Are You Ever Afraid to Start Eating When You Feel Emotional?

I’ve written a lot in the past about eating habits getting out of control when feeling emotional (or trying NOT to feel emotional), but I had an experience last week that was sort of new for me and it made me wonder if any of you have had similar experiences.

I woke up my own worst enemy and I quickly noticed that I was having an extra emotional day (I realized later it was probably largely hormonal, oops!), and knew I had to be careful and on the alert with food stuff. I tried to take some breaths and be gentle with myself, but I was in a bit of an inner-frenzy. I sat down to figure out what I wanted to have for breakfast and then I realized I was in a way sort of afraid to eat because I didn’t want to tip myself over into a binge-like state. Obviously, I didn’t want to set myself up for some behaviors like that, but fear of eating is definitely not good either!

I have in the past been restrictive in my eating (I wouldn’t recommend it!), but never noticed a hesitancy to start eating before the fact very often. It was almost like I was overly aware and knew myself so well that I was defending against my own past patterns and games before they happened-which I supposed is ultimately a good thing. Given my recovery and better understanding of how I work with all of this stuff, I fortunately am aware of what kinds of strong emotions, moods and situations set me up for overeating or negative food/body stuff that I know is not helpful to me. Unfortunately, unlike with alcoholism or other such addiction-like tendencies, I can’t not eat when feeling triggered. That’s not an option.

In the end, the voice of reason and good-sense was strong enough inside myself that I came to the conclusion that I would have to get over this moment of fear and trust myself with food. I thought ahead to what it would be like if I put off eating and got even more hungry than I already was…feeling starving and emotional—not good.

I’m not advocating that if you aren’t hungry to just eat because you think you should, but I knew I needed to proceed normally and eat as normally as I would on a day where I was feeling just fine. I was a bit cautious, but I kept reminding myself that depriving myself (and not trusting myself) was only going to magnify the uneasiness of the day and catch up with me later—somewhere a long the lines of what Geneen Roth says, every restriction has an equal and opposite binge.

Maybe because I knew I wasn’t feeling very in control of how I was feeling (which is okay, as we’ve talked about before), that I felt like I was going to be a big old mess when it came to eating a healthfully “controlled” amount? I was having a moment of not trusting myself around food, which since my recovery, hasn’t come up that much, so perhaps the novelty made me extra aware of it. Either way, I got through the day and talked to a friend and it was more or less alright. I ate normal meals, went for a walk and took a lot of pauses and deep breaths until I got out of my little funk.

Have you ever been sort of afraid to eat? —Morgan

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8 Responses to Are You Ever Afraid to Start Eating When You Feel Emotional?

  1. Sunny says:

    I think I know what you’re talking about-but I’ve experienced it more as “confusion” rather than “fear.” Knowing that I’m upset or emotional, and sitting there sort of paralyzed because I’m not sure whether what I want to eat is because my body’s craving it or because it’s emotional eating. The bottom line, like you said, comes down to trust. Something I’ve built up more and more of! It feels amazing (and different!) to trust myself around food. xo…Sunny

  2. love2eatinpa says:

    i totally know what you are talking about, as i’ve been there.
    i think it speaks to how far you’ve come that you totally knew what was going on with yourself.
    hormones definitely do crazy things to us, it sucks that we have to go through it once or twice a month. i don’t think there is anything wrong with being hyper-aware. it made you stop and think, really hone in on your intuitive skills, and you worked through it beautifully. A+ :)

  3. Kara says:

    I never was before because I never considered myself an emotional eater. But now that I realize I am (stress can cause me to eat my weight 3 times over) I try not to let it keep me from eating. I just try to be aware of the real reason I’m eating and do somehting to balance it out later.

  4. Pam says:

    Yes! I had that feeling just this morning. I was feeling tired and overwhelmed yesterday and ended up binging on cookies. I was feeling bad this morning when I got up, unsure whether the binging was going to continue or if I was in the clear. I haven’t felt completely in control today, but at least I don’t have any more cookies, and I managed to not buy the chips and coke that my mind was screaming for at the grocery store after work.

  5. Kate says:

    Last night was rough for me emotionally and food wise. I tried a new recipe that didn’t work out as planned so dinner wasn’t too satisfying. Then my husband and I were having a talk and all I could think about was how wonderful a bowl of cereal would taste.

    Then I thought “I’m not that hungry, why do I really want the cereal?” It was because I was feeling off kilter and had a (literal) bad taste in my mouth from dinner. I knew if I did eat the cereal I would probably keep eating because what I was really truly hungry for, the cereal wouldn’t satisfy.

    Finally around bed time I took out a half cup and munched some dry cereal because I was hungry and paid attention and put some uneaten cereal back because I didn’t need it anymore.

    I like being overly attentive as opposed to shutting everything out. I knew I was uncomfortable, but dealing with that discomfort wouldn’t be solved by eating. I think tonight I’ll be extra kind to myself. Maybe watch a favorite tv show to help shake off the rest of the yucky feelings I’m having.

  6. I tend to be an emotional eater, especially with anxiety. However, throughout the course of having to deal with it, I’ve learned to continue my eating as I normally would. Eating x amount of calories at once is a lot more painful than eating that amount throughout the day. My point, I’d rather feel the emotion less intensively throughout the day (AND LEARN TO SOLVE IT) than wait until the end and have it thrown at me full force, food in mouth, and not deal with it. Eating the daily caloric intake throughout the day just might be the way to cope. That way, you can deal with your problems instead of avoiding them

  7. YES!! I can relate to the feeling you describe!! All the consiousness is really a good thing, the fact that you (and me!) notice the fear is a tremendous gift.

  8. KIT says:

    I went into treatment earlier this year for bulimia. One of the first things I began to recognize was this pattern where everytime I had an interaction with another person that resulted in me in tears, frusturated, upset, hurt, whatever, my first reaction was well I’m just not going to eat anything today. While this always gave me an immediate feeling of calm and relief, like you said, I would often end up finding my emotions all over the place and I was less able to handle them due to my weak, unstable body. While this was bad enough on its own, it would often result in a binge to release the feelings I couldn’t deal with. I remember the day where my father and I got into an arguement over the phone and of course my brain went, “Ok, I’m not going to eat today and then I will feel better about all this.” I not only recognized this reaction as abnormal, but also was forced to question why, when frusturated by others, I felt the need to hurt myself in some way and make the feelings go away. This realization made me profoundly sad and want to do something different. Learning where my self-hatred came from and how to cope with such feeling when they arise has been an important part of learning to care for myself the way I should. Thanks for sharing! And I love your blog :)

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