Emotions, Food And You

Janet Jackson

“I can be an emotional eater. It started when I was very little.”

Mental Health Specialist Courtnay Veazey takes on the topic of Emotional Eating

Let’s discuss one of the most important relationships that you will ever have – your relationship with food. That’s right. Whether you realize it or not, you relate to food on an emotional level in some capacity.

Food is essential to our physical health, yet we must remember that why we eat sometimes reflects our current emotional state. These emotions can be positive or negative. For example, my family always celebrated academic successes by going out to dinner. I still associate celebration with food and am mindful of that whenever I enjoy a celebratory dinner. Yes, I am celebrating, but that does not mean I can eat past feeling full. Negative emotions include anxiety, depression, loneliness, anger, etc. When I write ‘negative’, I do not mean that they are inappropriate to have. Those emotions contribute to the overall picture of being human. For example, feeling sad after breaking up with a significant other is a normal reaction for that situation. What we do with that sadness is the important part. We must learn to experience our emotions in a way that allows us to be physically and mentally healthy.

How do we healthily experience life’s positive and negative emotions? By recognizing and being aware of them. After becoming aware of them, honestly examine and be mindful of them – especially when you eat. What is the purpose behind your eating? Does food serve as your encourager, comforter, friend, enemy, tempter, or fill-in-the-blank? Or does food serve as the fuel for your amazing body – your spirit’s house?

Also, we healthily experience life’s emotions by noticing their source and questioning the truth of that source. Pay attention to what you tell yourself and to what others tell you. Are you sending yourself healthy messages? Messages that make you feel beautiful and confident? How do you respond to those messages?

Are others (friends, family, society) giving you healthy messages? Or are they unhealthy? If their messages make you feel crappy, do you recognize the absurdity in those messages or do you respond to those messages by eating (or not eating)?

I encourage you to honestly explore your emotions and how they connect with your eating habits. Do your eating habits give you a sense of control when you are stressed? How do your eating habits affect your body image? If you notice your emotional connection to food is becoming unhealthy, then please seek help to heal and repair that unhealthy connection and to discover why that unhealthy connection exists. We must proactively take care of our bodies because they enable us to enjoy the gift of life

Courtnay Veazey is a graduate student who finishes her coursework for a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in May 2011. She is a member of and regular blogger for the American Counseling Association. Other professional memberships include the Mississippi Counseling Association and the Association for Creativity in Counseling. Her counseling interests include body image, self-esteem, career transitions, and the mental health of ballet dancers. Courtnay is an arts advocate, ballerina, and amateur photographer. She and her husband live in Oxford, MS with their miniature dachshund, Daisy. You can follow Courtnay on Twitter at @balletcounselor
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