Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Eat When You're Happy, Eat When You're Sad

The title of today's post isn't a directive; it's what we tend to do from an early age. I was reading an article in one of the daily e-mails I get from Prevention, and it hit on a topic we've covered here several times because it's a constant battle -- emotional eating. It's ironic that this e-mail comes just a few days after I succumbed to a bout of emotional eating. Early last week, I got a call from my agent that my publisher was passing on a trilogy idea I'd submitted. And even though the editors liked the stories and really want to get me on the schedule for next year and let me know that they were just refocusing on their tried-and-true story hooks, I felt bummed out. I got that call while I was out running errands, and on the way home I succumbed to the allure of feeding the emotion with foods I didn't need -- egg rolls and chocolate cake from Jack in the Box. I knew I shouldn't be doing it as I was ordering, as I was sitting in the drive-through line, as I was paying, as I was driving home, as I was stuffing those horrendous calories in my mouth. And yet I did it anyway.

When you think about it, we're conditioned to deal with emotions -- good and bad -- with food from an early age. As this article states, if we feel bad when we're young, someone gives us a cookie. So as we grow older, when we're feeling sad, we reach for the sweets. I'm one of the worst offenders. But on the flip side of the coin, we also celebrate good times with fattening foods -- birthdays, Christmas, celebrations of book sales. Now I'm all for celebrating, but we need to recondition ourselves to eat tasty but healthful foods and keep our calorie-laden sweets and other treats to a minimum. And I need to take my own advice.

The article linked to above also mentions how stress is related to eating. That stress makes you feel hungry and creates body fat. And we writers know stress in the form of deadlines. I've been under two of them for the past month, and that stress combined with lack of exercise and not eating properly have caused a couple of pounds to creep back on. Luckily, I've trimmed them back off now, but I had still hoped to be much further along toward my goal weight by now. But there's nothing good to looking backward and chastising myself. It won't make the pounds magically disappear. I'm going to look ahead, plan my days so that exercise and eating properly/keeping my food diary doesn't get shoved to the side, and do my best to shed pounds by my birthday and by the National RWA Conference, where Michelle, Tawny and I will be doing a program on being a healthy writer. I certainly don't want to get up in front of a room of conference attendees and look like I don't practice what I preach.

Have you battled emotional eating lately? What are the best methods you've found to help you battle that tendency?


Rachel Kleinsorge on March 9, 2010 at 7:02 AM said...

Ouch, Trish, that post hits a little too close to home for me. A year ago next week my Mother-in-law lost her fight with breast cancer. I remember sitting in the hospice kitchen, unable to go back to her room, eating St. Patrick's day cupcakes. I knew I shouldn't but I did. This year the 'knew I shouldn't' moments started in February, when I stopped replying to e-mail and instead spent time baking foods I shouldn’t eat. Let's face it: eating right is hard work. When you get stressed it's easy to let things slip. Just try to remember that every choice counts. Don't throw away the chance to make a good choice because of a bad one you made in the past.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on March 9, 2010 at 8:34 AM said...

Rachel, I'm so sorry for the loss of your mother. I lost my mother-in-law a few years ago to cancer, and it's a horrible experience. I think sometimes, in those really bad situations, it's understandable to reach for the comfort foods. But as hard as it is, we have to not make that the rule instead of the exception.

Michelle Butler on March 9, 2010 at 9:36 AM said...

Emotional Eating and portion control are my two biggest challenges. I've worked very hard on both.

Here are some of the things I've been able to accomplish for my battle with Emotional Eating:

Learn to recognize it
Sometimes able to distract myself or talk myself out of the urge
If I can't stop, keep it isolated to just one meal and get back on track after
Learn to name and address the emotion that is making me want to stuff my face with fat or sugar.
Train my body to want exercise for stress relief instead of overeating

I still can overeat for emotional reasons, but it's much less frequent than in the past.

Sally Kilpatrick on March 9, 2010 at 1:03 PM said...

Oh, yes. Emotional eating. There are inches on my hips that will never leave because they came from lard laden Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthday celebrations. I think part of the tradition comes from poorer farming families who couldn't always afford presents, but they could afford food.

One piece of advice? Find something that seems like a treat but that isn't that bad for you. I've always loved orange sherbet. I never even knew it was a healthier alternative than chocolate ice cream.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on March 9, 2010 at 4:01 PM said...

Good tips, Michelle.

Sally, I love orange sherbet.

Tawny on March 10, 2010 at 2:04 AM said...

Oh Trish I so hear you!!! I had a hellish February and it was all I could do not to camp out at the Sees store and live on chocolates. Insanely, instead I started a major exercise and healthy eating program, and somehow, managed to stick with it (still with it, as a matter of fact). But I think it was the hardest thing I've ever done - because with every hit of bad news, ever stressful reminder of the life changes happening, and the added double deadlines during the month, I wanted nothing more than chips or chocolate. Or that nummy kettle corn they serve at the fair - the kind that's so salty sweet? Oh man.

A year ago, I'd have sworn up and down that I wasn't an emotional eater. Then the year proved to me --in big bright glaring detail-- just how delusional that statement would have been.

Now? I'm working on it :-)

I have learned, though, to not pass this on to my daughters. When one of them falls down (physically, emotionally or mentally) I don't offer a cookie. I offer a hug, a long talk, even on occasion a shopping spree (but since my mom is a card-holding member of shopping therapy in excess, I'm careful with that, too). But no cookies.

Michelle Butler on March 10, 2010 at 10:07 AM said...

That's so wonderful that you are not passing this on to your daughters. Go you!!! It's hard to learn how to deal with your emotions and so many ways to avoid it (food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, sex, etc.) that passing that lesson on is invaluable.

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