You might recall that heart hunger is often related to a need for nurturing and comfort. Right now I could use a little of both.
Five weeks ago, my husband had surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, which he injured playing tennis. Since then, he’s been using crutches and a “knee caddy” to get around. At the end of this week, he hopes to be able to start walking again.
Although he’s been an good patient, I’m getting really tired of lifting his knee caddy into the car as well as doing all the driving whenever we go anywhere. And my normally physically active husband is getting really sick of not being able to do much.
But wait, there’s more. On the third of July, I was putting a shade up in our screen porch and I fell off a stepladder. Fortunately I didn’t break anything. But I’m having a hard time walking because of severe muscle bruising on my back. In spite of this, I’m still lifting the knee caddy and doing the driving for all of our appointments, grocery shopping etc. Talk about wanting cookies and ice cream! I’ve been really fighting those foods a lot lately.
If you’re like me, sometimes you just want it to be “your turn.” Instead of doing all the giving, you want someone to nurture and comfort you. But since there’s no one available, you reach for food instead. While you are eating, the food wraps around you and, for a brief moment, makes you feel held and comforted.
Heart hunger emotions
In this series on emotional eating, we’ve been exploring the differences between head hunger and heart hunger. Here’s a list of common heart hunger emotions
Need for attention, love or affection
Loneliness, hurt, disappointment
Discouragement, hopelessness, lack of meaning
Because heart hunger is more vague and subtle, you may not recognize it until after you’ve eaten three doughnuts or a carton of ice cream. But with practice, you can learn how to quickly identify the empty feelings that are sending you toward the refrigerator.
Start by noticing times when you want to eat, but don’t know what you want. Whenever you recognize a heart hunger emotion, immediately ask yourself, “What’s empty or missing for me right now?” Then instead of hunting for cookies, get busy and do something to fill your empty spots in life.
Make an “instead” list
To help make this work, create a list of things you can do instead of eating. With head hunger emotions such as stress and anger, your list might include things such as exercise, taking deep breaths, or pounding your pillow.
When you’re struggling with heart hunger emotions such as sadness or loneliness, you might find comfort in music or reading. If the issue is boredom, learning new hobbies or taking a class might help you cope. And if you are dealing with injuries like we are in my home, you have to come up with lots of ideas for coping without doing emotional eating.
Here’s what we came up with at my house.
My husband purchased a video course about astronomy, and watches at least one lesson each day. We found some online exercise routines that can be done sitting in a chair, and he’s put that into a daily schedule as well. He’s also doing lots of reading, and occasionally plays one of his video games. He’s been a great example to me of ways to cope with a difficult situation without reaching for food.
In my coping efforts, I’ve been learning a new computer program, playing my piano and reading a couple of new books. My writing projects have been on hold because I didn’t have the emotional energy to work on them. But this newsletter is a fresh start for me, and I’m ready to get back into my regular writing routine again.
Like us, you can learn a lot of ways to manage your emotions and needs. No matter what your current situation, I encourage you to simply do something that will stop you from grabbing food. With time, you’ll build a new set of habits and coping solutions that will work in the future as well.