Karen's Blogs

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Coping with Change

Do you find that when life changes, you head for the cookie jar, especially when that change is unexpected or unwanted? Let’s face it, most people aren’t wild about giving up the known for the unknown. But because resisting change often worsens the situation, it’s useful to understand why it bothers us and how to handle it without mindless eating.

In “Learning how to get along as life changes” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 5/12/15, 20E), Alina Tugend tells us how to cope with change in constructive ways. She advises that “Changes often make us feel out of control. And it’s particularly hard if change is foisted upon us, rather than being something we choose” but that “letting go of what we know to be the current reality and embracing new thought” is the only way to go. As a therapist and teacher, I find that much of what I do is to help people through this letting go/embracing process around major life changes.

Building up fears and catastrophizing about the horrors change might incur make us more change averse. Tugend quotes French philosopher Michel de Montaigne: “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune, most of which never happened.” Now, I’m not saying that some readers haven’t experienced terrible misfortune. There are many who have, and it’s especially difficult to cope when bad things happens to you as a child. But there are other people who have lived relatively charmed lives who still dread change, constantly worry about what will happen, and make mountains out of mole hills.

Tegund points to enlightening research by Rutgers University sociology professor Deborah Carr, showing “that although most people think something good will make them very happy over the long term and something negative will make them very unhappy, that is often not true.” Tegund suggests viewing change as “neither wholly good nor wholly bad.” Find something positive in a “negative,” such as losing a job or a beau. Better yet, find several good things. She also notes that often we put up with low-grade dissatisfaction because we tell ourselves we’re afraid of change, but that something different may be just what we need for happiness. Says Tegund, “We have great difficulty letting go of what is familiar, even when the familiar doesn’t work well.”

How does unexpected and unwanted change affect your eating? What thoughts or behaviors make the situation worse? What could you do to be more accepting of and positive toward change? Consider that it’s not what happens to you, but how you view it that makes the difference—in your happiness level and in your eating.

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