One Month Challenge: Stop Stress Eating, Week 2

[Everyone’s got a vice, a bad habit, something they know they need to change. Unfortunately, everyone also has a million excuses why they just can’t do it. Not anymore. Every month we will be following a different CollegeCandy writer as she takes on a personal challenge. Last month, Khalea gave up fried food. This month, Michelle is going to come face to face with stress eating. Can she stop the emotional ice cream binges? We’ll find out….]
The first few days
The past weekend was one of the worst weekends I’ve had in a while. I will admit to crying about 75% of the time. Several times, I called my lovely boyfriend on Skype only to immediately start crying at him through my computer. Trust me, crying into a keyboard while your boyfriend stares at your blurry webcam video is the least helpful form of communication for a relationship.
Since I started this challenge, I have struggled with one fundamental question: Why do I eat instead of feel? It’s a good question. Why do some people do drugs, or drink too much? Why do some people compulsively shop? What makes us neurotic?
I enjoy food – I really do. Since I write the Intro to Cooking column here at CollegeCandy, I obviously enjoy food. But sometimes, I use food as a crutch. Anxiety is something I have always dealt with: I feel a great deal of anxiety when it comes to school, but also in relationships and dealing with people. When I e-mail someone and they don’t reply for a few days, I don’t get annoyed with them; I get anxious that they’re mad at me. A lot of this has to do with my own insecurity and my incessant need to receive assurance that I am a good, capable person. But a huge part of it contributes to my stress eating. Instead of asking someone to reply to my e-mail, or telling people, like my boyfriend, that I need more reassurance, I eat.
But why don’t I allow myself to feel real emotions?
Whenever I have a crying spell, I usually end it by putting in on of my favorite movies and eating something with carbs (a sandwich, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, garlic bread…) I don’t really allow myself to just cry. Eating forces me to use my mouth in a way other than contorting into “ugly cry face” (I am a victim, kids). A movie draws my attention away from my feelings and into a different world.
On Monday, I found myself standing in my parents’ kitchen holding three graham crackers coated in a generous layer of Nutella. I ate all three in about two minutes. I didn’t even give myself a chance to think about it. It was my first “cheat” – my first crack. I started to wonder if I could ever stop stress eating.
Immediately, I sat down to work on this article. I began to wonder, again, why I don’t allow myself to fully feel my emotions. Being emotional – that is, really feeling emotions fully – is uncomfortable and generally not very fun. Can I help myself to stop stress eating… by forcing myself to feel uncomfortable? Will it make me happier to stop stress eating… or will it make me unhappy?
What Works?
⦁       Talk it out. It really helps to have someone to talk to. Recently, this has been my boyfriend. Hearing his voice when I’m having a crying spell, or having him reassure me that I will get a job and that I’ve always made the right choices when it comes to my career, is the greatest comfort ever. Being able to tell him exactly why I’m upset forces me to really, really feel my feelings – rather than hide in my bedroom and eat them away.
⦁       Yoga? Okay, I’m gonna shatter some worlds here. Yoga is nice. It’s a nice way for me to start my morning. After my incident with the graham crackers Monday, I tried to do some yoga… and I ended up just getting really cranky about it. The last thing I wanted to see was a woman in a pink spandex jumpsuit doing yoga on the beach. It helps to relax me in the morning and generally keeps me relaxed… but if I’m already stressed, I want nothing to do with it. So yoga is a mixed bag for me right now.
⦁       Staying conscious. I got this idea from a friend. How often do I realize that I am eating due to stress versus actual hunger? Do I sometimes confuse my anxiety with hunger (or, do I justify my stress eating as legitimate hunger)? Society teaches us that we should keep our emotions in check – how many books have been written about women crying in the workplace? – so it has become easy for us all to hide our real emotions. Staying conscious of how we really feel about things can help us stop stress eating, seems to be my logical thought. Part of this, for me, is journaling. Writing down what I feel, when I feel it, and potential reasons for it, helps me get back in tune with my real emotions… so I can feel them, rather than eat four pieces of peanut butter toast.
Final Thoughts
A huge part of this challenge for me is increasing my self-awareness. As a writer, I tend to be very observant of others and the environment around me, but not necessarily of myself. It is difficult to re-learn how to look at yourself, and how you feel and think, all in one month. This isn’t going to be a month-long process, just a one-month glimpse of a longer battle.
For the past week, I have been on edge – without my regular stress eating sprees, I’ve been forcing myself to actually feel, or to at least think things through thoroughly. But I don’t want to just force myself to feel, I want to address what it is that makes me choose food rather than my own thoughts. By confronting what it is about really feeling that I want to avoid, I will be able to more easily stop stress eating, because I’ll be addressing the larger, underlying issue. What is it about feeling emotions that makes us uncomfortable? And how can we change it?
If you’re taking on this challenge with me, how’s it going for you? What has been your greatest difficulty? How have to dealt with the temptation to stress eat? 

Would You Wear…A Demin Vest?
Would You Wear…A Demin Vest?
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