This past week, I had a surprising insight. I realized that I still turn to food when I’m stressed.
But – and this is key – it’s in a very different way than when I was younger.
In my earlier years, I was a champion at stress eating. Usually I went for sugar, although Doritos or chips would do in a pinch.
Unfortunately, this didn’t help in the long run because then I felt upset with myself for overeating. This just made me more stressed, and then I’d eat more. Not a good cycle.
Plus, I didn’t truly appreciate the food. Food was more like a long-suffering friend, one who also enabled me. No matter how many times I abused it, and even though I never showed the food any care, it was always there for me.
But along the way of my mindful eating journey, things changed.
Now, when I’m stressed and turn to food, it looks completely different. It feels like a more reciprocal friendship. I get something from the food, but I also pay attention to it.
One way of doing this is with cooking and baking. I know a lot of folks aren’t interested in cooking just for themselves, but I don’t get that.
After a long day of work, of doing very brain-intensive activities and sitting in front of a computer, it’s therapeutic and comforting to me to chop, to stir things in a pot or pan.
I also embrace and appreciate all the delights food offers. The smell, the physical warmth, the colors, the satisfying crunch, the silky creaminess, and more. To me it’s a way of honoring the food and where it comes from.
Another approach is to watch food shows. I know they might trigger some people to want to eat, but I tend to find them soothing. (Well, not the Gordon Ramsey ones.) I like hearing the stories about how people get into cooking, especially the ones who found it life-changing.
Other times I might look at recipes, or read about food. It’s fun and relaxing for me to consider all the possibilities of food, and all the ways in which it enriches our lives.
I have other coping mechanisms for stress, but food still plays a bit part. Now, though, since it’s much more varied, I don’t get into that downward spiral.
And I’m glad, because it would sadden me deeply to lose that connection and friendship with food. It truly has always been there for me.
I’m just glad, now, that I can appreciate it so much more fully and give it the focus and attention any good friend deserves.