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!
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:
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:
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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