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​The fallout after the death of a loved one can be extreme on our emotional behavior. Many have turned to alcohol or drugs to minimize the sting of death and loss. One thing that doesn’t get discussed enough is the emotional draw to food.​

When Food Becomes Our Comfort

If we have lost a friend or loved one, it becomes easy for food to become our “friend”. It brings a false sense of comfort and happiness.

When we choose food as our friend, it is usually not of the healthy variety. It goes something like this – we are feeling sad, alone, and down. Our favorite Mexican restaurant begins to call our name, and before we know it, we have eaten the whole bucket of chips and downed three margaritas. We all know how the saga goes.

The Real Issue with Emotional Eating

Emotional eating does not solve the problem. It only makes us feel worse by adding inflammatory foods into our system.  Later down the road this can lead to conditions of chronic sickness and disease.

Additionally, the pull of these non-nutrient dense and processed foods becomes highly addictive. We feel a sense of happiness, but this happiness is temporary and misleading. We fall into a vicious cycle of unhealthy, emotional, and downright dangerous eating habits.

Why do we eat emotionally?

  1. Sugary foods operate on the same neurotransmitter pathways as cocaine. That’s right, cocaine operates on the reward centers of the brain. Sugar does the exact same thing. Both make us happy, and both are extremely addicting. When our feel-good neurotransmitters (dopamine) begin to fire, our brain is signaled to keep eating.
  2. We say “the heck with it”. We talk ourselves into believing that nothing matters. Life can become meaningless. When nothing matters, why not eat whatever? So, let’s go suffer in a pool of donuts.
  3. We have no desire to cook. Cooking becomes a problem when we don’t want to get off the couch. It is a feeling of impossibility. We eat more, and select foods with much less care. We choose convenience instead of health.
  4. We eat because someone brought it to us and it’s there. Normally, when death hits a family, others reach out in a particular language of love – bringing you feel-good food. However, you quickly realize it is not making you feel good because you want to eat it before it goes bad. After all, they did bring it to you in goodwill and you do not want to throw it out. This dilemma makes it very difficult to say no.

How to Resist Emotional Eating

  1. Only eat if you are hungry. Be honest with yourself. Are you really hungry? Or are you just bored?
  2. Find alternatives to eating. Take a walk or do some sort of exercise. Call a friend and talk. Meet a friend for a cup of tea or coffee. Sometimes good exercise and conversation is just the ticket to relieve anxiety and sadness.
  3. Understand that emotions will change. Emotions can make you do things that you never wanted to do, say things you never wanted to say, and become things you never wanted to become. Emotions are fickle. Understand and master them.
  4. Cook a meal and break the carry out cycle. The ease of eating out can be dangerous. Take the time to cook a meal, and even invite a friend to help you do it. Cooking can be rewarding. The smells and effort of the process can be quite satisfying. Obviously the result is likely to be more healthy.
  5. Consider that food is not the only source of pain relief. There are other ways to relieve the sadness of grief. Think about what you like to do, your favorite music, or a book you want to read. Consider a trip down memory lane with the wonderful recollections you have regarding the lost loved one.
  6. Make sure you eat real food instead of processed. Real food brings health, and processed food brings disease. There are no physical benefit to processed foods.

Food is a false comforter.

Food is necessary for life, but has become a “false comforter” to many, whether or not experiencing grief.  It is far better to seek peace elsewhere, especially spiritually. A broken heart will never be healed by a cupcake. A broken heart is only healed when emotions are understood, time is taken, and peace is found.