Do You Know When You are Under Stress?

I’ve been thinking about this ever since Jill’s  blog entry the other day, which coincided with my cookie problem (read the comments under Jill’s entry if you want the details of my ‘cookie problem.)  Almost at the same time Vickie shared this note from her therapist:

“ED (Eating Disordered) Individuals do not have coping mechanisms. Use ED to cope. This* is how you know an ED individual is under stress.”

That statement really resonated with me, and struck me as true.  I wondered what ‘normal’ people turn to in times of stress.  And can we learn to replace cookies with whatever that is when we are stressed.  But here’s what really occurred to me.  I think most of us (Eating Disordered people) aren’t even very good at identifying that we are under stress.  We eat the cookies and never even identify that maybe the consumption of them is associated with being under stress.  We think its just because they taste good and we are weak-willed.

For example, just from this past week.  What I didn’t share with you was that what brought the cookies to our unit that day was an extraordinarily sad event in the life of a patient’s family.  They brought the cookies to ‘thank us.’  Me and my co-worker that day talked about how sad it was, and then kind of joked about ‘but we’re gonna eat a cookie anyway.’  And I NEVER associated eating those cookies with stress. I really just thought I was eating them because they were extraordinarily tasty cookies.

And then my friend Jill, who talked about eating too much junk in the post highlighted above, had just the day before gone through a flood that potentially might have entered their home!  And I don’t think it occurred to her as she ate those Little Debbies that it might be a reaction to the stress from the day before.

And one of my all-time favorite bloggers, Pastaqueen, has lived with a constant headache for a whole year.  Now, I’m pretty sure she has associated the stress of a nonstop headache with eating a little too much.  She wrote a most poignant blog about this.

I don’t really have an answer to this.  I think it has a little to do with just being more aware, thinking about what is going on, along with a big dose of something I write to bloggers sometimes–“be kind to yourself, give yourself a little grace.”  But somehow, along with being able to identify stress in our lives, we have to identify a new way to cope with it.  One idea that I liked was Miz’s idea for a decadence list, filled with nonfood items to treat ourselves when we need the boost.  I am really going to spend some time thinking about this, and make up a basket to keep at work in my locker and one to keep at home.  Oh, yeah, and maybe one to keep in the car…no, really, my life is not stressful at all…




6 thoughts on “Do You Know When You are Under Stress?

  1. My husband is one of those “normal people” who does not have issues with food. When he is stressed he goes outside and piddles around, or he goes fishing or hunting or some kind of manly thing that allows him to de-stress. Can you imagine how hard it is to live with someone who has NO CLUE how to relate to my food issues?!?! 🙂

    I think you are so right though that we (I) don’t always recognize that I am trying to cope with something. I have never really thought of myself as being ED, but I do use food to cope. Maybe we could go into group therapy?! Instead of working out my stress, I stuff it with food and the tension ends up in my neck and shoulders – they are ALWAYS tight. Guess I need to figure out a way to destress that doesn’t involve food. If you figure this one out – let me know.

    So sorry about the patient’s family. I can’t imagine doing what you do on a daily basis – you must be very strong.

  2. I have to say that I cannot think of a single person that responds to stress in a ‘normal’ way, or the way you always read about in books or hear about on TV.
    We all deal with stress differently, some people eat, some people stop eating, some people bite their nails (me), some do physical activity, some people get really bitchy and take it out on others.

    I do have trouble recognizing stress. I sometimes have to really think about why I want to eat, especially as I am not a particularly emotional eater (I just like food). I have found some correlation with the passing of my kitty last month, that I have been wanting to eat more when I think about her since it has really been very hard for me.

    I try to deal with stress now by rationalizing it. Realizing that if I cannot change it, then I have to either move on or wallow in it. I almost always choose to move on.

    I have recently made some little note cards (via the Beck method) about stresses and what would be the outcome if I gave in to eating in response to them.

  3. I like food too but know that if I learned to deal with stress I would not have any weight issues.

    But like most of you I do rarely recognise stress until the damage is done.

    I guess that means I need to recognise stress and have strategies in place.

    On that note it is interesting that the 6 or more months I was successful and lost more than 20 kg/44lbs I was going through the most painful period I have ever experienced. But this was so in my face that I learned to cope day by day through the worst part. After that other things came along to distract me and I lost the plot.

    The thing I had during those 6 months was time to myself and greater control of my day to day life. The strength is there but I didn’t need too many distractions to put me off.

    Stress brings other problems to people who ED in that it releases fat making hormones. Not Fair!!!!!

    We all need stress management. HELP!!!!

  4. Some things “normal” people do: Clench/grind their teeth in their sleep till they are permanently crooked again, in spite of 18 mos. spent in braces at the age of 12, after which they were beautifully straight for about 30 years….and they buy WAY TOO MANY “craft supplies” and never use them…

    Seriously, I think the real real normal people do yoga and go to the park or Japanese Gardens and sit in the sun and read mindless stuff in Reader’s Digest and give themselves A LOT OF GRACE that the un-normals can’t seem to wrap their minds around, much less do. But that’s just my cheap opinion.

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