A few years ago, a doctor told me that there are two kinds of people in the world: those that respond to life's difficulties by eating more and those who respond by eating less. I've always appreciated her advice because she didn't judge this one way or the other. She just pointed out that these were normal responses to things like stress, worry, depression, anxiety, life's major shifts and changes. She also said that excitement, anticipation, and positive major changes can bring this on too.
How about you? Are you an eater or an abstainer?
First, I want to point out that eating disorders are an entirely different situation and discussion from what I want to raise today. I am not referring to when behavior has become over-the-top and dangerous, like with anorexia or obesity. Also, I realize that for some people, it's just not possible to walk the middle way with food. And I want to honor that dealing with food disorders is a serious, life-long practice that takes a lot of steadfastness and courage.
For many of us, it's fine to go 'off your feed' a little in times of distress or reach for a popsicle when things get a bit overwhelming. As long as you are aware of your behavior ("OK, I just going to step back and chill a little with this popsicle") and that you aren't replacing dealing with the issues with your food response.
Me, I'm usually an eater. I relate to Deputy Police Chief Brenda Johnson in The Closer or Audrey Hepburn in the film Charade who, when confronted with a difficult moment, grab for the nearest food substance and start nibbling away. Unfortunately I don't seem to be able to keep the weight off like these skinny ladies, so I have to watch it. The trick is to pay attention to fullness and stop well before then. I try to keep heathy nibbles around like almonds or raisins. Little bits of things that I can pop into my mouth without too much consequence. (Chocolate-covered almonds are another story, of course.)
Sometimes, though, I go in the opposite direction and 'forget' to eat all day. This only happens when I'm away from my home and office and running around. It's curious, though, and a little alarming, that I can override my body's hunger signals.
What I appreciated about my doctors statement is that it encouraged self-knowledge while not demonizing my natural response. Be aware of who you are and how you respond to your life and let that be a guide for your behavior, she said. It's proven to be enormously helpful advice.
Tell us your stories about eating or abstaining in times of distress or even times of joy.
Related: Weekend Meditation: Cooking and Eating