During the holiday season, we all (especially women) hear a lot about 'emotional eating'. Mostly, how to avoid it or mitigate it. You know, drinking huge glasses of water before Christmas lunch or filling up on vegetables or joining a weight-loss challenge.
A trend I've noticed in the psychological/wellness industries too, is the tendency for 'experts' to pathologise what they call 'emotional eating'. And again, we all know about this, right! You emotionally eat because you're frustrated or bored or lonely or lack self-discipline or are triggered by stressful events. You naughty little bint, you.
In years and years of being the target of diet-related messaging and studying psychological wellness, not once did I hear this single truth. Not from the people trying to sell products or services, and not from the people trying to 'cure' unwellness. The truth?
EATING IS NOT A MORAL ISSUE. 'EMOTIONAL EATING' IS NOT A MORAL FAILURE.
When you zoom out and look at Western society as a whole (and I have more work on this topic, if you'd like to learn more, look at my blog), we have a paradoxical over-consumption problem. Not an over-eating problem, but a consumption one. One where our giant loft apartments and open-plan houses are supposed to have multiple 'entertaining spaces' for many people. One where spiritual leaders venerate 'abundance' & 'manifesting'. One where women are expected to breed multiple children. One where we're told it's 'ideal' to be eating food that was grown 12,000 miles away from us just for variety. One where 'hygge' involves luxe blankets, candles, cosmetics.
One where paradoxically, you're also told that, if you're emotionally 'healthy'... you don't need to eat anything*.
*Anything other than unseasonable salads, slow-cooked soups (never mind being at work all day) and hand-baked goods (that are mostly for other people). If you eat 'emotionally' i.e. with anything in mind other than your body being some kind of sexy abundance-generating machine, or in any other mood than 'woman laughing over salad', you're.. failing and weak.
Is it any wonder that people get body dysmorphia when you're being pounded with pressure to have 'abundance' and be 'abundant', but to then have self-discipline and enjoy none of it? Your gut is telling you an important message - you need more pleasure, more comfort and joy. And social messaging is telling you that 'strength' is denying it to yourself.
Do you know why the ultra-wealthy are all mega-thin with minimalistic decor? Because they live permanently in the comfort of having whatever they want, whenever they want. WASTEFULNESS is the ultimate luxury. When they have the safety net of TIME and MONEY, smaller joys or comfort options cease to matter. Celebrities can, and do, subsist off cheeseburgers and liposuction. Who needs a house cluttered with pictures in frames or bowls of fruit when you have a personal chef and can fly visitors to you on a private jet?
More importantly, why are you trying to set behavioural (i.e. diet) restrictions on yourself according to standards set by people with millions of dollars more sources and support than you have? You're really going to tell yourself that you're 'weak' for not resisting third helpings of a fucking pudding or a box of chocolates and not going for a run? You, who goes to work when you're sick and has healed from trauma and travelled and passed exams and done other things requiring strength or courage?
For most people, it's crazy-making. I'm going to be talking more about this in 2020 (I certainly can't fully unpack this in one single blog post) but let me just remind you that eating does NOT equate to your morality.
Comfort eating isn't a failure or an 'easy option'. Sure, it's easy to pathologise - do I crave childish candy because I had a very serious childhood and am subliminally craving fun/lightness? Probably. Am I also incredibly self-determined, principled & resilient absolutely regardless of my candy consumption, in a way that many people who exist fully sugar-free maybe are not? Definitely. Am I going to erase my personal strength, discipline, bravery and effort by relating it to what snacks I eat because society is telling me that my snack choice says more about me than my personal life choices? Ahhh... no.
Instead of analysing your comfort eating through the lens of failure, weakness or lack of control; instead of listing what you need to take AWAY from your life/diet, ask yourself this. 'Where can I add more easy joy/comfort into my life?'
Sometimes food is the only 'joy' accessible your schedule, health, finance or family situation allows without adding more work or stress. So comfort eating is natural & understandable.
Fr your long-term mental & physical health though, you do need more easy sources of joy - especially in the current global social climate. A book series? Water-slides, rollercoasters? Art class? Fantasy films? Going dancing until 3am? Sex? Swimming? Medieval cosplay?
An essential part of decolonising your soul, is decolonising the grip that modern diet culture has on your sense of morality. I don't believe you can do that with more shame and restriction. I definitely don't believe you can do that by seeking others approval or joking about your lack of willpower when it comes to food. Fuck off. You've had the willpower to dodge many terrible things in your life - don't do yourself the injustice by talking disparagingly about yourself because you desire the enjoyment or peace of a cream tea or a bag of M&Ms.
Listen to your body's message that you deserve MORE comfort, more joy. And enjoy exploring all the possibilities to introduce that into your life.