Are You in a Love Triangle with Food?

Have you ever noticed that your mood can change based on what (and maybe even how much) you eat? The good news is that it isn’t all in your head. Well, that’s only partially true. Some of it is – the emotion part.

A recent study released by Penn State University found that eating junk food when you’re in a bad mood can actually make your negative emotions worse. Yet, if you eat unhealthy fare when you’re feeling positive, it doesn’t really change your mood at all. What does this mean?

“Comfort” food?

woman unhealthy food

This suggests that maybe “comfort” food isn’t really comforting at all. Sure, it can be right at the moment you’re shoving it in your mouth in an attempt to push your emotions down with it, but the minute it’s gone you’re right back where you started, except worse.

This really isn’t a new concept. If you’ve ever eaten just to console yourself or distract yourself from negative feelings, then you know that you almost always feel worse after doing so. Why? Because now you’ve added guilt and shame to the long list of rotten emotions you’re experiencing, making you unhappier than you were before you started to eat.

Here’s the big question you need to ask yourself: Can you deal with emotions without food? Really think about this for a minute because you’re likely eating out of emotional hunger more than physical hunger more often than you think.

When was the last time you chose to grab a plate and sit down at the dinner table because your tummy was growling since it hadn’t had food in several hours? You don’t remember? Uh oh.

The good news is that you’re not alone. A lot of people eat because of how they’re feeling emotionally rather the physically. So, how do you change eating as an automatic response to emotion, especially if you’ve been doing it for quite some time (maybe all your life)? You need to change the relationship dynamics.

Ending the love triangle

You have to break the chain between you, your emotions and food. It’s a love triangle that you really don’t want to be in if you’re trying to improve your health and fitness levels. Sure as any love triangle ends in tragedy, so too will this one if you don’t make some changes.

Once you get rid of this unhealthy relationship, you’ll be able to move about your world and feel good about who you are. You’ll create positive, meaningful relationships with food (and yourself) built on trust and love – which may be very different than what you have right now. How do you make this happen?

Try these simple (but not necessarily easy) steps:

Step #1: Become aware.

You can’t change something unless you realize you’re doing it. So, it’s time to bring your emotional eating responses to the forefront. One way to do this is to keep a journal. Yes, it isn’t always fun to stop what you’re doing and write things down, but if you truly want to change your behaviors it is a great tool to help you do that.

At a minimum, at least stop yourself when you’re at the fridge or cupboard and ask yourself if you’re truly physically hungry. Has your stomach been growling? Do you feel lightheaded, irritable or have a slight headache? Has it been hours since you’ve last fed your body?

If you can’t answer yes to any of these questions, then you may be wanting to eat more out of emotion than out of necessity. If this is what you’re doing, you’re ready to proceed to the next step. If, however, you are physically hungry, by all means eat!

Step #2: Assess your emotional status.

Now that you’re aware of the fact that your body doesn’t require food but your mind craves it, it’s time to figure out why. Before you take one bite of the food you went in search of, assess the emotions that you’re currently feeling. Are you sad, happy, bored, anxious or stressed? What is going on in your mind and heart?

This may be rather difficult if you’ve become efficient at blocking out emotions and choosing not to deal with anything negative. If you have the time, sit down and really think about what you’re feeling. It may unlock the door to some answers as to what drives you to eat.

Be ready to be slightly uncomfortable by what you reveal about yourself. You’re searching the inner depths of your soul for some truths that you’ve spent years to bury. But, don’t judge yourself. Simply search yourself as an explorer who seeks to find the truth.

Step #3: Give yourself options.

Once you’ve pinpointed which emotion you were trying to snuff out by eating, it’s time to address that emotion without the use of food. This will help you actually resolve any issues that are bothersome to you and create a you that only eats when she’s physically hungry. How is that for a good thought?

If anxiety sends you in search of emotional nourishment, for example, come up with a list of options that you can do (other than eating) that will help you deal directly with the nervousness or worry. Maybe you could go for a walk and expend some energy, or talk to a trusted friend and let some of your fears out into the open.

If it’s something you have control over, create a plan that will ease your anxiousness. For instance, if it’s your financial situation that has your tummy in knots, work with a financial advisor to get yourself out of debt or consider taking a part time job to secure more income.

Step #4: Love yourself regardless.

Woman with Blue Eye Thinking

Remember that we sometimes search out food to provide us with the love, affection and non-judgmental relationship we crave that we feel we aren’t getting elsewhere. If you can give this one thing to yourself, this unconditional love, you won’t need a love triangle to satisfy your needs. You’ll be more than happy on your own.

Do you have some kinks that need to be worked out? Probably. We all do. No one is perfect and never will be, so don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself.

Remember that you have some great qualities. And, you’re stronger than you often realize. Don’t be afraid to change your world if you’re not happy with how it is now. You can do anything you put your mind to.

You deserve a life in which you wake up every morning excited about the day that lies ahead. Start loving yourself and nourishing your emotional side without the use of food and you’ll experience feelings more vividly and brightly than you ever dreamed possible.

Step out of the love triangle and take care of yourself the right way. You’ll be glad you did.

About the author

Christina DeBusk

Changing careers mid-life from law enforcement to writing, Christina spends her days helping others enrich their businesses and personal lives one word at a time.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment