Food Has Become Your Closest Friend
You have to eat to survive. Food is fuel for the body and everyone knows that. However, food becomes much more than that when it’s used to try and silence emotions.
When we use food to silence emotions, this is called emotional eating. When it comes to eating this way, you might not even be aware that you’re using food as way to soothe.
Some people aren’t. They only know that when they eat, they feel better so they eat more. For those who are aware that they’re using food as an emotional crutch, they often find themselves in a cycle of deciding to stop using food that way and being unable to do it.
That’s because ending your habit of using food as a crutch isn’t simple an exercise in willpower. You have to first recognize what’s going on emotionally before you can fix what’s going on and put food use in its proper place.
What Is Emotional Eating?
When you’re an emotional eater, you’ll eat regardless of whether or not you’re hungry. Instead of letting your body’s signals guide you as to when you need food, you let your emotions decide when you want something to eat.
One of the key culprits behind emotional eating is having a lot of stress in your life. This is because stress is the umbrella under which a lot of emotions are found. Stress can lead to you feeling angry or grief.
It can make you feel irritated or anxious and cause you to reach for food to make those emotions feel better. When you engage in emotional eating, it means that the way you view food is out of its proper place.
You don’t see food as fuel, something that’s necessary for you to be able to live. Instead, you see it as a friend. It’s there to offer you comfort and it never lets you down. It’s always available and always takes your side.
This type of eating often lays the groundwork for eating disorders such as binge eating to develop. When your body gives off a true hunger signal and you eat, the hunger signal is appeased.
But that’s not the case with emotional eating. When you’re eating because you’re appeasing an emotion, you can end up having to eat bigger portions in order to pacify what you feel.
Then what happens is that the emotional eating leads to compulsive eating and it becomes almost like a drug habit. You have to eat more to be able to get the same satisfaction – the same pleasure that you got in the beginning of the emotional eating journey.
When emotional eating leads to compulsive eating, you can begin to experience health problems related to gaining weight. When you put on weight to the point that you hate the way that you look, this can make you feel worse about yourself. So then you eat even more.
Warning Signs That You’re an Emotional Eater
There are warning signs that can tell you if you’re an emotional eater or not. One of the first signs is that when things pile up on you at home or at work, in response to the accompanying stress, you want food to make you feel better.
Instead of thinking about going for a walk or doing something else to de-stress, you think of what you can eat. Stress causes a variety of emotions and if you crave food when you’re mad or hurt, when you’re feeling lonely or tired – that’s a sign that you’re an emotional eater.
The reason that emotional eating is so prevalent is because it’s not something that you plan to do. Emotional eaters have a subconscious drive to seek food when their emotions kick into high gear.
Food is the release from the emotions. Just like some people reach for alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to calm themselves, emotional eaters reach for food, especially food that’s not good for them.
Eating things like a piece of cake or a handful of cookies brings solace and after eating them, you feel better, even happy. But the problem is that the comfort the emotional eating gives you will not last.
Another warning sign that you’ve used emotional eating to the point where food has become your friend is when you are incapable of giving up food. The thought of not eating, of restricting yourself, makes you feel upset.
If you’re overweight, the thought of cutting back on food or eliminating certain ones is an impossible thought to entertain for long. You find yourself thinking about food even when you’ve just finished a meal or a snack.
Eating when you know you’re not hungry is a warning sign that the way you see food isn’t healthy. So is eating when you’re so full that your stomach is hurting yet you can’t walk away without eating the last bite.
You think about food to the point that if you have to, you’ll make an extra trip to the grocery store to get something. You begin to develop a close relationship to food. Relying on it to make you happy.
To comfort you when you feel down. To love you when you feel lonely. It’s also a warning sign if you associate food with positive emotions. Emotional eating isn’t just about the negative emotions such as eating when you feel down.
You can crave food when you’re feeling good, when you’re happy as well. Because you feel happy, you want to celebrate with food because it has become a friend to you. Obsessing about food is a warning sign of emotional eating.
You might have just finished having a big meal but you’re already looking forward to what you’re having next. You can’t wait until a certain time of the day or night if you spend that time with food.
For example, some people de-stress by watching TV in the evening. Along with watching TV, they eat. They associate eating the food with helping them to relax. Instead of dealing with whatever emotions make them feel, they bury those emotions under food.
How Does Food Become a Friend?
Food becomes a friend when we practice emotional eating to the point that it takes the place of the normal ways to deal with emotions. When you feel emotions that you want to shy away from, emotional eating shoulders that burden for you.
It steps in as a friend that you could talk to only there’s silent communication. The first step in food becoming a friend occurs when you decide to numb the emotions rather than experience them.
Some emotions can be overwhelming – especially if you’re dealing with a situation that’s difficult. Food becomes a friend when you turn your back on whatever emotion is going on. Instead of dealing with the emotion, you shut it down with food.
Because we’ve been taught that negative emotions are bad, it can be easy to want to hide from anger or sadness. It can be hard to open yourself up and let yourself feel emotions that you may have deliberately buried because it’s too painful to free them.
Food takes away the sharp edges of emotion and pushes them away. You end up feeling food is protecting you from emotional pain. So therefore, food is a kind, reliable friend that you can always count on.
When you don’t deal with emotions, when you oppress them instead, food is available to make sure that you don’t have to hurt that way. You don’t have to grieve. You don’t have to think.
Food can also become a friend when you see it as a reward, as something that you get to have. You completed something that was difficult to undertake so you reward yourself with food that’s high in sugar.
When you eat certain foods, chemicals are released in the brain. For example, if you eat chocolate for comfort, it releases endorphins and you feel happy. It takes away the stress and the negative emotions. Other foods have that ability, too.
So you learn to crave these foods like you would a drug. Because you feel so much better after eating, you think of food these foods in the same manner you would if it were a person helping you. You begin to associate feelings of friendship with food.
What Voids Does Food Fill?
Food is used to fill physical and emotional voids. These are places inside of us that are lacking. These voids are often created in childhood but because they’re not identified and dealt with, they remain with us, following us into adulthood.
We use food to fill a physical void that was caused by scarcity. If you grew up in a home where there was food scarcity, then you learned at a young age that stress was associated with not having enough food.
People who grew up in homes where there wasn’t always enough food, can develop an unhealthy relationship with it. The reason for this is because as kids, they picked up on the stress when their caretakers didn’t have the means to provide.
They might have witnessed the anxiety and felt the fear of the adults and they learned to internalize those emotions. Then when there was food in the home, they sensed the relief and the happiness their caregiver had.
Things became more pleasant. There was happiness because there was food. You witnessed that it could take away stress and bring happiness. So if you grew up without always knowing there would be food, it can be easy to think of food and not realize that you have a void associated with eating.
Subconsciously, you use food in the exact same way in your own life without even realizing that’s what you’re doing. You eat and the stress goes away and happiness is left in the wake.
Food can also be used to fill voids that are associated with a lack of emotions. If you grew up in a home where love wasn’t common place, it can create a void within you that wants to be filled.
Because we’re made to need love, we want to fill that void with something else. This can be something you do subconsciously. That’s why some people turn to avenues such as becoming a workaholic, becoming an alcoholic, using escapism and overeating food. They’re looking for whatever it takes to fill up that void.
Another void that food is often used to feel is the void of unconditional acceptance. When we don’t have that acceptance, it can lead to low self-esteem, a severe internal critic and depression.
Food fills that void because it never speaks harsh words to us. It brings comfort instead. It reinforces happiness. Instead of pointing out flaws or judging, food accepts us “as is” and we learn that no one else offers that complete emotional filling.
Why You Shouldn’t Let Food Be Your Closest Friend
It might seem like there’s no reason to change your relationship with food. You eat and you feel better. As long as you feel better, there’s nothing wrong, right? The problem is that this is creating a fake happiness. It’s not reality.
Food shouldn’t become a friend because when you use food to mask emotions, whatever it is that you’re really bothered by remains pushed inward. Suppressed emotions can cause you to carry stress around and this is bad for your health. Choosing food over dealing with your emotions keeps you from having to deal with whatever it is that’s going on.
This is a way of masking problems rather than exposing them. Masked problems can often cause bigger issues down the road because you’ll continue to eat to feel better but you’ll only feel better temporarily.
When you treat food like a friend, you get caught up in a cycle of eating to soothe emotions. Then you feel better. However, that feeling doesn’t last. As soon as the same emotions or the same problem arises, you eat to soothe again. You end up trapped in a cycle that will never break unless you address the real reason you use food as a friend to start with.
People were meant to emotionally interact and connect with one another, for positive relationships. Not with food. When food is used as a friend, you start to count on it to make you feel better. You look to it for happiness and comfort rather than turning to a real life friend.
When you treat food like a friend, you’re emotionally eating and you’re training your body to connect joy with food. What this does is to create feelings that are not authentic. Your true self is going through the motions of an authentic life but you’re not living it because you’re not experiencing it emotionally.
When food is your closest friend, you open your body up to unnecessary complications. An unhealthy relationship with food almost always leads to weight gain, which can be significant.
This type of gain can lead to obesity. Then you’ll have to deal with physical and emotional complications. You can end up with high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes because of how a friendship with food will impact you physically.
Emotionally, you can end up with low self-esteem or body hate. Food is meant to be enjoyed and to be used as fuel for you to be able to live a happy, fulfilling life. It was never meant to become something you lean on as you would a friend.