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Beyond Emotional Eating to Your Health Bubble

One of the most common questions we hear in the optimal health community is “How do I deal with emotional eating?” Many of us recognize that we make poor decisions when are emotionally vulnerable, but those emotions can be so powerful that we feel as though our ability to choose has been taken away from us. It’s not until later that we realize our mistakes and begin to regret overeating or wasting a day in front of the television.

Emotional eating is a challenge (and you can read up on a guide on how to conquer it here), but there is a bigger lesson we can learn from this: Our emotions can affect virtually every decision we make by influencing our perception of ourselves and the world around us.

This goes beyond emotional eating. Whenever you feel any emotional intensely, especially if those feelings are negative, you should Stop. Challenge. Choose. to better evaluate how and why you are reacting to a situation. You might find that your perception has been colored by your emotions, which could mean that the choice you are about to make is not based on your current reality or the goals you have laid out for yourself.

For example, new research suggests that when we experience anxiety we are more likely to misinterpret the intentions of the people around us. This analysis is probably not surprising, but it’s important to emphasize. At one point, you have probably experienced a high amount of stress and lashed out at people around you only to realize later that their intentions were nothing but good. You took your own negative feelings and allowed them to control the interaction, and you probably regretted it.

These missteps might not have the same impact on your waistline as reaching for a bag of candy, but the people around you are a critical part of optimal wellbeing, and a wealth of research has found that the quality of our relationships with friends and family have a very real and measurable connection to our health. In the long term, your relationships have a profound impact on your wellbeing, both physically and emotionally. The right people provide a support system for your Habits of Health, and having loved ones to create memories with can inform every decision you make.

When we make decisions rooted in negative emotions like anxiety, we fail to hold up our end of these relationships. Just as you look to others to support you and your goals, so do others look to you. When you get carried away by how you feel in the moment, your choices could hurt your Habits of Health and someone else’s as well.

The consequences are profound, but think instead about the opportunity. If you practice being more mindful when you feel anxious or stressed—take a few slow breaths to detach yourself from the immediate moment, freeing your mind to think more calmly about the choices you are about to make—you not only promote your own health but you help to better the health of the people around you.

Think about that.

The opportunity here goes beyond your health and the health of the people in your immediate vicinity. Imagine what a community full of people who are all working to be mindful of their choices and emotions would mean for the people in it. What would your family be like if everyone in it was more mindful? What about a more mindful workplace?

Your world won’t change overnight, but when you make an effort to change your habits, people around you are likely to notice, and you might even be more likely to surround yourself with like-minded people. The result? A compounding return on your efforts to create health.

So start today. When you start feeling anxious or stressed: breathe in and out slowly for a few seconds, and think about the impact on yourself and the people you care about you’d like to have with the next choice you are about to make.

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