Emotions and eating go together like peas and carrots, especially in our culture over the last 60 or so years. A woman’s own relationship with her body, eating, and her emotional life can be very complicated. This relationship is unique to each woman; we each have our own pieces of the emotional-food-use puzzle discussed in this section. A women who struggles with too much mindshare spent on food, eating, and her body may be only slightly aware of what is going on in her mind. Much of the emotional involvement is going on below the surface. My hope is that you can see yourself in some of the following discussion of food and mood, so you can become aware when your own emotions are engaged around eating and food. Once aware of what you are feeling, you have the option to choose another way to be around food, rather than have eating and food mixed up with coping with or avoiding your emotional life.
Why is a chocolate chip cookie so irresistible? Does it have some magic spell that glazes over your eyes and has you forget that eating too many of them can make your pants tighter? Well, actually, yes it does.
For most of us having trouble resisting a cookie at certain times, we’re using the cookie – substitute your own food here -- for another purpose. We are trying re-gain some sort of emotional balance. Just as your body will heal a cut, so will your body seek mental balance to preserve a steady emotional state. The pleasure from tasting something delicious works as a temporary balm from emotional stress. Neuroscientists have shown that the pleasure centers of your brain light up from a chocolate chip cookie in a similar pattern to how your brain would light up on drugs.
Women who spend a large chunk of their lives weighing themselves, counting calories or carbs, and filtering much of their life experience through their body size or their weight could be using their preoccupation with food and their weight as a distraction from their real emotional life. Have you experienced women who are completely obsessed with diets or exercise? These women literally cannot focus on anything else? Their worry about body and eating -- often healthy eating -- can take up an incredible amount of mindshare. This obsessive use of food and eating often distracts them from other aspects of their lives that would be authentic and nourishing. A woman who thinks that her life will be perfect at a certain weight or dress size might be substituting the focus on their body and food for other issues in their lives.