Eating My Anxiety

Mags - May 30, 2017

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?

13 thoughts on “Eating My Anxiety

    1. For lots of folks! We’ve gotten a tremendous response to this blog so we will be talking more about it…
      Thank you for reading.

      Abs and Mags

  1. I relate so very much! Just can’t eat right or regularly, if at all, & get all numb…not having the drive to live… It’s a struggle just to participate in life most days. There’s fear, self-doubt, anger at myself, guilt & shame for my downheartedness & the way it makes ppl feel around me, the list goes on. I’m eaither snacking or just can’t eat. My mind seems to never slow down so my body can relax… I just keep forcing one foot in front of the other but I would like to have all the good feelings that go with it ALL the time or normally…

    1. Crystal,
      Thanks so much for commenting. It sounds like you are dealing with a pretty intense depression. We have both been there. I understand the numbness. Are you in treatment (counseling) and are you on any medication? While there are many ways to deal with depression, when things are really bleak, medication is a good starting point (once you are feeling better you may choose to discontinue it and do other things to keep you healthy.) Feeling guilty and ashamed is part of the depression. Try to remember that this is a brain illness and it is not something we can control by putting on a happy face or working on your attitude — it’s not a “just do it” type of thing…anymore than someone with a heart condition can just “get better”. However, there are many treatments that can help….let us know how you are and how we can support you.
      Mags and Abs

  2. Exactly what I deal with!!!
    Even the stomach issues/nausea.
    Thank you for helping put into words exactly what
    I deal with

  3. I use ice cream as my comfort, bread and cheese. So unhealthy. 😔 So much depression it’s unexplainable. Then I lost weight then I gain weight. Vicious cycle.

    1. Hi,

      There is a reason those foods are appealing, particularly with depression. We crave those feel good sugars and fats especially when our serotonin is low. Please, go gently on yourself. Be compassionate that you are doing the best you can at the time. If you have not seen the work of Kristina Neff (she did one of our meditations on Facebook), she is worth reading. She talks about self-compassion rather than criticism. I am saying all this and still struggling to put this in my life as well! We take care of ourselves because someone is kind and believes in us (ourselves) not because of making ourselves feel worse. Be gentle with yourself!
      Mags and Abs

  4. Thanks for putting into words how I feel. My constant struggle with food. I don’t know what works. I would like to find some answers.

  5. Hi Miriam,
    Food is an ongoing struggle for so many of us….Abs and I have had success at times (and gone backwards at times). By success, I don’t mean weight loss necessarily as much as feeling that we were not engaged in a fight with our own impulses or that we don’t link our worth as people to our weight. Mags and Abs

  6. When my anxiety kicks in, I have no appetite.
    I had a pretty severe panic attack a few months ago, I lost weight from the worrying and anxiety.
    I now just snack here and there but I still don’t eat a big meal.

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