Anxiety is like quicksand. The more you fight it, the more rapidly you find yourself trapped.
According to a poll taken by the American Psychiatric Association, nearly one-third of American adults say they feel more anxious than they did a year ago.
We can’t say we’re shocked by this statistic.
According to Google Trends, the number of Google searches including “anxiety,” has increased steadily over the past five years.
Furthermore, the CDC tells us, “During August 19–31, 2020, through December 9–21, 2020, significant increases were observed in the percentages of adults who reported experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder (from 31.4% to 36.9%).” The numbers have only risen since then.
When you consider these statistics, you might get the impression we’re dealing with a monster in our midst! While anxiety is a formidable foe, I do have some excellent news:
You can walk away from the grips of anxiety relatively unscathed.
Instead of fighting the monster, simply recognize it, acknowledge it, and walk away. Anxiety has as much power over you as you give it.
So, what does anxiety have to do with food? Often, people turn to food to relieve their anxious thoughts and physical sensations. How about some more good news?
You can avoid anxiety eating!
How to Stop Anxiety Eating
There are days when we wake up feeling anxious. When that happens, we have a choice: we can either begin to struggle, or acknowledge it.
Here’s how the latter option works:
- Feel anxious.
- Say, “Today, I feel anxious. Though this is an uncomfortable feeling, it will pass.”
Then, you continue living your life fully and with the hope that every struggle has a beginning, middle, and end.
Here’s what it looks like when we try to wrestle with anxiety, as opposed to acknowledging it and moving forward:
- Feel anxious.
- Tighten all our muscles, thus introducing physical tension that slows the flow of oxygen throughout the body.
- Feel breathless and, as a result, tighten the grip of control that results in even less oxygen.
- Look for something to bring comfort to ourselves, such as food.
- Eat to lessen the grip of anxiety because somewhere in the back of your mind, you’ve begun to equate food with comfort.
If this sounds familiar, know that we understand. So do most people who have easy access to food.
A 2020 study conducted by OnePoll and presented in Refrigerated and Frozen Foods reveals, “41% say they reach for comfort foods because they bring them happiness, while 39% say these types of foods provide them with something to look forward to in these uncertain times. And 33% say it offers ‘stress relief.’”
These results affirm what most of us already know about anxiety eating–we do it when we believe food can combat the effects of stress by bringing us comfort.
So, ask yourself: has fighting anxiety with ice cream ever dulled the discomfort of stress in your life?
Has opening a bag of chips ever calmed your nerves?
Of course not. Instead, eating food for the sake of relieving stress almost always compounds anxiety because you realize the method you’ve chosen to fight anxiety isn’t working, which only gives more power to “the monster.”
Let’s take a nice, deep breath, and feel gratitude for the fact that we’ve tried anxiety eating, and now we know it doesn’t produce the results we thought it would. There is beauty in discovering we’ve been on a path that causes us harm because there’s hope in knowing we can turn around and move in a new direction.
What To Do Instead Of Stress Eating
When we go into overdrive trying to get rid of anxiety, it gets bigger.
When we go into overdrive assigning a kind of power to food that it doesn’t possess, we overshadow our intuition and lose our ability to listen to our bodies.
So, instead of turning to food as a stress reliever, try the following:
- Identify the lie–acknowledge the story you’re telling yourself about food and its ability to calm your nerves. Once you identify the lie, release it and replace it with the truth, “Food nourishes my body.”
- Release the tension–Once you’ve identified the lie, let it go. Then, speak the truth about the nature of food and how it relates to your body. Next, release the tension that is creating anxious feelings. You can do this by meditating or engaging in passive or active relaxation. Once the pressure is released, oxygen continues to flow through your body.
- Listen to your intuition–When the body and mind are relaxed, oxygen is free to flow throughout without any obstacles tension can create. Research shows that free-flowing oxygen can raise oxygen levels in your brain, which in turn boosts the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that alters your mood.
The way to disconnect eating as a reaction to anxiety begins with identifying the connection and ends when you’ve created space for your intuition to tell you what you truly need.
How to Avoid Anxiety Eating
The next time you feel the anxiety begin to creep into your mind and body, remember to call it what it is, identify the mental and physical manifestations it produces, and then release it.
When you acknowledge and then reject damaging thoughts and feelings, you can step away from the old pattern of feeding them and reconnect with the carefree way in which your body naturally communicates with you.
Leslie Chen uses the ultimate freedom approach to help you move away from anxiety eating. Unlearn the anxiety-inducing diet rules so that you can break the chains of emotional eating. Schedule a free consultation with Leslie here.
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