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Emotions As a Life Raft

Much of my work with clients is around sharing emotions, for they’re as important to recovering from eating problems as is appetite. Sadly, both often have been perceived negatively by disregulated eaters who trust neither their appetite nor their feelings. The good news is that you really can’t improve in one area without improving in the other.

This blog is based on a 2007 PARADE Magazine article that I accidentally misplaced and recently discovered, Why Emotion Keeps You Well by Dr. Henry S. Lodge. Fortunately what Lodge has to say remains current and relevant: We may think that emotions affect only our mental health but they strongly impact our physical health as well. Through MRIs and PET scans we are able to observe the trillions of electrical/emotional signals that course through brain and body when we feel emotions, a normal part of being human. Statistics on being open or closed with emotions highlight our quality of life and longevity. Says Lodge, “For the most isolated among us, the risk of premature death from any cause is up to five times higher. More connected people are happier and healthier across the spectrum of life. Your degree of social connection predicts how many colds you’ll get as well as your odds of surviving cancer.” Toward this end, Lodge recommends becoming part of a group, formal or informal.

Though we connect through activities and values, our deepest bonds are from our emotions. We now understand that we are at heart tribal beings and need to feel a sense of belonging in order to thrive. Lodge advises talking about your feelings—experiencing and sharing them. If you’re emotionally isolated, keep trying to make connections, though it might be harder for some than others and more difficult in situations in which you’re the new kid on the block. Don’t give up. The payoff will be a greater sense of well-being—and an easier time with food. The more you reach out, the more comfortable you’ll be doing it. Sometimes you’ll need to force yourself to get out there and make small talk before you get into deeper stuff. Don’t expect that everyone will take to you and don’t interpret rejection as proof that there’s something wrong with you. You are lovable and will make intimate connections in time.

It’s easier for women to share their feelings than it is for men to do so because of human evolution and genetics, but that makes it even more important for men to learn this skill that many women already have. To learn more about emotions, read my FOOD AND FEELINGS WORKBOOK and join my message board at