Anxiety filling your plate?

Posted by Gretchen Wood on 11/20/2020 7:00:00 AM

Anxiety is such an interesting emotion. It manifests in so many different forms. We know it is associated with being worried and that it can cause physical symptoms. But how it actually LOOKs can be very different from one person to another. Some people may get very chatty, others very quiet. Some might withdraw while others might giggle non stop... shaking, hives, tapping, chewing nails, avoidance, needing to overachieve, being controlling, lack of focus, being defiant…. The list goes on. At one point in my career someone asked me if I thought anxiety was responsible for behaviors in school, I laughed and said I could make a case that ALL behaviors could be due to anxiety. 

While there are countless ways that anxiety can manifest there is one form that most adults find particular annoying. It is an uncontrollable urge to eat. And it is not usually broccoli. Normally, in my articles, I try to cite some reputable source of information. But this one is going to be all me, so fair warning, not research based, unless you count my years of experience. 

Sometimes when I get anxious I find myself going on a hunt for something to snack on.  I have heard people joking about the “COVID-15” (like freshman 15) referring to the weight they gained while we were on the stay at home order.  I have heard countless jokes and comments about people trying to put on their jeans after a few months and realizing they were a bit more snug than the overly accommodating sweatpants they had been sporting.  “Emotional eating” is nothing new.  I have seen enough weight loss commercials to know that there are a whole slew of reasons people eat and hunger is low on the list.  I personally found that this situation was different, in that normally, I would feel anxious for a day or so, not months.  I found great comfort in a loaf of warm fresh bread, or a big soft cinnamon roll, or a half a jar of peanut butter and M&Ms… don’t judge me. 

I found removing the temptation might work temporarily, but if I wanted chips and didn’t buy them I would just move on to something else in my pantry.  Really, the craving was not about my desire for chips but rather a way to manage my anxiety.  I had to force myself to identify WHY I was feeling anxious, put the cookie down, and make myself do something else away from food.  At home my weight went up and down each week by a few pounds, nothing too dramatic, I did not get the “COVID-15”.  However, when I came back to work in August I PACKED IT ON. More anxiety, more stress, less healthy options around me, less time to search out healthy options… I was once again forced to accept my anxiety was getting me. With lots of help of an amazing support system of co-workers and family I have reluctantly gotten myself back under control.  I no longer feel the siren call of the doughnuts from the kitchen, and can recognize when my anxiety is driving my rational thought out of control.  As people who know me understand, I am a work in progress and will have good days and bad days.  I just know when I am having a bad day to give myself grace and trust that I will make it through, and, so will you. 



Stephanie Lawless, Assistant Director