To fill up with food presupposes that there is an emptiness that longs to be filled. And for many of us there is. Our impulse to fill up with food is an attempt to fill a hole. To truly understand emotional overeating one must be willing to bravely look into the abysmal emptiness that so many of us are trying to fill with food, albeit futilely.
When we look at people that are overweight, particularly when that person is us, we can be filled with negative judgments. It is almost never a true statement that an overweight person is lazy, uneducated or gluttonous. What is often a true statement, however, is that an overweight person is in pain. If we can remember that, we are more likely to approach the issue of weight, for ourselves and others, from a place of curiosity, care, and compassion.
So, What’s This Hole We’re Trying to Fill With Food?
Sure, we all have a literal hole in us. There is space in our stomachs that food can fill up. But the hole that many of us seek to fill with food can’t be filled no matter how much we stuff in. The hole that we try to fill with food can be:
Does your life lack meaning? Do you wonder what your purpose is? Do you go about the tasks of your everyday life wondering what they’re for and what difference they’re actually going to make in the world at large? If so, your hole could be a void. You could be longing to imbue your life with more meaning and mindfulness. Food can’t fill this kind of void. What can fill this kind of void is finding a cause to help with, a craft to be passionate about, or a spiritual practice.
Have you experienced the loss of a loved one? A break-up? A divorce? Has someone in your life lost some part of their functioning to illness or injury? Have you been laid off from a job? If so, your hole could be a loss. You could be missing someone or something. Food can’t quell this longing. It can fill you up momentarily. It can numb you out. But food only delays the necessary work of grieving and getting back to living. Loss is undeniably painful but when you eat you actually prevent yourself from doing the things that would actually be healing. Taking actions like remembering (putting yourself back together), reaching out for help, and surrendering to the process can all offer real soothing.
Do you feel lonely even when in the company of others? Do you long for a connection but aren’t quite sure how to bridge the gap? Do you spend way too much time alone, in hiding, or isolating? If so, your hole could be loneliness. I’m sure you guessed that food can’t help this kind of hole either, but here are some things that can: first, find ways to connect to yourself through prayer, art, spirituality, beauty or nature and then look for ways to fill your life with quality people that make you feel seen, known, loved, and understood.
Part of being alive is tolerating the discomfort of that gnawing, aching emptiness inside ourselves. But on our journey towards recovering from Emotional Overeating, we must always remember that no matter how satisfying it might seem to actually fill that hole inside with something, we deny ourselves of the feeling of real fullness by accepting the quick fix of food.
By: Michelle Flordaloso