Thursday, February 25, 2021

What If Anxious Eating is About Things Insignificant and Inconsequential

A while ago, imagine my surprise when I turned left at an intersection and went through a red light. (I expected the yellow light to become a green turn arrow as it usually did at this intersection). Knowing the intersection has a red-light camera, I figured I’d probably receive a ticket. Immediately, feeling anxiety rising, I made the decision to view that potential ticket as insignificant and inconsequential. Yeah, it would cost money and may count as a point on my spotless driving record, but, in the big picture, no big deal.

So, I opened up a file in my mind labeled “Inconsequential and Insignificant” and dropped that probable ticket right into it—and, honestly, I began to smile. Then I thought of all the things that happen in my life that I could file there and never think about again because they didn’t matter either: not understanding why someone I was close to suddenly seemed to back off from our friendship; being totally confused about the order of the steps in a routine I was learning in tap class; sending an email to some friends and relatives about an exciting project I’m working on and not hearing a peep about it from them; my email server dumping 17,000+ emails onto my iPhone which kept me on the phone for hours with Comcast on top of making several trips to the Apple store.

Using my sample of possible anxieties above, you might hear yourself responding, “I probably did something wrong to hurt my friend,” “I shouldn’t have gone through a red light, even accidentally,” “My friends and family must have hated my new project,” “People in my tap class will think I’m a klutz,” and “What if I have to go through the ordeal of removing 17,000+ emails on my phone again in the near future?”

You may turn to eating mindlessly or obsessing about weight to soothe anxieties about similar situations. But, when you file them under “Inconsequential and Insignificant,” you need never think of them again, avoiding anxiety and the perceived need to relieve it. Yes, you really can decide where to file things in your mind according to their actual impact on your life. The key is to file them there the instant they happen, before you get into the habit of mistakenly thinking they’re important. I’m amazed at how this file is growing by leaps and bounds, and cheer every time I put another entry into it.

Start your own “Inconsequential and Insignificant” file and think about what to put into it. As things happen, consider filing them there. Obviously, not everything that happens in life is inconsequential or insignificant. But, really, most of the stuff that drives you to eat mindlessly and obsess about weight probably is and deserves to go into the “I&I” file.



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