The relationship between food and emotion is a strong one. We are emotional eaters. As chemically driven beings, we are often at the mercy of our hormones and stress chemicals, most especially when facing the monumental life change and stress experienced in divorce.
Turning to food in the time running up to and during divorce is common. Food is comforting. It temporarily makes us feel uplifted. It helps us feel full when we are emotionally empty. It also doesn’t judge or reject us. Food in many ways makes us feel safe. Considering all this, food becomes a natural ally in our pursuit of feeling more relaxed and comforted in our being in times of stress.
Different emotional needs show up in different food cravings… for example, if you feel betrayed and heartbroken, you may gravitate towards chocolate and pastries, which are sweet, high fat, and filling foods. If you’re feeling angry, you may gravitate towards heavier, more grounding foods like pasta, bread, crumbed and fatty foods like potato chips to help you feel more solid in yourself, and less out of body with anger or rage.
Food certainly makes a difference temporarily, but what about in the bigger picture? When we use food as a source of comfort on a chronic basis, we gain weight, and this unfortunate side effect can be very damaging to our self-esteem. It feeds into the stories we tell ourselves of our inadequacy, our inability to cope. It also feeds into the rejection cycle, as we start rejecting and beating ourselves up about gaining weight. It highlights the beliefs we hold about ourselves that we are not enough, that nobody wants us, and brings up fear of being alone in the future.
So, what can we do about this? Firstly, breathe. Literally. Breathing relaxes your being, takes you out of the stress response you’re in, and also, it boosts your metabolism. It gives you the opportunity to take a moment to consider what it is that you are really feeling. Its not easy to go through emotion, but the alternative is numbing out with food, and that just feeds the destructive cycle.
The second step requires discipline. Not in the way you may think though… The next step is to take action in a self-loving way. Action as if you loved yourself as though you are the most precious being in the universe. I know this is a huge push for most, and really out of our comfort zone. Take the action you would advise your best friend to take in the same situation. Treating ourselves with self love and kindness and compassion is surprisingly difficult. We are our own biggest critics. So, with the practise of self love in place (it is a constant, daily practise and requires dedication), ask yourself what you really need in the moment. Is it a hug? A hot bath with bubbles? A chat with a friend? Exercise like going for a walk, yoga or dancing? All of these are good ways to help the body decompress and get your stress hormones down.
The effects of emotional eating are cumulative. The effects are seen over time. Any daily deliberate action taken in the direction of self love will help to combat this.
The third step is to observe your self talk. This gives us clear indicators as to the belief systems you are holding onto that are sabotaging you and preventing you from loving yourself fully. Give yourself a clean slate. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. If you were to live the life that creates the future you dream of, what stories would you be telling yourself and what would you be dropping like a hot potato? You deserve better, and you need to start with treating yourself better.