Here is a Q&A from a reader who reached out to me:
“There are times when I know I’m not hungry, but I just feel like putting something in my mouth. I’ve tried gum, but it’s not nearly as satisfying as potato chips or chocolate or cookies. I feel like this is also something that my body doesnt’ need, but when I make the conscious effort to NOT snack at my desk at work, I feel like I’m punishing myself and denying myself which makes me want it more and I eventually cave or get cranky. Do you think that emotional eating is a verified need, or do you think that it’s a behavioral thing that would be healthier to try to change rather than snack so much?”
The truth of the matter, is that sometimes people use food as an escape. Boredom Eating and Emotional Eating are real, and not horribly damaging by definition alone. The thing is, if you are bored at your desk, it is far better to figure out why you are bored. And if you are eating out of fear or sadness, we all know that the eating isn’t going to heal the actual feeling you will eventually need to deal with (by FEELING IT!). Needing to chew on something is a nervous habit. But again, it is genuinely possible to stop, because I did. And not by “trying to stop”, but years and years of forcing myself to be honest with myself about my life and my feelings and then Feeling my Feelings. Because feelings don’t kill you.
That is the “cure” for boredom snacking. That is the cure for escapism. Feeling all of our feelings, dealing with our life, figuring out why we are so bored and miserable and trying to make a change. Small changes, big changes, internal changes, external changes. Feel those feelings. That makes you strong, not weak. Brave not cowardly. It is not easy, especially at first, but it is rewarding.
But you probably knew that already, right?
Boredom and Emotional Eating are also, NOT bingeing, unless it is of course. There is a difference though. If there is an immense amount of guilt that follows your snacking, that can easily lead to bingeing. Because guilt associated with eating creates a denial mentality: “I shouldn’t beeeeee I will stop tomorrow maybeeeeee”. So you go nuts and binge. Same with forcing yourself not to boredom snack if you want to. “I am not allowed to eat the snackkkssss I wanntttt. I feeeelll alll the feeellliinngggngngngngngsssss”
Ok, so this is my prescription: Eat your boredom or emotional foods. Eat them. Just do it. Who freaking cares. You will probably be less hungry later and that is how a healthy normal body regulates. But in addition to letting yourself eat out of boredom or sadness, commit to feeling your feelings too. During or After. Do both.
Let yourself eat, because eating is not inherently bad. And the less taboo snacking is, the less appealing it is. Genuinely. AND the less taboo it is, the more you are likely to stop boredom snacking once the snacking is boring as well. Because snacking is pretty boring too, in it’s own snack-y way.