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You Are Not Alone – Eating With Your Emotions

In my last article, I talked about how the arts help others, and how I currently use acting as a tool to connect with people and help them during adversities. I strongly believe that part of building that trust is by helping people realize that they are not alone. Because YOU are not. Whatever you may be going through there is someone out there who is willing to provide a helping hand. Who is eager to help you get back on your feet and help you realize that YOU ARE ENOUGH. Today, I have a confession to make.

Hello, my name is Brianna Fernandez… and I am addicted to food. 

Whether I am on set filming or relaxing at home, I tend to eat with my emotions. Emotional eating is when you turn to food to suppress emotions such as boredom, stress, anxiety, anger, or loneliness. These negative emotions can occur for other reasons like relationship conflicts, health problems, financial crises, unawareness, and work. If you are like me, you eat unhealthy foods even when you are not hungry.

I want to share my story and hopefully this will help others understand more about this addiction. My story lists signs that others may have as well. I have always loved eating. Even when I was younger my sister would give me her plate of food and I would eat it, even when I was full. I, however, developed a stronger love for food at around age seven when my parents divorced. Seeing them fight was stressful, and food just seemed easier to turn to rather than expressing how I truly felt. Several years later, I encountered other adversities in my life that made food a safe place to turn to. I will probably share those stories in the future; however, one of the main obstacles you already know: homelessness.

When my family and I were living in the shelter, the closest place to eat was McDonald’s. We always ate here because it was cheap and addicting. That year I was the heaviest I had ever been, and the heavier I got the less beautiful I felt. My weight also made me an easier target for bullies.

I can’t stress this enough there is always light at the end of a tunnel. When I understood the importance of eating healthier, I eventually lost the weight and maintained a good 140lbs-155lbs. I am currently more active and healthier, but I still emotionally eat, which has always made it hard for me to reach my goal weight: 135. This year has been exceptionally hard because 2018 is the first year that have I decided to face my demons and get help for a lot of problems in my past. If you are ashamed to get help… don’t be. This year is my first time in group therapy, and it has changed my life for the better.  I learned why I turn to food and how I can cope with this addiction.

 

SIGNS OF EMOTIONAL EATING

  1. Emotional hunger is specific: you crave certain foods like burgers and chocolate cake.
  2. Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied once your full and it doesn’t come from stomach pains: The hunger comes from smells, tastes, and your mind craving specific meals.
  3. Guilt and Shame: You may feel guilty or ashamed after eating because deep down you knew it wasn’t for nutritional purposes.
  4. Stuffing emotions: People use foods to suppress negative emotions such as loneliness, anger, sadness, and boredom.
  5. Childhood habits: my parents didn’t intentionally feed me large portions. But I have always cried for more, and as I got older I would dig into the fridge as often as I could.
  6. Social influences: if you are like me, you and your friends love to catch up by getting something to eat. In a barbecue, be mindful of how much food you grab.

 

I cannot stress this enough, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. If you are someone who may be struggling with this, please keep reading. Maybe one of these tips will help. 

 

If you struggle with emotional eating: 

  1. Don’t abandon yourself: it is important to avoid turning to food to “numb the pain.” If you are feeling an emotion you are trying to avoid surround yourself with loved ones. Call a friend or family member. Play with your pet! My dog Coby relieves a lot of my stress and anxiety. Allow yourself to feel sad, angry, bored, or tired. What I love most about acting is that I use these emotions to help people understand that these emotions are what makes us human. I read an article that talks about the importance of approaching your feelings with kindness for your body to understand that it no longer has to overeat to protect you from your feelings.
  2. Get comfortable: I’ve read articles that offered fun suggestions such as relaxing in a warm blanket while watching a movie, reading a book, or taking a bubble bath.
  3. Sit down and savor every bite rather than binge: The more focused you are on the taste, texture, and smell, the harder it will be to eat to with emotion and the fuller you would get. Enjoying each sense allows for you to stay in the present moment; rather than worry about problems in the past or future.
  4. Understand your triggers: Ask yourself, “when do you feel hungry and why are you feeling that way at this moment?” Is your hunger emotional or physical? In case you do not know the difference, emotional hunger is urgent. It literally comes out of nowhere while physical is more gradual. Almost every article and book talk about this topic: Awareness and Mindfulness. I know it is hard because we want to run away from these bad feelings, but once we understand our triggers, we can strategize. Instead of eating you can journal or voice record this feeling. This allows to grasp a better understanding about this emotion. Truth be told my room is filled with journals concerning different topics in my life.
  5. Switch to healthier food options: instead of a cookie try fruits or vegetables. Normally when I want to reward myself I tell my family let’s get ice cream!!!! Occasionally that’s not bad, but there are some days when I can switch ice cream with low fat frozen yogurt.
  6. Make a fun activities To Do List: To Do list are my most helpful tool. When I am bored “Food” is what I look forward to. For others who also struggle with emotional eating that ends up being the case because eating sugars and fats release opioids which are also the active ingredients in cocaine and heroin. That’s why I always say food is my addictive drug. Aside from that, “To Do list” keep me productive and focused as well. Other activities are a great way to relieve these negative emotions; for instance, meditation, yoga, the arts, or fun sports.
  7. Realize you are truly beautiful: The truth is, when we hate our bodies we try to eat that negative feeling away. I wish I could give a solution to this problem, but everyone is different in how they adjust to this feeling. What helped me find this self-love was art therapy and a supportive family. I promise you that self-love will lead to a healthier lifestyle.
  8. Alternatives to relieve boredom: walking, listening to music, reading, dancing, surfing the internet. Or my favorite thing to do Ukulele!!!!
  9. Learn from your mistakes: if you have a binge, do not beat yourself. Focus on alternatives to for next time. An example of an alternative is to also give yourself 5 minutes before going towards your craving. This will help you reflect on your actions.
  10. Make sure to get sleep: small meals throughout the day and sleep are great ways to avoid emotional eating.

 

Cited References

Drya, A. (n.d). Try these Powerful Tools to Stop Emotional Eating. (July 15, 2018). Retrieved from: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-15554/try-these-powerful-tools-to-stop-emotional-eating.html

Emotional Eating. (n.d). How to Recognize and Stop Emotional and Stress Eating. (July 15,2018). Retrieved from: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/diets/emotional-eating.htm

Psychology Today (n.d.) Emotional Eating: 5 Reasons Why you can’t stop. (July 15, 2018).            Retrieved from:https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insideout/201309/emotional-eating-   5-reasons-you-can-t-stop

Weight Loss. (n.d). Gain Control of Emotional Eating. (July 15, 2018). Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss/art-20047342

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