How to manage disappointment without using food to cope
Let’s face it, we all experience disappointment in our lives. How we manage disappointment can tell a lot about our defaults when things get rough. Sometimes the discomfort or pain it too much to manage and we want to check out. An easy and quick solution for a lot of us is to use food as a coping tool. While it’s a temporary fix and always an option on the mindful and intuitive eating journey, it can lead to metabolic confusion and an unhealthy relationship with food in the long run.
When we eat due to disappointment, discomfort, stress or unease, it can send a mixed message to the body. Instead of eating out of the biological need for fuel and nutrition, you are feeding the body when it’s not asking for that energy. While this is okay once in awhile, overtime you create an unhealthy default: using food to soothe normal emotions you should be able to process without food.
Ideally food should be used to nourish the body. Fuel it when it needs energy. Ideally not when you are bored, disappointed, sad, in pain, or any other negative emotion but it happens. I realize in our modern world, we eat for a variety of reasons that don’t include true physical hunger. But I encourage you to be mindful about why you eat when your body is not asking for food. Do you know what true hunger feels like? Are you actually thirsty? Is you medication causing you to feel hungry all the time or does it zap your appetite? My question to you is do you ever stop to ask yourself:
WHY do I eat?
I was in a similar emotional situation you might find yourself struggling with: disappointment. Tim and I LOVE live music…it’s our thing. We have similar tastes too and both love a 90’s British band called Massive Attack. Never heard of them? Well, they’ve been in 10 films/shows including The Matrix, Snatch (with Brad Pitt), Le Femme Nikita, Gossip Girl and Blade 2. We dig ‘em. Back in January I discovered, quite serendipitously, that they were on tour which was exciting because I wasn’t aware that they were still together, much less touring!
Without much thought, I decided to purchase tickets for their show at New York at Radio City Music Hall as a surprise. I just told Tim to block off the weekend, booked plane tickets, researched all the restaurants and sights I wanted to hit, and waited for two long months. Keeping a secret like this was killing me. As the time approached, friends started to ask “where are ya’ll going?!?” and I told a few when Tim was out of earshot. I could not WAIT to go and have another great memory of a weekend getaway seeing a fave band live, checking them off our list. The last time we did a concert weekend was in Boston for U2 and have great memories of that epic concert. So much fun!
And then days before the show, I received an email that the tour…
CANCELLED (due to illness).
Let me just tell you this Massive Attack, if I WAS YOUR DIETITIAN, I would work preventatively so that your immune system would be tip-top and you wouldn’t disappoint hundreds of thousands of fans, world-wide, due to illness. I mean, ugh.
And when I read the email, then googled to make sure it was legit, I took a deep sigh and for a split second thought, “I might need some chocolate.” Wait, what mindful eating dietitian did you say?
Now, this is clearly a learned behavior. We don’t come out of the womb and require chocolate at the first sign of disappointment or stress. Without a doubt, this is very much a learned behavior. And the good news is that it can be UN-learned. Once you attach some awareness, consciousness, or mindfulness to your behaviors related to emotions that are triggered, you can change them.
So back up to the disappointment and then the sensation that I wanted chocolate. First step is the AWARENESS piece. By utilizing the mindful eating skills that I teach clients in appointments and in workshops plus working through each personal issue, clients are able to hit pause in the moment between triggers, emotional and otherwise, and their actions.
My favorite part about the mindfulness piece is that it is non-judgmental so if you have mean girl internal dialog about food and/or your body, this is a breath of fresh air. Clients tell me all the time how refreshing it is to delete judgment which allows them to assess the situation from a more neutral standpoint and make a decision based on logic instead of emotions.
Feel like you struggle with the food piece? I’ve got your back and I’m ready to share with you my secrets. I was in the thick of toxic diet culture for over twenty years so I’m kinda of familiar with what you might be going through. If you are ready to start your mindful and intuitive eating journey and delete diet culture behaviors, beliefs, habits and patterns then please reach out to me here. I look forward to helping you create a healthier relationship with food and your body! You deserve it :)