What Procrastination Has to Do With Your Eating Habits

Although I am luckily no longer in the place in my life where I have to take finals and write long research papers, I do remember it as being a particularly tricky time for me food-wise. Even my friends that were more or less “normal” about food would have difficulties with mindless and stress eating during finals.

I may not have any papers due right now,  but there are always things in life that you don’t particularly want to do…or start…or finish. Procrastination is an easy place to get stuck in and using food to divert your attention is an easy thing to do. In fact, most of the time procrastination is complex and sneaky enough that it can have you munching away, actually believing that you are hungry when in fact, you are just avoiding some other task. I really need to write those important (yet daunting) e-mails…man I am really craving chocolate right now, so weird!

My mom used to tell me that procrastination is sort of like the unfortunate offspring of a situation where both low self-esteem and striving for perfection exist together. I had never really thought about it that way, but when I did, it actually made some sense (thanks mom!). It can be easy to get caught up in the anxiety about starting or finishing something when you are so fixated on having to do it perfectly (unrealistic expectations) and not believing that you can do a good job. I know that for me, I have had to work a lot on letting go of my tight grasp for perfection and feeling the need to be the perfect person all the time throughout my recovery-which ultimately enables me to be a lot kinder and realistic with myself.

This way of looking at procrastination ties into the traps of black and white thinking, a theme which appears to come up frequently for people dealing with getting sane about food and their bodies. Even though they are not exactly the same, scenarios like this: “I got a poor grade on my last paper, I will probably not do very well on this one either, so I am not going to even try,” can sound similar to, “I just ate all that crap. That was so bad. Well, I totally blew it, I may as well just keep eating.”

Eating in lieu of procrastinating can make you feel like you are doing something with your time that is somewhat worthwhile. “I was just taking a break…eating a snack. I deserve this. Brain food, right?” I am all for taking study breaks and for brain food, but it’s when these trips to the kitchen, cafeteria or library cafe get too frequent and perhaps mindless (or anxiety-ridden), that maybe it is time to stop and look at what is really going on. I used to hate writing the conclusions to big research papers, I always just thought I was bad at writing them. Looking back, this is pretty silly because it is essentially the easiest part of the paper, the hard work is already done. Regardless, I would get to the point where I would almost finish and then promptly procrastinate/eat a snack (even if I wasn’t hungry) until the deadline was looming even closer before finally finishing.

Fortunately I have mostly gotten out of the habit of eating while procrastinating (absence of finals also helps!), but sometimes the urge does sneak up on me.

Is procrastination a place where you find yourself struggling with this kind of stuff? If so, what do you notice and how do you handle it? -Morgan

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10 Responses to What Procrastination Has to Do With Your Eating Habits

  1. Sonja says:

    Thank you for sharing your mum’s thoughts with us! That’s so true!

  2. Kara says:

    You completely hit the nail on the head with me. During this past round of finals there was an entire day where all I did was eat because I had procrastinated studying for a final until the day before and was so freaked about how much studying I had to do that I procrastinated even more.
    It is a vicious cycle. So glad it’s summer so I get a break from it.

  3. mags says:

    well that is exactly what happens to me! i gain weight when i have a task that scares me so much! and i never give myself a chance!!! i am always a perfectionist! i need to do everything right from the beginning. this is impossible! and i see that i didn’t get to where i wanted in a week or in a month - because it’s impossible- then i feel disappointed. like i failed. and sometimes i give up sometimes i keep on trying. but everytime i gain weight.

  4. Rachael says:

    Morgan I could have written this myself! I do this exactly and I love love love what your mum says!

  5. CC says:

    This describes exactly how I stress eat/binge/punish. I’ve gone up and down in weight 20-30 pounds for years and years. The weight gains definitely coincide with stressful deadlines in my life- the first semester of grad school, for example. This year, I put on about 10-12 lbs in the last 6 weeks before my worst deadline yet. Basically, I had wrapped my entire sense of self and self-esteem up into this project and I was so afraid of failure. I punished (and calmed) myself by eating and eating and eating. My question is… how do those of you in similar situations deal with the aftermath? Obviously, my weight has ballooned and people notice. What do you do when people close to you make comments or what about the people on the periphery of your life (like co-workers) who say things?

    • Sunny says:

      Hi CC-Your questions could lend themselves to a whole other blog post! In fact, I think they should. Mind if I use them for a post tomorrow or the day after? I’m really interested in what the rest of the gals have to say here. xo…Sunny

  6. Sunny says:

    How insightful is our Morgan?! I am so glad that you put this into words. I completely relate-I used to be the Queen of Procrastinateland. I’d eat in order to procrastinate, and then eat because I was stressed because I procrastinated. I found that procrastination was sometimes done out of a fear of failure-but almost more often, for me, out of a fear of success. xo…Sunny

  7. Kate says:

    Absolutely. Being alone in my apartment when I’m procrastinating causes me to eat nonstop. And then I feel gross. And then I eat more because I feel gross. And then I decide I should watch another episode of a TV show I’ve never been the slightest bit interested in. It’s bad.

    Great topic.

  8. katie says:

    ack! that’s exactly what i’m doing now…by googling “eating as procrastination” while eating a box of smarties. i know what i’m doing is absurd and i keep telling myself it’s not normally how i act so there are exceptions that i can make “just this time”. ahhh!! i’m not alone. but i need to get back to this paper!

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