and out of control, but I do have control over food, so I binge/overeat because at least that’s something! I don’t like those feelings of anxiety or not being in control of my environment (part of the reason why I don’t drink or do drugs, I don’t want to lose control over my behavior) so eating numbs those feelings. I never ever thought to look at the root of my anxiety to resolve those issues in a healthy manner. I’m glad I’m going to a therapist who is helping me with my anxiety.

    I really need to think of something to do that is calming. I started a blog simply to have something to do that engages my mind in a healthy positive way.

  7. suzannemoon says:

    Feeling those pesky feelings - it’s all about that. Or avoiding that, for me. I’m just getting started on this in therapy and it seems oh so huge a thing and I feel late in life getting to it at 43. I will just have to chip away at it every day and perhaps put a big enough hole in the wall some day for a little peace to get through. ; )


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