karen header 3

Karen's Blogs

Blogs are brief, to-the-point, conversational and packed with information, strategies, and tips to turn troubled eaters into “normal” eaters and to help you enjoy a happier, healthier life.Sign up by clicking "Subscribe" below and they’ll arrive in your inbox. 

[No unsolicited guest blogs accepted, thank you]

Solitude and Mindless Eating

Many of you do fine with food when you’re busy with activities or socializing with people, but as soon as you’re alone, you get all squirrely and head for the fridge. Well, it turns out that humans seem to have a bias against solitude, according to “People find solitude distressing” (Science News, 8/9/14, p. 12). Perhaps better understanding how humans—and how you—feel about solitude will help you avoid mindless eating.

Says Timothy Wilson of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, “The human mind wants to engage with the world.” He and his colleagues maintain that thoughts are difficult to control, as is trying to make sure they’re pleasant. It helps to hear that this is true so that we don’t think we’re the only ones trying—and failing—to keep a clear and positive mindset. Wilson goes on to say that “Mammalian minds evolved to track external dangers and opportunities. Only humans acquired an ability to focus solely on internal thoughts …For many people, being left alone with their thoughts is a most undesirable activity.” I know from talking with clients that many of you heartily agree.

Jonathan Smallwood, a psychologist at the University of York in England, however, describes why solitude is important: “Solitary thought helps people to make sense of past experiences, a vital but difficult exercise that may explain the discomfort that people” feel. This makes enormous sense if your experiences are distressing, especially in childhood when we develop the ability and habits of introspection and reflection. It’s one thing if you have a basically happy, functional family situation which isn’t disturbing to think about when you’re alone. But quite another if there is significant ongoing turmoil in your home life. No child’s mind can easily make sense of stressful and frightening experiences and the natural inclination is to move to turn them off and shut them out.

When did you develop the habit of feeling distressed when you were alone with your thoughts—as a child, adolescent or adult? If you say in adulthood, I would encourage you to reach back further and consider if you really enjoyed solitary thought before then. For example, if you were someone who always wanted to be busy, maybe that was your way of escaping quiet reflection. And maybe you had a good reason for this avoidance.

Now, as an adult, you will benefit from being able to tolerate solitude, in part because it’s so difficult to avoid it completely and, in part because you can learn so much about yourself and life through introspection and self-reflection. Next time you’re alone, don’t head for the fridge. Instead, stay with your thoughts and be curious about them.

Social Isolation and Eating
Genetic Links to Procrastination and Impulsivity

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.karenrkoenig.com/

shelf new

EBProfessionalBadgeLarge

This website is owned and operated by Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW. It contains material intended for informational and educational purposes only, and reasonable effort is made to keep its contents updated. Any material contained herein is not to be construed as the practice of clinical social work or of psychotherapy, although adherence to applicable Florida States, Rules, and Code of Ethics is observed. Material on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment for mental health issues or eating disorder problems, which should be done only through individualized therapeutic consultation. Karen R. Koenig, LCSW disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained on this website. This website contains links to other sites. The inclusion of such links does not necessarily constitute endorsement by Karen R. Koenig, LCSW who disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained in this website. Further, Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, does not and cannot guarantee the accuracy or current usefulness of the material contained in the linked sites. Users of any website must be aware of the limitation to confidentiality and privacy, and website usage does not carry any guarantee or privacy of any information contained therein.  Privacy Policy