Food is Comfort when the World Rejects You

Food is Comfort

It’s not by accident or out of laziness that people overeat. Food is a substitute for love.

Feeling rejected is one of the hardest experiences we can know. Dolphins separated from their pods often die of loneliness. Children do too (look up Bowlby and orphaned children in WW2).

There is no way to go on ‘normally’ with one’s life as a child or an adult without using a coping strategy of some kind to deal with the harsh feelings that come with rejection. And although it is not healthy nor recommended, eating is a good one.

Food is Comfort
When we were (or are) deprived of warmth, we discovered that we can ‘almost’ get the same feeling with a mouth watering piece of cake or basket of fries. Of course we know now that it’s not a replacement for the real thing but damn is it ever BETTER THAN NOTHING.

What Food Gives You

When we eat tasty and filling foods we get rewarded. These rewards and benefits are:

– Having bunch of chemicals secreted in the brain that make you feel good and ‘well’
– The feeling of being soothed
– Pleasure

All the things you get from a loving parent.

But, there are also negative consequences to using food for comfort and they are (as I’m sure you know):

– Weight gain
– Health problems
– Shame

None of the things you get from a loving parent.

Like I mentioned above, feeling unwanted is agonizing and even though we are warned (and shamed) constantly about the dangers of overeating, we still do it. I like to silently tell these well meaning people to, ‘give us an alternative and we’ll gladly look into it. Until then, either try to understand us or drop it completely. We already know the risks of overeating, in the same way smokers, gamblers and drug users know the risks associated with their behaviors etc.’

Understanding how it Started

The damage was done before the age of 5. Your parents were your whole world. As you grew your world expanded until you got to a point where you were able to put things into context and see many different viewpoints, but back then they were IT. They created your world and there was nothing you could do to stop or modify it. Likely, they also had no idea that the dynamic was set up this way and that they had such an influence on you, but that is the way it was. They were stuck in their own stressful, emotional worlds and were also trying to cope with their earlier traumas – all of which had nothing to do with you but …

… you had no choice but to take it personally.

There was no way you could have otherwise. They were your whole world and if the ENTIRE world was neglectful or abusive or rejecting, then you, being so new to it and wide-eyed, understandably accepted the world’s judgement and appraisal of yourself without question.

You took it as gospel and it became part of your early programming, which is always difficult to change later on.

As You Grow

Those agaonizing feelings and needs were still there as you got older, but by then you’ve been able to keep them out of your awareness to some degree and have discovered a few ways to cope with your unmet needs, and to distract from those painful feelings. Getting even older you continue to use these new ‘ways’ since they are effective somewhat, but over time they begin to take their toll.

The negative consequences start to really become a problem and are not working as well anymore. The satisfaction you used to get from eating a gooey dessert is now fleeting, and no amount seems to do the job. That’s when …

You start to look for help.

You go online and find as much information as you can and end up reading resources and blogs like this one.

The problem may seem new, but is really rooted in the same old wound we talked about above, which has stayed with you this whole time.

The Best Thing to Do

The worst thing you can do is ignore it and hope it either goes away or that you’ll find a replacement coping mechanism like TV watching or going out all the time or keeping busy etc. Going this route will simply delay the inevitable and waste precious moments of your life.

Instead, take the opportunity to address it full-on by seeing a qualified, registered psychologist. This is the best way to get an effective start and see real results. Complement your therapy with journal writing, books, online articles, programs and by joining forums. Make the whole process a priority and treat it as your biggest life project ever, and you’ll get the results you desire.

Unfortunately it will be painful and difficult and messy, but better than the alternative.

It’ll make you grow and change how you live and relate to yourself and others, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t start earlier.

It’s time to stand up to the world.

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