You know those times when you just feel so “off” and before even thinking about what you’re actually feeling, your gut instinct says to head to the kitchen and eat whatever you can get your hands on?
I used to do this all the time. Something wouldn’t feel right, something would be bothering me, and I could tell something was wrong, so I would turn straight to food to make me feel better and to get out of the icky sensation of “feeling off”.
To be honest, looking back I never really knew how I was feeling. It was like I didn’t have the words or the knowledge to even describe what didn’t feel right.
Part of that came from feeling like, for most of my like, I couldn’t ever express my feelings when something was wrong, like I always had to be the girl who “had it all together” and that it wasn’t okay to have difficulties and struggle. So I got used to keeping my feelings in.
And part of it came from not giving myself the time and space to actually sit with my feelings and understand myself — like I was scared that I wasn’t going to be able to handle whatever it was I was truly feeling. So I preemptively ate.
I actually remember a few years ago the very first time I CHOSE to say “hello” to my feelings instead of shut the door in their face with ice cream. I actually decided to pay attention to my soul and ask her what was going on instead of ignoring her.
I had just been flat-out rejected by a guy I liked, and I remember having an urge to go straight for food, but instead, I got in my bed, curled up and started crying.
I remember crying and laying there in silence and just letting my heart feel however it was feeling, letting my thoughts go wherever they needed to go, and letting whatever feelings needed to happen just pass through me. I had no agenda, I was just listening.
One of my best friends called me, and instead of saying my usual “ugh, I’ll be fine”, I spoke to her from my heart. I told her how hurt I felt, how shitty this was, and how my heart was aching.
And guess what… it didn’t freak her out. I used to feel like I couldn’t share my crap with others because I didn’t want to burden them with having to help me. But what I learned is that they’re adults, they’ll be just fine helping you like you help them.
After I hung up with her, one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt passed over me… I felt so damn alive. Like, this is what I am supposed to be feeling. This is life, this is being human, these are real honest human emotions. These are the feelings that I should have, just like everyone else has, and I am so overwhelmingly happy to be FEELING them and getting to know them instead of shoving them down with food.
It was a big turning point with my relationship with food. It also made me feel more connected to other people — to all the other people who were crying that day due to heartache, to all the other people who were expressing their raw emotions. I realized that I could do that, too. I felt a sense of belonging.
So how do you start dealing with these “off” feelings?
1. Give yourself two minutes to slow down. It’s okay if you end up turning to food, but before that, give yourself the gift of 2 whole minutes to pause and just sit with yourself. Get quiet, go inward, and be open to listening even in the slightest.
2. Name the feelings. It’s crazy, but so many of us really do not know what we are truly feeling when we don’t feel right. Take a second to name the feelings. “I feel so lost.” “I feel rejected.” “I feel exhausted.” “I feel sad”. It sounds so simple, and it can make a huge difference.
Naming the feeling helps you recognize it. As soon as you recognize what it is, it makes it way less scary to deal with, and the urge to eat goes way down. Naming our feelings gives us the opportunity to deal with them.
3. Get the feelings up and out, somehow. Imagine the feelings sitting in your chest or stomach area, where we often feel a lot of them physically. They need to somehow get up and out, so you don’t need food to quiet them. This means, saying to your coworker “I’m so bored right now”or calling someone and saying how you feel, or laughing, or crying, or writing it down, or talking out loud to yourself.
I used to eat when I was bored at work, but when I started a) recognizing that it was boredom and naming that feeling and then b) bitching about it to a coworker or friend, the feeling got so much less intense and I stopped always needing to eat due to the discomfort of having it inside me.
Remember that eating is such a gut reaction for so many of us, and that impulse may not go away. What we can do is learn how to handle whatever feelings come up, and the first step is actually knowing how we feel.
I’d love to hear from you today in the comments below… how do you deal with uncomfortable, unpleasant feelings or just feeling “off”? Do you turn to food or have you found other tactics?