If you have ever felt anxiety after eating, you know it is a very uncomfortable feeling. To feel this way throughout your days or weeks is exhausting. If you’re tired of feeling anxiety after eating, learn 6 ways to stop stressing about mealtime and actually enjoy your food.
But first, it’s important to understand what is anxiety and why is it noticeable after eating? An easy way to understand anxiety is that it is a sense of feeling out of control or unsafe.
Furthermore, here is a list of 13 reasons why you may be feeling out of control or unsafe after eating.
- Feeling full.
- Eating food that is “bad” for you.
- Not having enough food.
- Not knowing where your next meal is coming from.
- Fear of not being able to afford food.
- Gaining weight.
- Doing everything “right” and still not losing weight.
- Comparing yourself to what others eat.
- Comparing your body to others.
- Hearing others talk about diets or their own weight loss.
- Not feeling deserving of food.
- Feeling judged by people you are eating with.
- Time spent on social media.
Subsequently, feeling out of control or unsafe originate in early childhood with negative messages about food and/or your body.
It’s important to understand those messages and how you’ve carried them into adulthood. For example, think about the messages you received about food and your body. What was communicated and modeled for you?
In the same vein, for women especially, watching how their own mother relates to food and their bodies is very influential. It’s literally like looking in a mirror. As a young girl, you see yourself as mom’s reflection. If mom is unhappy with what she sees, then you as her daughter are unhappy with what you see.
For instance, my mother was always dieting and unhappy with her appearance.
Then at the age of 12, when I started to gain weight (a normal developmental process for girls as they prepare for menstruation), I experienced shame around eating. I was eating and enjoying my bagel with lox and cream cheese, when my father (innocently) asked if I really wanted to eat it. He probably wanted my bagel for himself. What I heard was, “wow, I cannot believe you’re eating all of that. You’re fat and gross!” Can anyone relate?
Meanwhile, mirroring your mother as well as other potential negative family messages, you have the added benefit of society’s voice. Society constantly tells you that you’re not measuring up to its standards of beauty.
Therefore, what you eat will lead to anxiety if you’re not seeing the results that society says you need to attain.
Likewise, take a look at this fascinating study that looked at 30 adolescent Fijian girls. They were exposed to westernized television for 3 years. The changes in their mindsets about their appearance, identity and relationship with food is incredibly noteworthy.
For instance, “television appeared to redefine local aesthetic ideas for bodily appearance and presentation…for some of the subjects, the newly introduced pressures to reshape their bodies and compete for employment appear to have fostered disordered eating.”
Above all, being exposed to television altered the mindsets of these adolescents. Similarly there is a negative impact of social media. Whether it is tv or social media, it breeds comparing which leaves you feeling not good enough.
In short, comparing is probably one of the most intense and aggressive reasons why you are feeling anxiety after eating.
Subsequently, the perfect body and thin ideal can begin as young as 3 years old.
Researcher R. M Perloff studied the effects of social media on young women’s body image, and reports this:
“Internalization of ‘body perfect’ ideals and body size stereotypes begin when girls in Western societies are as young as 3 years-old (Dittmar et al. 2006). Mass media have been implicated as an especially significant source of influence of these perceptions (Dittmar 2009). Beginning with young girls’ exposure to mass communicated images of the Barbie doll—“the cultural icon of female beauty” (Dittmar et al. 2006, p. 283)—moving developmentally to viewing of television advertisements and programs that celebrate ultra-thin models, and culminating in adolescence and early adulthood with appearance-focused Facebook conversations, picture-sharing, and fashion-focused tweets (Chrisler et al. 2013), contemporary mass and social media exert a potent impact on the development of thinness ideals and body dissatisfaction.”
In short, social media has a very powerful negative impact on body image. Subsequently, this leads to high anxiety around food. To stop stressing about food and mealtime, one of the first steps will be to notice the impact social media has and start making some changes.
- Stop comparing yourself in any way to others. That includes their diets, what they eat, what they look like, etc.
- Stop following people on social media that make you feel bad about yourself. Find more positive and uplifting people to follow.
- Learn mindfulness tools to determine your own hunger and fullness. Start with my mindfulness tool called C.H.I.N. You can access it here.
- Practice seeing food as neutral, not positive or negative. Detach judgment from food to remove the shame.
- Practice self-care such. For example, going for a walk, meditation, deep breathing, drink water, stop judging yourself, and again, stop comparing.
- Learn who you are internally versus externally. Attaching your worth or identity to anything external is a rollercoaster ride of self-esteem. To learn more read my blog on how to to find your worth intrinsically.
After trying these tools, it’s about incorporating them into your daily life. Nothing is a quick fix. Undoing the past messaging and rewiring your brain takes time and patience. But, if you’re really tired of feeling anxiety after eating, then start practicing these tools. You can stop stressing about mealtime. You deserve to enjoy your food and feel comfortable in your body.
Lesley Goth, PsyD developed an 11-week online Women’s Sustainable Weight Loss Intensive. For more information, please contact her and see how she may be able to support you on your journey of feeling great in your body.