I Ate a Donut Because I Was Sad and Other Lessons About Emotional Eating


Ladies, do you eat when you’re happy? Do you eat when you’re sad? Do you eat when you’re feeling good? And do you eat when you’re feeling bad? If you eat when you’re having an emotion, then you are an emotional eater! And if you aren’t, then you are probably reading this from beyond the grave and I’m sorry/AWESOME YOU ARE A GHOST.

Real Simple, the addictive lifestyle magazine that exists solely to help upper-middle class women buy stuff to organize their other stuff and also, teach them how to use things to do other things (e.g., avocado husks as pot holders, scrunchies as bracelets, and toothpaste to do anything), is attempting to tackle a much touchier topic — emotional eating. And I don’t like it! It’s like when Fox news tries to cover real news — it’s unnatural.

In “The facts about emotional eating”, writers Alice Oglethorpe and Noelle Howey explore what makes people (women) so into eating when they’re experiencing emotions. The whole piece follows the standard woman’s magazine logic of “everything in moderation especially moderation” that everyone who’s ever read a woman’s magazine already knows. We get it, we get it, eat when you’re hungry, get some exercise, wear flattering clothes, we know. It’s so tiring and it’s not a story! They might as well have written, “Eating food is good, but if you eat too many foods then that’s not good, and so don’t eat too many foods! But also, don’t not eat foods. Enjoy!”

Besides the obvious, they’re also featuring some groundbreaking stuff in here like the shocker that, “fat makes you feel better”:

In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, subjects were fed through a stomach tube [Ed.: Yum!] with either a solution of fatty acids or saline. Both groups then listened to music proven to evoke a negative or neutral emotion. Those given the fat were less sad, and brain scans showed dampened activity in areas associated with sadness. The researchers believe this shows that fatty acids can induce a signal from your gut to your brain, which may influence emotions.

I coulda told you that if you’d just given me my Fiona Apple with a side of super burrito. However, I guess Americans have guilt associated with such delicious fatty deliciousness, whereas our Skinny International Bretheren the French, do not:

Asked what comes to mind upon hearing the phrase “chocolate cake,” Americans were more apt to say “guilt,” while the French said “celebration”; “heavy cream” elicited “unhealthy” from Americans, “whipped” from the French. The researchers found that Americans worry more about food and derive less pleasure from eating than people in any other nation they surveyed.

That’s fucking sad. I know it’s easier said than done to stop feeling so many emotions around food, it’s a huge part of our lives, laden with so many feelings, and impossible to avoid. But maybe if we stop reading so much stuff about how and why we should (and shouldn’t) eat and instead listened to our bodies then we’d all just be happier.

As for taking control of your eating, Real Simple suggests the exercise of writing down what you eat each day and what emotion you feel when you’re eating. Aren’t we all tired of doing this shit?

I don’t know, stay with me here, but maybe food is supposed to give us pleasure? Maybe you ate a donut today because you were just hungry for a donut and your body hadn’t had enough calories to be sated yet? And maybe feeling guilt about that pleasure is actually the problem. It’s okay — maybe even great — to get pleasure from food. And comfort from food. And also, life-sustaining calories are great, too. We aren’t robots and honestly, isn’t eating one of the few things we do better than them anyway? Well, that and having emotions. So, my thesis (?) is that emotional eating is really just living your life. So, yeah. Just live your damn life, and make it as wonderful and delicious as possible.

The facts about Emotional Eating [Real Simple]
Our National Eating Disorder [Michael Pollan]

Image via Subbotina Anna/Shutterstock.

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