We see it in movies and on TV time and again: a girl is broken up with and soon, the camera focuses on her sitting up in bed crying, going spoon to mouth with a pint of ice cream, chocolate wrappers and an open bag of chips strewn on the bed around her.
This is part of the time-honored advice women share with other women – the societal norm to handle stress or emotions with food.
“In our culture, we learn from a young age to avoid things that feel bad. Unfortunately, the ways we have found to distract ourselves from difficult feelings are not always in our best interest,” Psychology Today states. “Without the ability to tolerate experiencing life’s inevitable yucky feelings, you’re susceptible to emotional eating.”
But what are these memes and hand-me-down jokes saying to the young girls and teens in our lives? Hey girls, if you’ve had a bad day of any kind, or are experiencing your normal monthly flow, it’s expected that you should eat some junk food to help you cope. And oh, it doesn’t matter if you are hungry or not. You must still eat sugary carbohydrates to help you feel better because that is what all women do.
This is a dangerous message to proliferate – 3.8 million people are battling binge eating disorder (BED), according a 2013 survey by the National Eating Disorders Association – 3.5 percent of women get BED and 2 percent of men. It’s most common for young women in early adulthood.
These types of jokes have been around for a long time, and most of us are guilty of perpetuating them. We learned to associate consuming junk food with the proper way to deal with stress and emotions.
According to Medicine.net, “Left untreated, emotional overeating can lead to complications, like difficulties achieving weight loss, obesity, and even to the development of food addiction.”
We should talk with young girls about how to deal with the stresses of school and friendship dramas. What those in trauma need are people to talk to who will support and help them recover from the upsetting event.
Medicine.net names a laundry list of ways to deal outside of the snack drawer, like “engaging in meditation, exercise, and other constructive stress-prevention and stress-management techniques.”
I’m sensitive to the subject because I was a food addict and compulsive overeater for 30 years of my life. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Being aware of encouraging the consumption of food for emotional reasons is one way to help stop problem from beginning.
Let’s stop perpetuating the jokes and language that pair negative emotions with food to the next generation. No matter how much ice cream, chocolate and potato chips you eat – you will not fill the void.
Listen to the language you and those around you use that pair food and coping and encourage other healthy, stress-relieving behaviors in place of that. While it’s completely normal to overindulge once in a while, let’s stop promoting this as a way to cope.
If you or anyone you know are dealing with Binge Eating Disorder or other eating disorders, find the help you need at https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org during National Eating Disorder Week and beyond.