Emotional eaters often feel enormous guilt about eating – and especially enjoyment of eating. This may seem like a small matter, but in fact guilt-free enjoyment of food is a key factor in recovery. From my book, Normal Eating® for Normal Weight:
Our modern society views enjoyment of eating in much the same way as Victorians viewed enjoyment of sex – dangerous and sinful, something to feel guilty about. It’s considered almost obscene not to be on a diet that restricts what you eat.
A few weeks ago, someone posted a message in the forum with the subject "Mindful eating feels like a punishment". Here’s an excerpt from it:
I found myself really irritated that I was hungry again this afternoon. It wasn’t because I didn’t want food or didn’t know what I wanted it was because I was busy and didn’t want to take the time to sit down and eat mindfully. I kept thinking about the things I needed to get done and the things I wanted to do knowing that by stopping to eat mindfully every time I’m hungry I won’t have time to do it all. … I rushed through and stopped eating when I was still slightly hungry because I wanted to be done and get on with my day.
Her post reminded me of a blog entry I wrote, “5 Reasons Emotional Eaters Shun Mindfulness“, and made me realize there was a 6th reason. It almost sounded like she didn’t want to allow herself to enjoy eating, that she wanted to approach it as a perfunctory thing to get out of the way. She’s not alone in this. I’ve seen this same sentiment expressed many times by people in early recovery from emotional eating.
Eating is one of the great pleasures of life. Getting hungry is a wonderful opportunity for a sensual, enjoyable experience. But emotional eaters often feel guilty about eating or (worse) getting pleasure from eating. They don’t allow themselves to enjoy their meals. When I posted this in the forum thread, another member posted this response:
Sheryl, I LOVE this. It really resonates for me and explains much of why I have puzzled with Mindful eating. It is not so much the drug inducing factor of it, but much more this thing about pleasure, allowing it, seeing as a good thing. I have quite a strong "depriving" streak in me, that has kept me tough and functioning for a long time, and I think that part struggles with the simple, sensuous pleasure that is eating. I will really take this away as treasure to think about.
What about you? Does this resonate? Do you allow yourself to enjoy your meals? Do you allow yourself pleasusre in general? Or do you tend to deprive yourself while taking care of everyone else?
Something to Try…
The bedrock of Normal Eating – the key learning that makes it possible – is the deep knowledge that you have the right to pleasure and happiness. When you become convinced of this, you start to act on your own behalf in all areas of life. And then you no longer need food band-aids.
Often emotional eaters are people pleasers. They want every around them to be comfortable and happy, and pay more attention to that than their own needs. Then, because their needs go unfilled, they use food to fill the Big Empty and give themselves generic comfort and pleasure. Or sometimes people just feel so badly about themselves that they won’t raise a finger to help themselves.
One of the issues that comes up frequently with my coaching clients is that every minute of the day is either spent working, or taking care of other people – no time for themselves. So by the end of the day they are tired and spent, and they eat. Often this is the first time they’ve had to themselves all day, the first opportunity to relax, the first time since they got up that they’ve done something just for themselves.
Does this sound like you? Are you all work and no play, and then at the end of the day you eat to unwind? If so, find an hour a day – well before bedtime – that is totally yours. Do you think you can’t, that you don’t have time? That means you really need to do this. Take a real lunch break. Go sit outside or take a walk. If you are caring for kids, think about who might watch them for an hour while you take time to be a human being.
The more you think there is no time and you can’t do this, the more you need to find a way to do this. You’re not a super-hero. If you deny your basic needs, you’ll end up eating to feel better.
Please post your thoughts and experiences! I’d love to hear from you.