A stress-eating visualization technique

Pastor Bud is a stress eater.

His wife says that when he’s feeling tense or upset — like on Monday, when they made not one but two trips to the hospital to check in on Brent and Darcy’s doomed childbirth — it makes him want to eat. When they went to Smokey Bones for lunch, she says, he munched his way through all the complimentary corn bread without any help from her.

I don’t know this lady very well, but I’m guessing that her anecdote was intended not to chastise her husband but to distract the rest of us from the grief that permeated the air that day. That’s part of her job as a pastor’s wife.

Part of my job over the last year or so has been to figure out how to distract myself from eating, especially during times of stress. Here’s an image that’s helped me:

Image from kjwhite.blogspot.com

Imagine all your stress and anxiety as a mountainous heap of laundry. If you fret about being or getting fat, that’s one more dirty shirt in the pile. For some people, it may seem like that shirt never gets washed. Working your way through a bag of chips feels comforting at the time, but the reality is that you’re just tossing more laundry onto your pile.

What feels better in the long run is doing something to reduce that pile of laundry. It’s hard to think in these terms when you’re feeling stressed out, so the time to do this exercise is when you’re thinking clearly — like, say, when you’re doing a load of actual laundry.

As you’re folding towels, visualize all your worries tangled up in your pile of stress.  Now go through and focus on each stress inducer in the pile, one at a time. Don’t try to start with the huge, perplexing problems. Focus on something small. What could you do to move something — even if it’s a single sock — out of that pile?

The problem is, denying yourself food if you’ve really got the urge to munch can make you feel worse. So keep some harmless munchies on hand, or pack some apples or baby carrots to take along if you know that, say, you’re going to be hanging around a hospital all day.

On Monday, it was nice to see that Lutheran Hospital staff had stocked the room they provided for family members with fruit, string cheese and peanut butter crackers instead of chips and doughnuts.

Image from bingeeatingtherapy.com

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