Eating plays a big role in how I cope with anxiety. I don’t mean that I reach for quinoa, blueberries, and almonds whenever I feel anxious (how I wish). I mean that when I am anxious, I reach for food to numb my anxiety. Since anxiety both makes me uncomfortable and increases my penchant for disorganization, I often find myself eating sugary and easy-to-access foods instead of meals.
A cup of coffee and a muffin seem to calm me down in just about any situation. When things are really stressful, a container (yes, a container) of ice cream is a welcome friend. At the same time, I know that numbing myself from anxiety results in an overall sense of well—being numb. It’s hard to fully partake in life—to feel real joy, sorrow, love, anger—when I am numb. I might not feel anxious, but I am also not fully present in my life.
To make this a little more complicated, dear Anxiety Sisters, when I am in the midst of a panic attack, my symptoms hit me mainly in the stomach. My anxiety symptoms are very close to a terrible stomach flu, and eating anything at all is impossible. Six months of untreated anxiety attacks did make me skinny (even if I couldn’t leave my house long enough for anyone to see my svelte figure).
To sum up how anxiety affects my eating: my body sends me signals that I am severely anxious through my nausea and lack of appetite, and it tells me that I am only mildly anxious when I find myself mindlessly eating. Neither promotes a healthy relationship with food!
I know it would be helpful to be more attuned to my body so that I could just feel my anxiety rather than eating it…or not eating at all. Certain activities definitely help me feel more in touch with myself—swimming, walking in nature, yoga, meditation—but when I numb myself with food, I lack the energy to put these activities in my daily life. It’s a major challenge, and one I am still struggling to overcome.
Does anyone else struggle with eating and anxiety? Have you found any strategies that help?