[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….]
When I started writing this week’s post, I really worried about it sounding like a “Dear Diary…” kind of deal. Stress eating, and the reasons behind it, are so personal, for every single individual. The reasons I stress eat can be totally opposite from the reasons my best friend stress eats or the reasons my boyfriend stress eats. It’s so dependent on life circumstances, and personality, and, when it comes down to it, the way each and every one of us thinks. Which, I hope we all agree on this, is different for everybody. Thought is just not homogenous across humanity. Obviously, I’m not any kind of professional, and everything I write here is based around me and how I think these things through… but I hope all my fellow stress eaters will be able to get a little insight into their own lives from what I’m experiencing.
How’s it going?
The past few days haven’t been easy. I’ve found myself standing in my kitchen holding a bag of tortilla chips and teetering on the edge of, I am going to eat all of these. I’ve been able to (mostly) talk myself down from these moments by addressing how I really feel… but each and every time, I get this itchy, uncomfortable feeling about it. Feeling emotions, really feeling them, makes us all uncomfortable to some extent. Feeling sad, being angry, experiencing grief… they aren’t good feelings and we don’t like it. So if we can avoid it, why not?
I should probably confess something right now: I’m a cry-er. I cry a lot. Probably at least 40% of the time. I cry when I’m angry, when I’m hurt, when I’m frustrated, when I feel ignored, when someone is mean, when I’m annoyed, when I’m stressed… pretty much if it doesn’t make me happy, I cry about it. And sometimes I even cry when I’m happy. I’m a cry-er. It’s what I do.
And I’m an ugly cry-er, guys. Really. It makes my face muscles tense and hurt. My head starts to pound. My nose runs and I talk like I have an extremely bad cold. Crying sucks, but I do it all the time.
Sometimes, when I’m right on the edge of tears, I eat instead. Because I hate crying, even though I do it all the time. But there is another side to my crying habit. Sometimes when I cry, I don’t eat. Sometimes, when I really let myself feel things, when I cry for a few hours like my body wants to, I don’t eat. I’ll feel hungry. But I’ll be so sad, and my head and face will hurt from crying so much, that I don’t have the energy to eat. So what’s better: compulsively eating so I don’t feel the emotion… or feeling the emotion and being so drained from it that I don’t eat?
Girls, this stress eating thing is getting complicated.
So… what’s working?
Cardio recently has not been doing it for me when it comes to exercising the stress away. I still feel good when I get off the treadmill or the elliptical machine, but at the same time, twenty minutes later, I still have the feeling of missing my boyfriend or stressing about the fact that there are, literally, no young professional job opportunities in my area (for people with my training and degree). So what has been working? Circuit training. Strangely enough, doing a series of crunches, leg lifts, high knees and long jumps clears my brain in a way that cardio used to, and afterward, the burn in my muscles is almost cathartic. Plus, if I keep this up, I’ll have some amazing abs. So if you’re finding cardio a little humdrum, give yourself a break and try some circuit training.
Finding a new hobby has also helped me a lot. When I don’t have anything to do (and, frankly, without a job and with my boyfriend in a different state, my options for things to do are pretty limited), I tend to obsess over little things, get stressed, and then eat. I promised my boyfriend that I’d find “little projects” for myself every single day. This week, I received a Canon Rebel T2i in the mail… and haven’t been able to put it down. When my part-time writing work gets done by 2pm, I now have something to do: I go for a walk with my camera and my dog; I visit my favorite spots around my hometown; or I go for a long drive, just me and my camera. Having a hobby distracts me and lightens my mood, especially when I’m having a bad day. I’m not saying you should drop $1,000 on a new camera or any kind of new hobby… but picking up scrapbooking, sewing or sketching is a great way to fill up the times where you would obsess over the little anxieties and stress eat.
This challenge has given me a lot to think about. Whenever I’ve been stressed lately, and found myself holding a jar of Nutella or some other tasty snack when I’m not really hungry, I’ve made a few notes in my journal and then calmly talked myself out of making a chocolate chip cookie sandwich with Nutella. All of these notes have essentially added up to the question I started this article with: what is it about feeling emotions that I hate?
Is it that I’m a cry-er? And an ugly crier at that? Because I give myself headaches from crying? Or is it because I don’t want to address what I really, really feel? As an example: when I’m frustrated with my boyfriend for not texting me back, what am I really thinking? Does he not love me? Is he with another girl? Is he ignoring me? It’s all based in insecurity, which fuels my stress, which fuels my stress eating, which fuels my insecurity. So really, when I stress eat to not feel emotion, what I’m really avoiding is addressing the underlying issue: that I’m insecure.
It can be a never-ending cycle, girls. But it’s time with break it. When I think about it, my stress eating always goes back to my little list of insecurities: the things that I’m unsure of regarding my body, my personality, my entire life. My insecurity over my not-so-flat stomach, my insecurity over the job market, my insecurity over the fact that maybe I’m not a likeable person… all of these things add up to anxiety that I pretend is about other things. But it’s not. It’s time to address the insecurity we all feel, so we can break the cycle of stress eating.