Table of Contents
- Loneliness & binge eating
- Loneliness and social anxiety
- Loneliness & Eating until it hurts
- Turn loneliness into solitude
- How to connect with other people
- Every time I feel fat I end up going to the kitchen for a snack, and that usually turns into a night of grazing. I want to lose weight, so how can I stop this pattern?
- I’m trying to accept my body as it is and embrace body positivity, but I’m having a hard time with that. Can you give me some tips on how I can feel better about myself at this weight?
Do you ever feel as if you’re all alone in your struggle with binge eating? Like no one understands what you’re going through?
You’re not alone. Millions of people battle binge eating every day. But what many of them don’t realize is that binge eating and loneliness often go hand in hand. In this post, I’ll explore the link between binge eating and loneliness, and offer some tips for overcoming both problems.
Most people feel lonely at some point in their lives. It's normal to feel this way occasionally, but if loneliness is a constant companion, it's tough to overcome. Many of us also overeat occasionally. Overeating differs from bingeing, which refers to eating a large quantity of food in a short amount of time, either due to extreme hunger, or deprivation or as a way of coping with something emotional. One common reason for turning to food is to resolve the state of loneliness.
Loneliness & binge eating
If you often binge on foods that are filling—such as bread, pasta, pizza, cake, muffins, and burgers—that points to loneliness, since those types of foods are filling. Bingeing on food that takes up space within us is often an unconscious way of symbolically filling a void.
If those are the foods you gravitate toward when you’re upset, it’s important to look at the holes in your life and find new ways to fill them.
Think about what is missing in your life. Do you need more satisfying relationships with others? Are you feeling lonely in a friendship or romantic relationship? Are you part of a community where you don't fit in? When you can bravely consider these deficits in your life, you begin creating meaningful change.
Loneliness and social anxiety
One of the most common suggestions for how to deal with loneliness is to spend time with other people. The recommendation is often to go to meetups, make plans with friends, meet new people, go on dates, join clubs, and be social. But what if the thought of being with other people makes you anxious?
The first thing to do is figure out why other people are a source of anxiety. Perhaps you think you have to be a certain way to be acceptable and accepted. I call this The Wizard of Oz syndrome.
The Wizard of Oz believed he would only be respected and liked if he was a powerful and all-knowing presence. He didn't imagine that he was good enough as he was, that the regular, real guy behind the curtain, could be liked and accepted. If you think you have to hide aspects of yourself to fit in with others, start by asking yourself what qualities about yourself you're hiding from others. Consider how you came to believe that those qualities were to be hidden.
Challenge the idea that you have to be a certain way to connect with others.
Imagine if you met someone who embodies the qualities you don’t like about yourself. For example, if you don't like the fact that you are shy, imagine meeting a shy person. Take a moment to think about how you would respond to that person. Would you not like them? Would you judge them? Chances are you would be kind and understanding. Perhaps others will be as equally understanding as you.
Loneliness & Eating until it hurts
Loneliness can feel like a true physical emptiness. If you’re using food to fill an internal void or if you eat until it hurts, this may be an unconscious way of converting the ache of loneliness into actual physical pain. After all, physical pain is easier to manage and get rid of than emotional pain.
We see this all the time in children. Kids don’t typically say, “I don’t want to go to school because I didn’t finish my homework and I’m afraid of getting in trouble.” Instead, they say they have a stomachache and have to stay home from school.
When my daughter was about eight, she started complaining that her tummy hurt. I ruled out the usual suspects: food poisoning, the flu, or allergies. It turned out she was nervous about starting classes at a new dance academy. She worried about fitting in and being good enough. She didn’t tell me about this worry in words. Instead, her anxiety expressed itself as a painful tummy.
I knew for sure that there was nothing physically wrong because talking through her anxieties stopped the pain. When she felt better emotionally, her stomach also felt better.
The same thing will happen to you when you recognize and process your hidden or painful truths. It’s all about honoring your truth, even if it’s painful. Once you do that, you stop coping with food, distracting with food, numbing with food, and more.
Turn loneliness into solitude
We all know what loneliness feels like. That aching, overwhelming feeling that we're all alone in the world. But what many of us don't realize is that there's a big difference between loneliness and solitude. Solitude can be a powerful force for good in our lives if we know how to use it correctly.
Solitude is often misunderstood as being the same as loneliness. But they are two very different things. Loneliness is the state of being alone and feeling sad and isolated. It’s a painful feeling of isolation, while solitude is the state of being alone without sadness, and feeling content. Solitude is a choice—an intentional decision to be alone in order to focus on our own thoughts and feelings.
Solitude has some incredible benefits. It allows us to connect with ourselves more deeply, leading to greater self-awareness and personal growth. It also gives us the space we need to reflect on our lives and figure out what we want for our future.
Solitude can be so important – it's a time to quiet the mind, regroup, and recharge. It can be a time to connect with our intuition and inner voice. And it can be a time to simply relax and enjoy peace and quiet. There are plenty of benefits to be gained from spending some time in solitude.”
In her book “The Art of Being Alone,” author Sara Maitland writes that we've lost the ability to be alone because we see it as a bad thing. We live in a society that prizes constant companionship and connection, and as a result, we're afraid of being alone. We don't know how to be alone without feeling lonely, so we fill our lives with distractions and we stay busy to avoid the silence.
We need to learn how to be alone with a supportive and interested part of ourselves. When that happens, we can enjoy our own company and find ways to fill the silence without turning to food or other coping strategies.
One way to do this is by spending time in nature. Nature has a way of quieting the mind and helping us to feel more connected to the world. Another way to enjoy solitude is by taking up a hobby or activity that you can do on your own, such as painting, hiking, or walking around your neighborhood.
How to connect with other people
When we don’t feel as if we fit in with our original group, our family, it’s hard to imagine that we can fit into another group. Loneliness is extremely difficult when there’s nobody to keep you company and help you feel better.
It’s even worse to feel lonely when you’re surrounded by other people but you don’t feel a connection with them. We don’t choose our families but we can’t choose friends who are supportive, available, and fun.
Here are some suggestions on how to connect with the right people (especially when you don’t have a close family or network of friends):
1. Join a club or group that meets regularly – this is a great way to make friends who share your interests
2. Volunteer with a local organization – you'll be helping others while meeting new people
3. Take a class at the local community center or college – this is a great way to learn new things and meet people with similar interests
4. Get involved in your church or religious community, or an atheist organization. These groups are often full of friendly people who are looking to make connections.
5. Try online dating or social media websites – there are plenty of platforms out there that cater to all kinds of people, so you're sure to find someone who shares your interests and values
6. Get involved in activities you love. If you're not sure what your passions are, take some time to think about things that make you happy. Once you figure it out, get involved in as many activities as possible that fall into that category. Not only will this help fight off loneliness, but it'll also make you happier overall.
7. Connect with others online. The internet can be a great place to connect with other people who share your interests. Join online forums or social media groups related to the things you love and chat with people from all over the world about them. You might even make some great friends this way.
When you turn loneliness to solitude and cultivate meaningful and fulfilling connections with others, you’ll never be lonely again.
Every time I feel fat I end up going to the kitchen for a snack, and that usually turns into a night of grazing. I want to lose weight, so how can I stop this pattern?
So first of all “fat” is not a feeling. Fat is a substance. Often we say we “feel fat” as a way of ignoring or turning away from other real feelings such as sadness, anxiety, loneliness, and anger.
The next time you find yourself feeling fat, ask yourself what big, weighty, or heavy feelings you may be having. Get more interested in the symbolism of feeling fat as opposed to making it actually about your body.
Also, watch the fat talk. ‘Fat talk' is very common (ugh!!). I’ve heard women refer to themselves as “too big”, “huge”, or “OMG, how did I get so fat?” and other horrible comments.
We need to stop the fat talk. Stop accepting it. Stop doing it.
Just… stop. ‘Fat talk' doesn't motivate you to lose weight or eat better. It just makes you feel worse!
The “fat talk” voice is mean and critical. When we are critical of ourselves, we just may end up eating to escape our mean voice.
And, that may be exactly why you are heading to the kitchen for those snacks. When you call yourself names, disparage, and attack yourself, you're going to feel bad. Turning to food is a way of helping yourself to feel better, even though that’s temporary and it backfires.
When you cultivate a kinder and more supportive stance with yourself when you identify your feelings, express those emotions, and comfort yourself, you stop using food to cope.
I’m trying to accept my body as it is and embrace body positivity, but I’m having a hard time with that. Can you give me some tips on how I can feel better about myself at this weight?
Here's what we know logically: our bodies do so much for us. Our bodies allow us to breathe in fresh air, watch a sunset, hug friends and loved ones, play with our kids, walk our dogs, kiss people we love, hold hands, and be connected with others. Logically, we can appreciate what our bodies do for us.
Psychologically, it could be a different story. We may not feel good about our bodies as they are, and that's okay. Ideally, we can accept ourselves as we are and love ourselves. Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world. What's important is that you don’t feel bad about having a hard time with unconditional body positivity.
Instead, give yourself permission to take care of your body and accept your body even as you are becoming healthier or more fit. Wear clothes that fit you and that make you feel comfortable. Do exercise that makes you feel good, so you are exercising for your health instead of for your appearance. Focus on how you feel instead of on how you look and be sure to be supportive of yourself as you go through the process of changing your relationship with food. Practice makes progress!
Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin is a psychoanalyst, author and radio host specializing in binge eating disorder. She is the author of The Binge Cure: 7 Steps to Outsmart Emotional Eating and Food for Thought: Perspectives on Eating Disorders, and co-editor of Beyond the Primal Addiction. She hosts The Dr. Nina Show radio program on LA Talk Radio.