Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Food and emotions

It's been a hard week. Okay, that may be an understatement. It has been a completely emotionally draining week, and it's just Wednesday. I'm even having a hard time generating words to explain everything that has been going on. The bombings at the Boston Marathon really shook me. As a (kinda) runner, I imagined the runners who had trained for such a difficult race that usually ends in celebration simply for finishing, which was suddenly turned into a tragic event. I also thought of the athletic trainers and athletic training students that I knew were helping in the medical tents. I thought about how they went from helping athletes with dehydration to dealing with injuries that would shake even the most experienced in emergency medicine. And how they will never be the same.

That same day our community was praying for a husband, father, teacher, and coach that had been in a tragic car accident on Saturday. He passed away the next day. Those of you who live in a small community understand how such a loss affects everyone. I ache for his family, his friends, his students, his fellow coaches, and players.

Add to that several friends and family members that are walking through their own trials. In all of these things I feel helpless to do anything. I can't fix any of it. There may be things I can do do help with the burdens, but I cannot heal any of it. It is a completely unnerving feeling.

When life gets stressful like this I want to run away. Or eat. Or run away and eat. When life is out of control food is the one thing I can control. I can shovel food in my mouth to help soothe that sadness that feels like hunger. Others will do the opposite and not eat anything in an effort to control something in life. Both actions are an effort to help control the one thing in life we can control, food. But then it quickly spirals into the food controlling us.

I've been working through the book "Intuitive Eating." The 7th principle is to cope with emotions without using food. Sounds easy, until the emotions are so intense that food seems like the only thing that will help. Monday I found myself with knife in hand and loaf of banana bread ahead of me. Back to what I knew. After a few years of dieting it is pretty easy for me to fall back into emotional eating. And the food does temporarily feel good. But in the end the emotions are still there, waiting to be dealt with. I literally said "step away from the banana bread." Not because banana bread is evil, but because I was ready to binge to try and deal with life. And I knew it wouldn't stop with that one loaf.

It's been a few days of reminding myself it's okay to eat for hunger, but mindlessly eating to try and stuff down emotions doesn't heal the emotions. I need to find other ways of dealing with the emotions. For me finding several different ways to deal...sometimes talking with friends, sometimes being alone. Sometimes finding a chance to laugh, sometimes finding a moment to cry. Sometimes going for a run or walk to use the "fight or flight" hormones that are increased, sometimes simply sitting in the quiet. In all things remembering that even when I can't understand God's plan, He's still there.

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