Skinny Daily Post


Of course, we have a million ways to eat more calories than we need. The food is richer than we thought. We ate faster than our satiety signals could process it. We ate mindlessly throughout the day, we binged, we were just too tired to say no to the unhealthy choices. But my favorite excuse for eating too much: anger.

I eat mad. I eat frustrated.

Sometimes I’m just sick and tired of the pressure. So, I eat furiously. Defiantly. I eat like a gladiator tearing through a lion’s haunch after making the kill. I eat in my car while playing the music loud, chomping to the downbeat of some singer who is nearly as angry as I am. I eat powerfully. I eat sneakily. I eat the way I used to smoke. Squinting and sneering through my exhalations.

It doesn’t happen every day, but sometimes it does. Maybe I’ve run all day long and into the night. When there are too many demands on my time, none acknowledging my own hopes and dreams, none of which steer me toward anything I’d like to be doing with my time. Maybe the to do list has overwhelmed me. I haven’t had a chance all day to have a glass of water, or check my email, or pee. I get mad on those days. And when I get that kind of my-life-is-not-my-own mad, I take it out on food.

And gnash the hell out of it. And make the food suffer.

And make my body suffer.

Where anorexics, who control their bodies carefully because it’s all they can control, operate under a logic that is distorted, at least there’s some logic at play.

Eating because you’re not in control? So that then your body is out of control too? That’s not logical.

However, it is a natural response to stress. It’s basic biology, baby. Working beneath the sentient mind. It’s what almost all life forms do when confronted with stress: Nourish. Nourish big time. Refuel for the next fight.

The warblers are coming through Michigan right now on their big spring commute. I love warbler week. I watched a kinglet in the larch outside my bedroom window yesterday morning. She ate wildly, hopping from branch to branch, gorging herself on the bud skin thingies left over from when the larch needles pop out. Barely swallowing one hunk before she reached for another, hopping so quickly from branch to branch it wasn’t easy for me to identify her though she wasn’t more than two feet away. She’s migrating, so under one of the most stressful times of her life, and eating — well, as if her life depended upon it. Eating like crazy. Eating brainlessly. If I were another kinglet, I’d have stayed way the hell out of her way.

The thing is, I am not a kinglet. I really don’t live in a way that threatens my life or my livelihood. But on an emotional level, or a gut level, it feels that way sometimes.

I know what works. I just have to start doing it again: Breathing.

I have to remember what a hugely successful tool deep breathing –really getting into the practice of breathing meditation, not figuratively taking a deep breath — is for managing stress and as a consequence, stress-eating.

Time to break out my Andrew Weil breathing meditation CD. Rip it to the iPod. Get my mellow on. Because logic? It only works when it’s there for me. And that’s not 100 percent of the time.

And you? What’s your trick for restoring your mellow when fright or flight brain’s taken over? What works?

11 thoughts on “Restoring My Mellow

  1. Laura says:

    Wow, that post hit really close to home. Especially when you said “I eat mad. I eat frustrated.” and “when there are too many demands on my time, none acknowledging my own hopes and dreams, none of which steer me toward anything I’d like to be doing with my time”.

    I also would like to know how people restore their mellow also when you have unrelenting stress. My problem is I just don’t care when I get in that rebellion. How do I get myself to care in the moment of anger?

  2. Denise says:

    It helped me just to learn that our bodies crave sugar and carbs when we are stressed out. It helped me learn that this is biology and not because I’m crazy. In the past when humans became stressed… it was often because we were in physical danger. Muscles need carbs for fuel to run or fight. Craving carbs is part of the “Fight or Flight” reflex.

    Of course, we are the first or 2nd generation in history to be able to walk into a grocery store and have our choice of 94,873 different packages of carbs. Our ancestors didn’t have Oreos and Lays…

    So this craving of carbs worked well for us when we really were in physical danger and our choice of carbs were limited to a bowl of grain mush or fruit.

    Anyway, it helped me to realize that my craving of a piece of chocolate cake was driven by biology and it wasn’t some character flaw or weakness.

    And a bowl of oatmeal and some fruit isn’t such a bad thing to eat if you are stressed and really are hungry. It isn’t exactly known as a “classic binge” food.

    * * * * *
    I found this article about studies done on binging rats fascinating. This sentence just popped out at me:

    “…among healthy people without eating disorders, dieting is the biggest predictor of stress-induced overeating.”

    OMG! Dieting can turn people into bingers… wow! My worst binging was at the end of a 3 year strict diet during the ultra low fat ‘90. I often felt deprived. And then I hit a period of stress and started eating and felt like I couldn’t start.

    Quote: The researchers speculate that the deprived and stressed rats may have been in a “hedonic deprivation state,” essentially craving something good and rewarding. The research underscores how what is viewed as an unhealthy behavior (indulging in palatable foods, which are cheap, convenient and often high in fat and sugar) may have its roots in the need to survive. It suggests that binge eating is an adaptive response to abnormal environmental conditions. Boggiano cites other scientists’ findings that among healthy people without eating disorders, dieting is the biggest predictor of stress-induced overeating.

    Full article at:

    * * * *

    It just really helped me to learn that know that a binge is driven by biology and I’m not some wacko nut job.

    And I’ve got about 18 ways to cope… most of which involve getting enough sleep, not keeping junk food in the house, exercising, eating regular scheduled meals, reducing stress, etc. You know… the usual.

    I used to eat an entire cake at a sitting.

    And I’ve mostly been binge free since 2000!

  3. Denise says:

    JuJu, I posted a huge list of emotional eating busters that worked for me a while ago on the WW boards. It is a REALLY long post… but a few people have told me that they have found it helpful.

    Here’s the link if you want a look:

    I used to beat myself, but it doesn’t earn you any WW AP’s.

    I also realized that I never solved a problem by overeating and made my stress considerably worse.

  4. Greta says:

    Walking works for me to calm and sooth the beast within. It’s a good preventative measure that I do at the start of the day.

  5. stretchy says:

    I guess as I got older, I just mellowed. But my parents always felt I was born calm … I was always the “go to” person in any family crisis even though I was one of the younger children in a large family.

    I have siblings who were always half-angry and still are. And I have siblings who were always frustrated and still are. None are overweight, but are overly focused on money and things.

    Food affected only the angriest of my siblings, and she has had every eating disorder I can think of. I only witnessed her binging twice, and it terrified me. She stays slim by doing horrible things to herself.Binging and purging seems the most destructive. There is so much anger in a binge. I never thought about that until I read this post!

    The intensity of it scared me so much. When I tried to talk her out of it, she’d say I was jealous as she is prettier than me. She would become furious and say the most vile things to me.
    I stopped going out to restaurants with her, watching her over-over eat in that rapid way, then vanish into the ladie’s for a long time. I never thought of it before, but she ate and purged her anger. I was in my 40’s when I realized I was not the social worker for my siblings!

    I wanted to help her, but she does not believe in any therapies. I try to point out all of her talents and achievements. Her creativity, her ability to love, but she doesn’t see. She is aging and not gracefully. Anger is just another thing we can use to shorten our lifespan, hurt our ourselves with in so many ways.

    Anger is a very interesting topic. Alternative ways to deal with it–
    I never connected food with anger before.I thought my sister was sad, but there was always that fire in her… anger.

  6. Susie says:

    juju, you are one heck of a powerful writer.

    I have it easier than many people I know: I work part-time from home. Yet I also have challenges: a needy, elderly MIL; aging parents; a son with autism.

    When I’m stressed, breathing tight and shallow, nursing resentments or running as fast as I can to stay in the same place, a phrase echoes in my mind: “I’m alive!”

    For some reason, those two little words wake me up to the magic of being alive in this moment, at this time. To the wonder of being human, of being me. Reminding me not to squander this moment with unnecessary suffering, because my life, after all, is only made of up a string of such moments.

    “I’m alive!” makes it easier to find a measure of contentment even in having to scrub a toilet. Because it’s pretty nice to be alive, after all. Toilets and all.


  7. jonquil says:

    Sometimes, I just go with it. I get mad, and I yell. I lose my temper. Then it blows over like a big storm, and I’m calmer afterwards. It’s messy, and maybe it’s not ladylike, but sometimes that’s what I have to do. And you know, nobody has yet keeled over and died because I’ve gotten mad.

    Personally, I think the world would be better off if women would just be natural, using the energy anger gives, rather than trying to get rid of it. Such as in business or sport, when you can use the anger to focus your aggression, and enhance the competitive instinct. Let’s face it, sometimes you have to kick butt and take names, or you’re treated like a door mat.

  8. Nancy says:

    You really nailed it with this one. Just last night I was having a mental hissy fit about all the hats I have to wear and all the jobs I have to do and how thinly my time and energy are spread some days. I was angry about that “my-life-is-not-my-own” thing you were writing about. And yup. I ate. The binge was short lived, but I ate without manners, all sloppy-like and the food spilled on my shirt and I didn’t care. Then I looked in the mirror and saw the salsa stain and the “I-hate-me” thoughts started. I have such an unhealthy realtionship with food that when these types of scenarios play themselves out, I normally don’t try to figure them out because I just assume that it’s me being crazy again. So, it was really good to read your post today and isolate just one crazy thing—anger! Now, how to translate it to the reality that is me and my life. I guess I need to dig out my Enya CD’s?

  9. stretchy says:

    Thanks for the post, Denise.

    It is so true, sometimes you can’t fight a craving. Deprived of treats, we can become overly emotional.

    Again, planning ahead with this in mind can save us a lot of turmoil.

  10. Allyson says:

    This is timely for me as I am struggling a little with my maintenance now that I have quit smoking. Thanks!

  11. Mimi says:

    I understand the binging. I often go long periods of time doing really well on my diet, and then one day I think ‘why am I doing this’ and totally go off the deepend. But they are getting fewer and far between and I cant wait until the day I have control over my binging.

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