Feeling Feelings

I wasn’t going to post so quickly again, especially since Wednesdays are my weigh in days and I hope to have a good number to report to you all tomorrow, but I have a eating dilemma.  Or maybe not an eating dilemma but a stress quandary or something.  Either way I am hoping that you guys can help and maybe relate.  The issue:  Emotional eating or the lack of it.

I mentioned in my blog post yesterday that Mr. Goat had gastric bypass last Monday.  The surgery was routine and boring in best possible way, regardless it has increased the caregiver roles, solo parenting tasks, and general stresses that I’ve  for the last two weeks or so, in the time leading up to and following surgery.  I know that it will likely continue at least until Mr. Goat is healed enough to help take care of Little Goat again.  It is hard to care for a 3 year old when you aren’t allowed to pick him up or run after him after all.  So it is safe to say that there has been some stress in my life.

My old way of dealing with stress was to eat.  I suppose that is not a surprise when you are as heavy as I am.  The old way was eat when you are happy, eat when you are sad, eat when you are stressed. Eat to celebrate and eat to mourn.

My problem now…I am choosing NOT to eat out of stress and emotion.  I’ve actually done remarkably well at keeping my eating on track and in control over the last two weeks.  I know that emotional eating doesn’t eliminate stress and I’ve done my best to avoid it.  I have allowed myself a few treats that I have points for, but in moderation and always with a conscious choice.  This is a HUGE victory for me and something I’m pretty proud of.

I know what you are thinking, “This is a good thing Liz, so what’s the issue?”  The issue is this:  I still have stress and emotions building up and I have no viable outlet for them.  I know that you are supposed to learn to “feel your feelings” but that seems like an intangible phrase to me.  How do you feel your feelings?  How do you process stress in a new way when the only way you’ve known was to eat it down?

I can’t quite afford to just lose my ever-loving mind because I have work, Mr. Goat, Little Goat and myself to care for.  I don’t want to revert back to eating through the stress.  Working out has been helpful to an extent, but my workouts are super planned right now within a tight schedule and I can’t typically get away for some extra stress relieving movement.  So what is a healthy way of dealing with stress?  I’ve been trying to think of healthy ways and this is what I’ve come up with so far, but maybe you can help add to my list.  I would love to hear what works for you to help process stress and anxiety without resorting to food.

Liz’s healthy stress relief list:

  • Workout
  • Read a good book
  • Blog

That’s all I have and please note that all of these things involve time that I don’t necessarily have in a typical day.  So please share:  What are healthy ways that you process the stress in your life?

Stress happens, but I don’t want to fall into old habits.  So please share your wisdom with me.  Perhaps we can create a list that can remind all of us the ways that we can deal with stress without food!


  1. Talking to friends is a good one. Talking out your feelings in general helps. Good luck. Its a process.

  2. I clean when I’m stressed! It can take as little or as much time as you can afford (deep clean for 90 minutes or make the bed in 3 minutes) and it is productive. It’s relatively mindless, so you can process stress while you work. And maybe there are some chores your son can “help” with?

  3. Jen, a priorfatgirl says:

    How to feel feelings? I’m still working through this. It seems so obvious yet the truth is, so many rarely do it.

    In my opinion (which is easy to say, still learning to do), feeling feelings means to acknowledge them, not avoid them. Working out and reading a book are good ideas to help get through the stress but they are distracting you from actually processing the feelings.

    As silly as it sounds, my therapist says we have to stop what we are doing, stand (or sit) still and talk through it. Meaning literally stop moving and say “wow, I feel so overwhelmed. I feel like my to-do list is xxxxx and it makes me nervous about xxxxx. I feel like I want to eat xxxxx food because I think it will make me feel better but it actually won’t.” Acknowledging the feeling. Give ourselves the right to feel it. Let it sink in, and consider how it we feel. Not mentally, but physically, describe the feeling. For instance, sad makes me feel slow, heavy, and tired… it makes me feel like slow motion. Anger makes me feel like my blood is boiling, like my insides are on fire and like my heart is burning. Nervousness makes me feel like my mouth is clenched, like my facial muscles are tight and like I’m going to burst. THAT IS FEELING A FEELING.

    Now… your last idea was to blog. To me, this is the value of blogging. Because we have to use words to paint a picture, to describe a feeling and to write down the thoughts in our head.

    Once you feel the feeling, finding the right activity to help release the stress, that to me is the 2nd part of what I think you are looking for. An activity, other than eating, to get you through. Taking little goat to the park, outside to blow bubbles, watch a movie, read a book, work out, go for a drive to stare at dream houses, meet a friend for coffee, get lost in Pinterest, search online at VolunteerMatch for things you and little goat can do together…

    Okay, I’m done with my book-of-a-comment. Can’t wait to read everyone else’s thoughts!

    • Thank you for this!

    • Blogging helps me process things in so many ways. Thanks for helping to put words to how to “feel feelings”

    • This is great, Jen. To add to it, the other thing about feeling your feelings, is that it helps you solve your problems. Your emotions are a way your mind/ body lets you know that something is wrong. I have been through treatment for depression and anxiety. The first part of the treatment was admiting that I was depressed and anxious. All those negative feelings that I avoided should have been a sign to me that I needed to change some things in my life. It wasn’t until I felt the feelings that I could properly diagnose what was wrong and solve the problem. i.e. I feel sad. Why do I feel sad? Because I never allow myself to do things that make me happy. Why don’t I allow myself to do things that make me happy? Because I feel guilty. Why do I feel guilty? Because when I take time to do things that make me happy, it might make someone unless unhappy. If I make someone else unhappy, they will not love me. Side note: I literally did think this. Wait is that true? Will this person not love me because I want to be happy? Probably not, and if that were the case, this is probably not a person that I should care about whether they love me or not. So what should I do? I should take some time to do things that make me happy.

      And you know what? I did it. And it made me happy. And it made everyone around me happy, because I was happy!

      Feeling my feelings changed my feelings. It changed my life, and it is amazing.

  4. I don’t have kids yet, but do enjoy them and look forward to the day when i can go out and play with them. How about a game of tag with your little guy? maybe some sidewalk chalk…always fun 🙂
    or are their any workout facilities that offer childcare near you? our jazzercise here has it for $2/child. great for mom and child to have an hour of fun.

  5. -listen to your favorite music and take a few minutes to just sit down and relax. even if its 3 minutes, that helps me a lot.
    -Do something nice for yourself, like paint your nails, do your hair differently, wear an outfit you love.
    -Going for a quick walk, even if it’s around the block and back it helps to clear your mind and helps you feel good at the same time.
    -Call someone you care about and just catch up, someone you know that will just listen to you for a few minutes.

  6. First of all, congrats on not giving into emotional eating…that is HUGE!

    For me, working out is a great stress reliever. However, I know that getting to they gym may be hard for you right now. Does your gym have child care? Could you take Baby Goat out for a walk? How about exercise videos at home?

    Beyond working out, you mentioned reading and blogging…what other things bring you enjoyment?

    I can only imagine how challenging this all can be for you. Hang in there and keep in mind two things:
    1 – This is all temporary
    2 – Your family will come out the other side better off for it all.

  7. When life gets overwhelming, I separate the list of stresses to things I can control and things out of my control. I prioritize the things that are within my control and try to be at peace with the things I can’t.

    I think you have a good idea of what helps you unwind. Planning ahead definitely helps me feel calm and collected

    Good luck!

  8. Some of the things I do when I’m stressed:

    – Deep breaths. Seriously, if you close your eyes and focus on breathing deeply and slowly, you can literally feel the stress and anxiety melt away. You know that heavy feeling in your chest and throat that accompany stress? Breathing is, for me, the fastest way to eliminate that.

    – Cleaning. I feel so much better when my surroundings are organized and clean. Plus, like a previous poster said, it’s productive!

    – Call a friend. Talk it out, ask for help.

    – If you have a pet, talk to you pet, or just sit and pet it. I have a dog who I talk to all the time, just to sort my feelings out. It’s always so relaxing to just sit and pet her for a little bit, too.

    I hope you start feeling better soon!!

  9. Great directions, Jen! I’m going to re-read and remember those.

  10. Sometimes just stopping and breathing help….maybe 15 min just to meditate and evaluate in your own mind… I find that just stopping and reflecting. I agree with the taking little goat to the park or taking a walk can also help.

  11. Hmm… I struggle with this myself, so I’ll tell you what *sometimes* works for me. My eating mindlessly happens at nite. So I will grab a straw (I precut them for this purpose) and put it in my mouth. I will fold it over and over in my mouth which sometimes requires a hand to help fold it. Sounds kinda weird… before I smoosh it and fold it, I may sit up straight and inhale deeply (which is simply breathing deep with a straw I guess) (yes, used the same technique to quit smoking… again 😉

    Many of the other suggestions that are usually offered to me as well, only work if I DO them (duh). That’s my problem, MAKING myself get off my butt to do something different. I can eat sitting right here, right? That’s why the straw/oral thing works for me. It’s still a struggle every single day.

    I watched Oprah’s Lifeclasses(?) last nite and she had Deepak Chopra on. Everything he says is soooo awesome! I was scribbling down almost everything he said. One of many that really struck a chord was “The highest form of intelligence is the ability to observe yourself without judging yourself.”

    What Jen was saying about her therapist – “mindfulness” is so important for us to “just be.” Observe the feelings is exactly what I try to do when I’m feeling weirded out and super stressed – like anxiety attacks. I just tell myself “ok, this is the way I feel. It’s a part of me” – I am “observing” myself. Awareness. Rather than the negative “I hate feeling this way” – it just is.

    Yikes, never expected to write a novel here! Good luck Liz. I also tell myself that I am the ONLY one who can do this for myself.

  12. I love Jen’s explanation of feeling feelings! I also feel like when blogging or journaling, it helps me “feel” them, too and work through them! I often feel better just by doing that. But something to turn those feelings around once I’ve felt them (rather than wallowing in them, which is what I used to do), is to sit down and write or type out 100 things I can think of that I’m grateful for. If I don’t have the time or I am driving or cleaning, I will number them out loud and state them out loud! It makes me smile and move on… 😉

  13. I like to have dance parties with my son, get in the car and drive and sing at the top of my lungs (maybe after lil’ goat goes to bed?), cleaning and organizing helps me destress, shopping, bubble bath, sneak out for a pedicure and 30 minutes of alone time, hide from the real world by sinking into a light hearted smut book….

  14. Blog about the feelings. Write about the feelings. Sit in a quiet place and review the feelings in your head and allow your mind to process them. Talk about the feelings into a voice recorder so you can hear them back and process them.

    For me it was getting through the feeling then and there. I used those ways to get that done.

  15. Hi Liz,

    You’ve gotten lots of good tips. This is a big one for me too – just in January I started realizing how much I stress eat.

    I found that if I keep up with exercising it makes it easier to deal with stress all the time. So not working out because I’m stressed, but just having a bigger reserve for dealing with life.

    I also have found that thinking through my stress (or journaling) can help. Naming the stress, “It drives me crazy when that kid throws a tantrum every time we have to come in from the car.” Instead of going for the chocolate I will stop and make myself work to a conclusion. It might be, “I need to remember to say that key phrase before the melt down starts.” Or “I will take my ice water and drink it by myself for 30 seconds until I cool off.” Just dealing with each issues as it comes keeps me from getting overwhelmed down the road.

  16. I am not a stress eater, I’m the opposite I can not eat anything. So I might not be the best to answer, but I do have to learn to deal with the stress. I don’t blog and I should exercise, but I do agree a good book helps. So does tv. Bad I know, but some nights it is fun to get completely lost in bad tv. And yes it has to be a bad/funny sitcom(Two and a 1/2 Men and Big Bang Theory are my favs), reality tv (I prefer Dancing With the Stars), or a home show (House Hunters). And while you are doing it get a big bucket and put some nice smelly stuff in it and soak your feet. That prevents you from wanting to get up and grab a snack! And it makes your toesies feel nice and soft!!!

  17. For me, I have to find something that engages both my mind and my body. If it’s just my body, my mind still wanders. If it’s just my mind, my body still feels the anxiety. So playing an instrument is good. I also like doing art — I kind of suck at art, so I have to really think about what I’m doing. And of course, my hands are busy. But if you’re going to judge your final project, that’s not much of a stress buster.

  18. Sarah P. says:

    When I’m feeling stressed out and am tempted to cave in to emotional eating I distract myself with something I enjoy doing that keeps my hands busy (so they aren’t reaching for the potato chips and ice cream). Two things I love to do are play the guitar and sew. Both of these hobbies require both of my hands to be in use and I can’t eat while I do them. Reading a book, unwinding at the computer, or watching a movie are all great things that I enjoy, but they are also huge temptations for me to munch on snacks.
    Another thought… I gather that you are a Christian. I’m also a believer and my faith is very important to me. When I am feeling stressed or emotional I spend time praying and reading my Bible. This might sound silly, but it’s something I learned at my MOPS group(a faith based mom’s group)… When I’m overwhelmed I take moment to light a candle and pray for peace in my home. It’s nothing ritualistic or weird. Just a plain old yankee candle and a couple minutes to let God’s peace wash over me. That flame is symbolic of God’s presence in my home and in my life and it brings me so much comfort in moments of stress.

  19. Hi Liz,

    I’m guessing that since you are looking for more ideas that the ones you have chosen are not fitting the bill, or are leaving some stress bombs behind?

    I don’t know that there is one neat, concise answer. I also think it depends on what you are stressed about. For example, as a mother of four, if I was stressed about the enormity of raising these people and someone told me to take a walk with them, my head would probably explode. I think it is best to choose different relief for different stressors, does that make sense?

    I think it is also a mistake to think that you have to follow some elusive and complicated process to get through it. Dealing with stress is simply a decision not to harbor it; it’s a decision to focus, as another commenter said, on what is within your sphere of control and to let go of what is outside of it.

    Your post read to me was a statement that you want to deal with stress but you really don’t have time to deal with it but if anyone can magically come up with a solution that takes no extra time, you’d be all for it.

    Well, that would be nice.

    I would challenge you to decide instead that you do have time to de-stress. I think until you say “I want to let go and I want to do what it takes for me to let go” you will struggle.

    I hope this comes across as I mean it to…I am someone who has escaped “overwhelmed” for the most part , but it didn’t come easy. I still fall into that hole sometimes, but I now know how to climb out.

    Best wishes on your journey.

    • I’m not terribly overwhelmed at this second, but am trying to be proactive in getting good ideas that work instead of food for me. Stress will happen and I want be sure I am equipped to ride it out.

  20. For me I have found getting lost in blogs, social media, twitter, facebook….I just allow myself a few moments to get lost in it. Even some of the silly games for my phone draw something etc. It gets my mind off of what is upsetting me. Also, I echo what Jen has said. You need to also spend a moment or two (if you are like me I hide in the bathroom for five mintues with a locked door) and try to acknowledge the feeling. To do that means you aren’t just burying the feelings behind food, exercise, or ignoring it com pletely. I also think blogging is a great tool as well. Yeah for trying to talk it out. We aer always here to support you

  21. OK, if you’re ever around me (and the rest of the family) and I use the restroom a bit extra than normal, it will be for one of two reasons. 1) I’ve just had a lot of water. OR 2) I just need to escape for a moment.

    I know it sounds odd, but when things get particularly tough, just take 3-5 minutes and use the bathroom. You don’t have to actually DO anything, but you can take a moment to stop, breathe, and collect your thoughts. On some occasions I’ll sit, put my head on my knees, and take an uber-mini nap. Other times I’ll just take a moment to look in the mirror, give myself a pep talk, and greet the world again. The best part is, you can do this anywhere. Most normal adults won’t follow you into the bathroom (or at least into your stall), and I highly doubt anyone will question what you’re doing (as long as you keep it at a reasonable amount of time).

    It’s not always perfect, but it does help. Good luck!

  22. I’m for sure a stress workout person. You can tell the day I’ve had by the pace of my run. But what to do when you don’t have time for a workout?

    My fave – Put on 10-20 minutes of your favourite tunes (loud) and dance like no one is watching. Shake your money maker! Seriously! Burns calories too.

    I used to do this when I didn’t want to workout but knew I had too (have dealt with many of the same issues while losing 90+ lbs over the past three years so I feel your pain!) … and no one is in in a bad mood or mega stressed after dancing around like a lunatic for 10-20 min. And hey, you can even do that WHILE you’re cooking dinner (I do).

  23. This may seem crazy, but I deal with stress by deep cleaning. I love the accomplishment I feel after the floors or the bathtub are scrubbed. And most of the time I have music blaring while I do it to sing at the top of my lungs to!

  24. I am going to share a blog post I wrote about how I’ve learned to feel my feelings…it’s intense, and I am not doing this just to promote my blog. But since you asked, and since I think I have a pretty good answer (:-)) I really wanted to share. http://www.kclanderson.com/releasefear

  25. I’m like you when it comes to eating when I’m stressed/happy/sad/tired/full of energy, etc. I’ve learned to just take a moment and stop and think about it, breathe through it, and acknowledge that it’s the stress or something else that is making me want to eat a high calorie, not very nutritious food. Distraction doesn’t work for me because I used to go distract myself and after that 30-60 minutes, I’d go grab that bad food. And finally, I ask myself if I’m dehydrated because sometimes I feel tired or irritable and it’s because I’m really just thirsty.

  26. I like to work out in the yard, pull weeds, plant flowers, put up a bird house, container vegetables, mow, anything with yard work. It is sometimes a workout and is very therapeutic.

  27. I find that a 10 min super power walk (walk as fast as you can) always helps. You can load little goat in a stroller and head out. I know 10 mins doesn’t sound like much,but when you are concentrating on going as fast as you can for just 10 mins it really does help.

  28. Loved Jen’s comment. I’m not so sure about feeling the feelings either! I just went thru a pretty big job change, and I’ve been beyond stressed…having physical symptoms and near the point of having anxiety attacks, which happened years ago.

    The absolute best way I’ve found to get thru those moments is to pray. I know my God is greater & stronger than anything here. He can get me thru it…and does. I also turn on praise & worship music. It’s hard to be stressed when you’re worshipping the Lord.

    Welcome to PFG! It’s definitely a daily read for me!

  29. thirddegreenurse says:

    All good suggestions! Sometimes when I get stressed, I make a gratitude list. I was a single mom of 2 girls, so there was no Mr. Goat. I’m glad you have a Mr. Goat who will be there to help you more at some point, but I’m sure you have lots of things to put on a list, which can give you perspective that this stress is very temporary. Things get better. I’ve also learned to take a minute to go into the bathroom, shut the door and maybe splash water on my face in order to change my perspective. You might not get 15 minutes to take a run, but you can usually go to the bathroom for a moment’s peace.

  30. Have you thought of taking an Epsom salt soak? After you put your little one to bed, fill up your tub, add in a cup of salts (great ones CHEAP @ Target!) Soak for 20 minutes, I find the sweat and steam are wonderful for my skin, then I sleep much better – which is of course, going to help reduce the cortisol from the stress too.

    Great work at not stress eating!

    • I really haven’t. I always feel too fat for our tub. Maybe when I get skinnier!

      • Liz, you can use epsom salts in the shower, too! I did this when I didn’t have a tub, and you actually use a lot less salt. Just smear the salts all over yourself and turn up the water as hot as you can stand. Stand there for 20 minutes if you can and enjoy the sauna-like atmosphere. Then rinse off and make sure you scrub hard anyplace that itches. You’ll absorb magnesium, which is important for all sorts of enzymatic processes, and your body will dump some toxins at the same time. That’s why you need to scrub away the itchy parts, so you don’t reabsorb the toxins that get trapped under the topmost layer of skin. You should feel awesome! Try it every day for a week and I bet you’ll be really pleased!

  31. Also, I find that making a mix CD or listening to an old mix tape from a college or high school friend really helps me work off stress. Friends who want to support you might be able to send an awesome mix CD your way, too, or even just put one together on YouTube, or a radio station on Pandora.

    I was an emotional eater for a long time, and I found that something that helped me get away from my food addiction was purposefulness ~ always being aware of the purpose for eating something or doing something, so that I was mindful about it and aware of why I was doing it. Avoiding awareness of what I was doing is what got me on the wrong path in the first place, and it affected far more than just my eating habits. So deliberately cultivating awareness of what I am doing and the effect it is having on me is always a great help ~ hard because it involves facing some monsters, but really amazing for promoting positive changes across the board in my life. Sometimes I have to say, “This is unhealthy,” and then I keep doing it, but the more I say that to myself the less I feel like brushing aside the implications of the unhealthy choice. If I judged myself in this process I wouldn’t get anywhere, so I just don’t!

    Another way to work off stress when you feel a loss of control is to attack a situation that can be brought under your control, or help someone with something that they can’t control alone because they are overwhelmed, or help them see that things are really not so far out of their control as they imagined ~ that’s something you’re already doing through your blog! Grasp what is graspable, and don’t worry about the ungraspability of what is ungraspable. I really admire your spirit and compassion in attacking your own problems and sharing the whole process with everyone through your blog. It shows that you have some healthy compassion for yourself, and that is really inspiring to those who don’t have the courage to be kind to themselves yet.

  32. I was fat for 27 years of my life (I’m 33 now). The one piece of advice that actually marked the turning point for me was to “feel my feelings”. I wanted to kick my therapist in the face when he told me how to do that. It seemed ridiculous to me at the time. I guess what I did was sit on my couch when bad feelings were coming, and trying to locate them in my body. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to cry, get angry, or whatever I needed to do in order to let the feeling pass through me. Remarkably, every time I did this, my urge to eat was gone. These days, I can feel the feelings without the crying, but it still takes practice and focus. Good luck on your journey!

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