Dealing with guilt and anxiety after eating.
First off…. having anxiety after eating is not normal or ok. It is not something that should be normalized either….. even if i see it happening alot more. People saying, “ohh i have so much anxiety after eating this donut”, but saying it in a very lighthearted way. Of course, it can be hard to know whether the person actually does have anxiety after eating the food or if it js just a joke/don’t really mean it….. but either way i don’t think it is ok.
From someone who has dealt with ALOT of anxiety, panic and guilt after eating…. it is not something to be joked about or something to be taken lightheartedly. The amount of harm i did to myself due to the anxiety i felt before, during and after eating is not something to be taken lightly or joked about.
So, now that i have that out of the way… what do you do when you feel guilty after eating?
There can of course be guilt before and during eating, but in this post i will focus just on what to do after eating and the guilt or anxiety hits.
Well, the first step is to not compensate in anyway or resort to harmful or negative behaviour to cope with that anxiety. That is usally the go to – they want to compensate by eating less or by exercising. Or they resort to harmful behaviour to deal with the anxiety they are feeling. But none of these are helpful or longterm solutions, they may help in the moment but they are not actually helping *you*
It is also important to remember that the anxiety isn’t dangerous, and it won’t harm you. Neither will the food.
The anxiety and guilt WILL pass, i promise you that. Of course it can vary from person to person and situation to situation, but generally speaking… give yourself 30 minutes and the anxiety will begin to lessen. The anxiety will slowly begin to rise but then it will reach it’s peak and it will begin to lessen, so you just have to ride out that wave of anxiety and know that if you get through it… you can do it again and over time, the anxiety won’t hit you as hard, long or as often.
The best advice of course is to not eat or be alone after eating. Eat with others and then sit in the company of othres 30-60 minutes after eating. Whether you just sit there and ride out the anxiety, or whether you can join in on the conversation or activity the others are doing to help distract you.
Of course, not everyone has the possibility of eating with others for all their meals so if you do eat alone then have something planned/activity/hobby to do after eating. And it doesn’t have to mean you leave the house or you clean or do something active, it can be just deciding to read a book or do a wordsearch or some suduko after eating. Something that can distract you while you feel all the emotions and anxiety inside of you.
From personal experience, i had to do something with my hands and something that really grabbed my attention when i was dealing with the anxiety after eating. I couldn’t just watch a film or read a book because i would feel so anxious that i couldn’t focus and my thoughts would just go to the food i ate/how to compensate etc So instead i did things like suduko, wordsearch, puzzles while i was at Mando treatment. When i was at home i blogged, cleaned, tried to learn to play guitar, tried to learn to edit videos, studied… and of course sat with my family.
Note – it is important that you don’t become obsessed with cleaning either. It can be easy to become slightly manic with this so that you are always up and cleaning when you have anxiety.
Just resting. This may of course be the hardest, because it is easier to just distract yourself than it is to lay still and rest. But it is one of the best and most helpful ways to deal with the anxiety. To just sit in a chair/sofa and be still, or go lay in bed and nap.. maybe watch a series or listen to a podcast. You don’t have to lay in complete silence, but just laying still….. remembering that the anxiety will lessen.
Reminding yourself that it is ok that you ate. Reminding yourself that there is nothing bad about the food you ate. Even if you overate or binged, it is ok. As long as you don’t compensate or restrict, but instead try to get back into regular meals for your next meal. Reminding yourself that it is ok to eat, the food won’t harm you.
In the past, laying still after a meal was almost impossible… but now that is just what i do in a normal day without thinking about it. I sit and eat and then continue sitting as i am working or just resting…. or i lay in bed and watch series while eating and continue laying there even after i ate. It is just part of life and ok to rest/be still. Something which once caused so much anxiety is now just a part of my life.
The only way to recover is to deal with those fears and anxieties. To find healthy coping mechanisms. And it does help if the people you surround yourself with know about your struggles so they can help you.
But also if you are alone or have no one to support you… do reach out for help, either to a treatment centre or via online services. If you are really struggling with anxiety and alone, calling someone CAN REALLY HELP. I have had numerous times i have called my family to talk to them when i was in the middle of an anxiety attack (not related to food), just because i couldn’t sit alone with my thoughts and needed some form of distraction…. Sometimes you may not even have the energy or concentration to talk to the person you are calling, but if they understand what you are going through they can talk TO YOU, and it can be a comfort just hearing that person talk.
It will get easier, i promise you.
Face those fears. Face those anxities. In time they won’t be as strong or as frequent. You will be able to live a life without anxiety around food or eating. But it does take time and you do need to eat the foods that scare you or give you anxiety.
Remind yourself that food is fuel, it is nourishment, you need to eat. No food will harm you as much as your eating disorder will.
And finally, remember that ALL food is guilt free.