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Although we’ve evolved to eat when our internal food gauge dips to empty, instead, many dysregulated eaters mistakenly turn to food when they’re emotionally depleted. Sometimes our ability to take care of things or people can simply drain us to the point of having nothing left to give. Then, rather than rejuvenate ourselves with sleep, relaxation, joy or rest, we turn to food and can’t get enough of what we didn’t need in the first place.
There are a number of ways that we may become emotionally depleted. What they all have in common is putting out more emotional energy than we’re taking in.
* Being the go to person. If you’re all things to all people, you’re going to be running
on empty far too often. If you say yes to every request—from your kids, partner, friends, parents, siblings, boss, co-workers or neighbors—you’re going to feel exhausted most of the time. Moreover, you won’t have any time to recharge your battery because there’ll always be one more thing to do before you let yourself feel done.
* Being a perfectionist. If you must do everything perfectly—from parenting to parties
to vacuuming to year-end reports—you’re going to stress yourself out. By making sure that all you do is just right, you’ll overtax yourself and still may never feel great about what you’ve done. Sadly, most perfectionists don’t feel good enough even when they’ve done their best. Instead, they worry that their best wasn’t sufficient and that mistakes or errors will come back to bite them.
* Being the most productive person on the planet. If you believe that productivity is
more valuable than relaxation, you’ll never stop rushing around and staying busy. Instead, you’ll run yourself ragged and feel weird and uneasy when you have time on your hands. You’ll interpret this discomfort as being bad (when it’s merely wildly unfamiliar) and, therefore, likely hurry out and find something to make, make better or make perfect. Then, you’ll return to your comfort level feeling useful once more.
* Feeling selfish carving out time for yourself. By believing that you’re being selfish by
taking a break, you set yourself up for emotional depletion and, hence, mindless eating. We all need breaks in order to be productive—or just because sometimes we want to do something that’s just for us and no one else. That’s called self-care, not selfish, and is a normal, essential component of emotional health.
If you often feel emotionally depleted and turn to food for a break, it means you don’t have more effective ways to chill out and unwind which are vital to health, happiness, balance—and “normal” eating. It means you need to change your belief system in this arena and learn the skills that healthy people employ to avoid running on empty.
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