Many of my clients have trouble understanding why they always turn to food as a tool for coping. Whenever any sort of fear, anxiety, tiredness, confusion, or even happiness come up, food tends to be the path of least resistance.
We’ve talked about how coping with emotional eating is actually okay, as long as it is not your only coping tool and you are not experiencing guilt and shame regarding it.
But the question as to why food tends to be (one of) the main coping tool(s) still seems to quite tricky and mysterious for many.
However, it is simple.
If you are constantly thinking about food, then food is always going to be on your mind.
If you are constantly thinking about your body (how you can trim this up, change that, fix this), then food is always going to be on your mind. If you are managing your body, you are also managing food.
Perhaps it shows up as eating management (what you ate, when you last ate, when you’ll eat next), the quality of food (macros, micros, proteins, fats, carbs) or the quantity (portions, calories).
(Tangent! - Being aware and thoughtful about what you put into your body and your level of physical activity is not “bad." I am a firm believer in high quality nourishment and empowering physical activity. The sketchy road arises when it becomes obsessive, takes over, and guilt and shame are common actors in the thought patterns associated with food and your body. So tread lightly. There is a line between balanced health and wellness and fanatical health and wellness.)
Bottom line - when you are constantly thinking about food or your body, your mind is going to be focused on food. Pretty clear, right?
So, it would make sense that when you are in a moment of [insert: fear, stress, anxiety, low energy, confusion, boredom, procrastination, loneliness], you are going to lean on the coping tool with the path of least resistance.
In moments like this, usually the last thing you want to do is think about the best and most valuable tool for your overall well-being. Instead, you want instant gratification in order to release the undesirable emotions or feelings.
And that most likely is the thing that is more often than not on your mind. In this case – food (or your body, and therefore food, again).
Okay, a recap: when you experience a powerful emotion or feeling that requires the need to be managed, you are likely to utilize your most convenient coping to tool to help manage that emotion, and when you are constantly fixated on your body and food, then food will likely be the tool you lean on.
From here, the snowball effect:
Fixate on food/body - life happens and you experience some unwanted emotion or feeling - food is the path of least resistance and used as a coping tool – feel guilty and perhaps shameful about using food– add more fixation to food and body in order to manage and control the use of food – life happens and you experience another unwanted emotion or feeling...
…You get it.
There are few things to do from here in order to break the cycle.
Build up your coping tools. As other coping tools grow stronger, the paths leading to them will become more easily accessed, allowing for you to choose them without so much work involved, leaving less desirable coping tools in the distance. Coping tools include: reading, napping, meditation, going on a walk, playing with a pet, being in nature, calling a loved one, going for a drive, finding water and swimming your heart out, yoga.
(And very importantly, this is not an opportunity for you to get on the any food eaten in any emotional experience is bad train. Again, it is an okay coping tool, as long as it is not your only coping tool and you are not experiencing guilt and shame regarding it.)
Also, start releasing the fixation. This starts with a simple awareness. Begin to notice thoughts around food and your body. They don’t need change over night. To be honest, they won’t. Go gently, and as you start to become more aware of the thoughts, you can begin to shift them and also shift the way you show up for yourself and in life.
When you feel yourself fixating, take a deep breath in and say to yourself, I am okay. I’ve done nothing wrong. My world is not crumbling. Ask: What do I actually need?
By bringing awareness to your beliefs and thoughts, and expanding your coping tools you will be astonished by just how much your reality shifts.
We truly are the manifestations of our internal experience. Once you begin to clear space in your mind and build more tools that support you, you will create space for abundance.