How we let our fears govern how we eat

Often defined as an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger (Merriam-Webster), fear is a primitive response to an outside threat. Though the expression of fear varies between species, in a developed North American society, coping mechanisms we manifest in response to fear have a palpable effect on the body. One such coping strategy is how we feed and fuel ourselves during times of duress, and how these eating habits stick with us even after the threat has dissipated. Plainly, we aren’t very nice to our bodies in times of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.

Emotional eating is the all-encompassing umbrella term for “feeding our feels” and is often associated with binging on comfort foods during times of sadness. Think ice cream after a breakup. Sometimes these emotions are overwhelming to manage without a crutch, and a comforting quart of ice cream numbs that pain effectively. Are we afraid of feeling our emotions? (Probably, but that’s a talk for another day). Once the cloud of post-breakup despair has lifted, we move on with our lives and retire the cold treats, yet not for long. As soon as a discomfort rears its ugly head again, we immediately cling to Ben & Jerry’s.

Emotional eating involves reaching for those high-calorie, sugary foods in an effort to desensitize our mind to the stress induced by the obstacles we have in our lives. Emotional eating is the result of being hungry and having no plan deal with stress.

Next time you find yourself snacking spontaneously, or reaching out for an extra scoop of ice cream, ask yourself: “am I hungry or bored or stressed?” Because without a plan of attack to manage and cope productively with fear, we’ll fall into our cold habits of reaching for sugary comfort foods.


Tips for NOT feeding the feels:

  • 30 seconds of activity: jumping jacks, push-ups, planks

  • 1 full glass of water

  • 5 deep belly breaths

  • Planning* out snack times and setting aside nutritious foods to feed the inner munch monster

Anousha usman