Emotional eaters typically not only stuff our feelings, but we also stuff things that we really want to say.
Since I was a kid I’ve been afraid of speaking my mind.
I grew up in a family where people are fairly intellectual and like to debate…in fact my dad and middle sister felt intellectually superior to my mom, sister and me. They had many great discussions around the dinner table, and I stayed out of it. I felt like I would be crushed by my dad and middle sister, that my ideas would be shot down. It’s true that I wasn’t a great debater, and my arguments weren’t solid. But I felt like my opinions weren’t even valid. Even if I had had a great argument, I couldn’t deliver it convincingly because I lacked self-confidence. I often stammered. It was embarrassing, so I just avoided getting involved.
Unfortunately, I trained myself to not speak up, and I paid dearly for this as an adult. It all came down to fear. I was afraid to speak up. I was afraid to be squashed, to be wrong, and I was afraid to look and feel stupid. So I said nothing.
How Fear Leads to Pain and Disappointment
Everyday conversations can be a huge source of fear for the emotional eater, and the fear of rejection is a very real and incredibly painful feeling. It’s not that we all need to become great debaters around the dinner table, or at parties, but we all need to be able to speak up when we feel moved to.
This fear of speaking up leads to pain and disappointment. What if someone is doing something hurtful, and you don’t say anything? What if you need something, but are too afraid to ask? What if you feel something very strongly, but don’t have the courage to stand up for yourself? This happens all the time, and keeping quiet doesn’t make your life any easier, in the long run.
Emotional eaters know all too well: if we don’t say it, we will end up stuffing it with food.
Holding things in not only drives us straight to the fridge, but it also builds a lot of resentment toward others. This resentment gets stuffed down, too.
A lot of us feel like victims when we don’t feel heard. We cry, “nobody gets me, nobody listens to me, nobody respects me…”, but the reality is nobody hears us because we don’t speak up!
People Aren’t Mind Readers
Ultimately it’s your responsibility to speak up, uncomfortable as it may be (you get used to it, with practice). You can’t expect people to read your mind, and it’s not fair to get angry at someone when you don’t communicate your needs, wants, or boundaries. You can’t wait around for people to ask you what’s going on with you or what’s on your mind. And besides, would you tell them what you really feel if they did? Or would you hold your true feelings in and tell them what they want to hear?
What we need to have is the gumption to speak up.
Recently, my mom was in town for a beauty treatment and to visit with me. The person doing the treatment is a bit of a “bull in a china shop”; very forceful and domineering, and a lot of times my mom will lose her ‘voice’ in this woman’s presence. She lets the woman steamroll her. It’s a real problem and I’ve had to get in there and speak up for my mom, at times, which is not something I want to do. I don’t want to be the referee, or to have to defend my mom… but sometimes I feel like I don’t have a choice. I know she won’t speak up, even though it’s her responsibility, and if I don’t speak up, she’ll end up getting overcharged or coerced into things she doesn’t really need.
This last time, the woman came with some attitude, some brewing resentment against my mom. Her demeanor made my mother very uncomfortable. I stepped in. I had to either say it, or stuff it.
I tried to explain that we were just trying to figure out a miscommunication that had obviously occurred, and the woman became even more aggressive. I couldn’t believe she chose to escalate the situation, but she did. So I said something like, “you’re being a bitch”. (My protective instincts toward my mom kicked in and I wasn’t having it.)
I realized that my calling this gal a bitch wasn’t solving anything so I dialed it back and asked her to do the same. Somehow my words clicked with her, and she apologized.
The last thing either of us wanted to do was to have an escalated fight, and so, thankfully, we were able to avoid that.
But the real takeaway is that I was able to speak up. I didn’t stuff it.
My dad once told me, “it’s better to be pissed off than to be pissed on”.
Speaking up means you respect yourself. I didn’t dance around the situation, I faced the situation, head-on. I was vocal and strong. I didn’t second-guess my intuition. This time, I didn’t waffle. And I was willing to walk out.
This is an important lesson: When you’re willing to lose what you want in favor of standing for yourself, you will grow in self-respect. NOTHING is more important than your self-respect.
Clearing the air is wonderful. People are more appreciative of open communication than you might imagine. The best part is the incredible sense of relief when you actually speak up. Much of the time, the horrific scenario you imagine – being rejected, fired, etc. – doesn’t actually happen. And holding it in leads to resentment, and resentment leads to emotional eating.
Communicating with strength and self-respect shows people that you expect them to treat you with respect. But if you don’t speak up, they can’t read your mind and you can’t expect them to consider your point of view.
Overeating is the price we pay for stuffing our feelings instead of releasing them through open communication. Learning to communicate your feelings and thoughts openly is a skill that will help you in every area of your life. Listen to that small, inner voice and get those troubled feelings and thoughts OUT instead of stuffing them down with food.
Want to learn how to communicate without fear? Communication is one of the seven steps in my book, Heal Your Hunger, 7 Simple Steps to End Emotional Eating Now.