If we have a tough time dealing with distress, we might turn toward (or away) from food or crank up our body-bashing. Of course, this not only prevents us from solving the problem, but it leads us to feel worse.
That’s why it’s so important to take a compassionate approach and find ways to soothe ourselves.
In his book, The Compassionate-Mind Guide to Ending Overeating, author and clinical psychologist, Ken Goss, DClinPsy, suggests immersing ourselves in pleasant sensory experiences to help manage distress.
When you’re eating away your emotions and you start feeling the heaviness of shame, the last thing you probably want to do is connect to your self-compassion. The last thing you probably want to do is be kinder to yourself or comfort yourself.
When I’d stuff my feelings with food, I felt confused, out of control, embarrassed and alone. And it’s funny that it’s in those very moments that I needed to crank up the self-compassion — but it seemed so hard. And, honestly, it didn’t even cross my mind.
But it’s important for all of us, especially in those times of trouble and distress, to lend a hand — to ourselves.
However, when we start to regularly depend on food to manage our feelings it becomes a problem. Distracting yourself with food basically tells you that “You can’t cope,” she writes. And this can kick-start and maintain your cycle of emotional eating.
Food doesn’t help you honor your feelings or figure out what those feelings even mean in the first place, according to Taitz. So you miss the valuable information your feelings are trying to give you.
And, over time, as many of us know all-too well, emotional eating also leads to confusion and shame, Taitz writes. (A whole lot of shame.)
Last week we talked about using certain healthy coping strategies when strong emotions strike. One reader posted a very important comment. She wrote:
These tips are interesting, but how do I slow down enough to do any of these or even breathe? The strong feeling comes… bam, I go to food. I don’t know how to slow down.
I bet many of us have had similar struggles. That’s why I wanted to turn her valuable comment into its own blog post. So I consulted two eating disorder experts on their suggestions for slowing down. Here’s what they said.
Eating disorders don’t discriminate. They affect people of all ages, appearances, races and religions. Still, when the conversation turns to eating disorders (or disordered eating), we often forget that men struggle, too.
That’s why I was especially interested in speaking with Richard Bedrosian, Ph.D, co-author of this recent study on binge eating in men, published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. Bedrosian is the Director of Behavioral Health and Solution Development at J&J’s Wellness & Prevention, Inc.
Below, he reveals what we know about binge eating in men, why eating disorders remain under-recognized in this population, what treatments are effective and much more.
While it’s important to release your emotions, sometimes, you just need to take a break. Sometimes, your emotions become so overwhelming that it’s best to have a few soothing strategies up your sleeve.
In her excellent book, Writing for Emotional Balance: A Guided Journal to Help You Manage Overwhelming Emotions, clinical psychologist Beth Jacobs, PhD, shares a few ways that we can “refocus.”
According to Jacobs, refocusing means returning to your emotional equilibrium. She describes refocusing as a way to take a much-needed respite, “like putting down some heavy suitcases to shake out your arms and then picking the suitcases up again.”
Refocusing is important because strong feelings can make you feel terrible, confused and scattered.
And, as so many of us have experienced, strong feelings can lead to self-destructive behaviors. You may feel so bad that you reach for the fastest relief — which may not be the best thing for you.
When you’re in it, really in it, it’s often hard to get out. It’s often hard to think beyond that strong emotion, make wise decisions and feel better.
One of the best parts about writing Weightless is getting to talk to so many different people that are doing amazing work. I love sharing interviews with you, because I love sharing valuable insight and recovery tools.
There’s plenty of inaccurate and damaging information out there, particularly about body image and disordered eating. So I especially like to include interviews that shatter common myths and genuinely offer helpful tips.
Today, I want to highlight some of my older interviews on everything from body image to binge eating to building a healthy relationship with food. I hope you find these helpful!
Kim Brittingham wrote a beautiful and heartbreaking memoir called Read My Hips: How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting and Live Large. Here, we talk about her book, finding self-acceptance, her favorite body image tips and much more.
A while ago, Therese Borchard, who writes one of my favorite blogs, Beyond Blue, penned a piece about things you shouldn’t say to someone who’s struggling with depression. This inspired me to think about what you shouldn’t say to someone with an eating disorder. While people may not be as direct as the statements below, we know that some still say various versions of them.
1. Why can’t you just eat?
This is the same as asking someone with depression to just snap out of it. If they could, they would. In her book, Brave Girl Eating: A Family’s Struggle With Anorexia, Harriet Brown poignantly describes what it was like for her daughter to eat.
Yesterday, we discussed recovering from eating disorders. I shared my interview with Carolyn Costin and excerpts from her book, 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder: Effective Strategies from Therapeutic Practice and Personal Experience, with co-author Gwen Schubert Grabb.
One of the topics we talked about was feelings. Learning to tolerate your emotions in a healthy way is important for recovery – and for living life. But many of us, whether we have an eating disorder or not, have a tough time identifying and processing our emotions.
Interestingly, our perspective can make or break negative emotions. As Costin said: “Your emotions are your body’s response to your thoughts.” Or, “What you tell yourself affects your emotional state.”
We run into trouble when our thoughts are inaccurate and self-critical but we see them as pure fact. These are called cognitive distortions. Psychologist and eating disorder specialist Sari Fine Shepphird, Ph.D, defines cognitive distortions as “a biased way of thinking about oneself or one’s environment, including one’s body image, weight or appearance” in her excellent book 100 Questions & Answers About Anorexia Nervosa.
Anxiety often underlies eating disorders. For many individuals, engaging in eating disorder behaviors helps to soothe them – only temporarily, of course.
Anxiety also contributes to emotional eating and can worsen body image issues. (How many times have you been tense and taken it out on your body? Or vice versa? Or mistook discomfort and nervousness for “feeling fat”?)
But while anxiety seems incredibly overwhelming when you’re caught in its clutches, you can do so many things to minimize your anxiety. It’s a matter of learning some skills. Here’s a list of strategies to try.