Emotional Eating and Our Family Sunday Supper
As far back as I can remember food has been the center of all our family events. When I say family, I am using it in the old fashioned description to include your immediate family (Mom, Dad, and siblings), grandparents, aunts and uncles, and of course the cousins. For every birth, death, anniversary and wedding, every monumental accomplishment (everyone’s) and yes, Sunday gathering, food was the centerpiece. It’s what we did – Emotional eating. I do not remember a childhood event that did not involve food. I do not believe this is strange, different nor wrong. In fact, as old as recorded history friends and loved ones have gathered around the table to converse and are in “community”.
A Tradition as Old as Time
The downside of these family traditions can be the learned relationship between food and emotions and eating for emotional relief or emotional eating. When we were happy or sad, we eat. When there was loss, tragedy, or any other emotional event, we eat. So how does this translate into emotional overeating? Say you are 10 years old and someone at school bullied you. You come home and mom sees that there is something wrong and asks you what happened, what is the matter? Do you sit down at the table and tell her about your day or do you tell her nothing is wrong and head for the frig or the freezer for a snack? Think about most television shows or movies. How many times do we see someone in extreme emotional turmoil being told ‘here, eat something, you’ll feel better’?
We deal with our feelings and emotions with food because it is what we have been taught. The problem with some of us is that we never learn any other ways of dealing with our emotions, our life situations, other than eating. If we have no other way, food becomes our solution and eventually, our captor. It can lead to greater emotional strain like depression, anxiety, eating disorder or drug or alcohol use.
Changing the Conversation
So how do we change our relationship with food and our emotions? We begin to look at food as a source of nourishment for the body, not the soul. Quite often, we need to enlist the help of a professional such as a therapist, nutritionist or an eating disorder specialist. It helps if we enlist our family members, as well. When we begin to use food for nourishment and conversation for emotional needs, we not only begin to help ourselves but also our families.
There are cases when the emotional overeating has gone so far that nothing short of seeking treatment for the eating disorder can help. If you or someone you know has gone beyond the point of no return please reach out and seek help.