published in Eating, Grief, Health by Maryanne | December 9, 2011

 

What Might You Be Stuffing Down This Season?

 

“We are – in nearly every sense of the word – stuffed. Saturated. Trying to cram in a little more on Dec 25th seems kind of pointless.”

Bill McKibben, Hundred Dollar Holiday; The Case for a More Joyful Christmas

The season of comfort food is upon us again. Turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, Christmas pudding, baked brie with cranberries, shortbread cookies, chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate…mmmm!

But wait.

Could there be more to our passionate love affair with comfort food than mere tradition this time of year?

“We’re often trying to make ourselves feel better through whatever it is we are stuffing into our mouth. For women in particular we are often stuffing our emotions down with comfort food…and the most common emotions I find, in my practice with women, are anger, anxiety and sadness.”

– Esther Kane, MSW

I heard Esther, a good friend of mine, as well as a therapist who specializes in working with women with eating disorders, on the radio the other day. She was speaking about the food-mood connection. Wow! Have a listen:

Esther Kane Kool FM Radio Clip Nov 18

But when we eat, er, rather large quantities of comfort food in the attempt to “stuff down” emotions we don’t want to feel, the long term result can be weight gain or an eating disorder…and yet the emotions themselves are likely still there, waiting to be felt.

In my experience, unprocessed hurt doesn’t just go away.

Here’s a bit of a comical clip from the audio version of my book, A Widow’s Awakening:

AWA audio clip #2 goldfish

For what is grief but a perfect encapsulation of the three emotions that drive people to eat for comfort:

1. Anger over losing a loved one

2. Anxiety over our new forced-upon-us life without our loved one…as well as possible concern over where their souls might be now

3. Sadness over missing someone we loved very much, while learning to accept that a significant chapter of our lives has ended

But what I’ve since come to realize is that regardless of what our past year has held, Christmas can be a very fickle time of year. For if our Christmas doesn’t look like a Norman Rockwell painting – or some preconceived notion of how we thought our lives would look like – then that can really suck! Or, maybe our Christmas does look like a Norman Rockwell to everyone else…but the reality is anything but happy.

Let’s face it: as delicious as Christmas can be, it also tends to be the time of year when all that is not in one’s life comes bubbling to the surface.

Personally, I’m down a beloved dog this year, there’s still no flippin’ guy in my life and I don’t have a child to watch opening their stocking come Christmas morning. But you know what? I do still have one beautiful dog who LOVES opening her stocking, I’ve got my health, lots of wonderful friends and family, a cozy home and food in the fridge…and lots of great kids in my life!

Which brings us back to the topic of comfort food: I love my food – at Christmas and all the year through. But in the weeks ahead, I shall try and take Esther’s advice and eat my favourite dishes and decadent treats in moderation.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening and the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc. Esther Kane is the author of It’s Not About the Food and a psychotherapist who specializes in working with women with eating disorders. Please visit www.estherkane.com for details.

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5 Comments

  1. Terri Garbutt on December 10th, 2011 at 1:15 pm:

    But there will still be Christmas pudding this season, right??

  2. Maryanne on December 14th, 2011 at 12:28 pm:

    Are you kidding? OF COURSE, THERE WILL BE CHRISTMAS PUDDING! I absolutely cannot wait!! I will be taking Christine’s to her next week 🙂 Thanks again for the pudding, Ter!!
    ma

  3. Maryanne on December 14th, 2011 at 12:36 pm:

    Okay…thank you so much for the e-mail responses about your favourite Christmas foods…and what you might be stuffing down this season! Here is a snapshot of some of the favourite foods:

    – Kinder Surprise Eggs
    – Gargantuan Costco Shortbread Cookie
    – Homemade Cranberries
    – Stuffing and Gravy
    – Irish Stew

    So…on their own, they all sound great! Served together…as a really weird meal, not so much 🙁

    And the 2 WINNERS of Esther’s book, “It’s Not About the Food, A Woman’s Guide to Making Peace With Our Bodies” are:

    Lauren Gilbert and Jayne Zarecky…congratulations, ladies!! We shall pop those books in the mail right away!
    Maryanne

  4. Lorraine Herle on December 20th, 2011 at 1:58 am:

    hello Maryanne!!

    I loved your book…I’ve tried to reach you on your cell and have not been sucessful at that…I would love to see you if you’re up this way..Have a Merry Christmas and will try to catch you again
    Lorraine

  5. Kerri Carlson on December 26th, 2011 at 1:06 pm:

    Maryanne,

    You are doing great work and are such an inspiration. Thank you for all that you do ~ Kerri

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