Advice Column: Response to Eating my Feelings

Dear Hailey,


I’m having a big problem with my mental health and I was wondering if you could answer my question. Recently I have come into a pit of anxiety and depression. I am a gay man married to a woman. I married my wife because I thought that would convince people I am straight and they wouldn’t be homophobic towards me. However, I’ve become unhappy and I feel trapped in my marriage. I fear people will not accept me if I show who I truly am. Because of this, I am “eating my feelings” as people call it. I was already a little bit plump as it is, but now I’ve gained even more weight. Is it normal to gain weight and eat when you’re feeling upset? How can I change this?


Sincerely,


Eating my feelings

Dear Eating my Feelings,

It is very normal for stress to affect eating patterns. Some people eat more, some people eat less or stop eating all together. (I personally eat more when I find myself under stress as well). Weight gain is common when you increase your food intake. Stress, anxiety, and depression can also slow down metabolism, which also contributes to weight gain. 

A simple way to cut down on stress eating is to identify triggering events/emotions, and find a replacement behavior. These are different for everyone, but some ideas are meditation, journaling, drawing, and exercise (especially cardio). Weight gain also causes a really unpleasant vicious cycle where stress eating occurs because of weight gain, which causes more weight gain…and just keeps going in circles. 

Regular exercise, drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day and regular self-care are all ways to improve your mental state and decrease stress eating. 

You didn’t ask directly about advice for your current marital situation, but I do want to address it. A term that applies to your situation is something called cognitive dissonance. This occurs when there is a large distance between where you want your life to be and where it actually is. Your weight gain, your mental state, your marriage, and your secret sexual orientation are all things that contribute to this feeling of cognitive dissonance. 

Cognitive dissonance can cause a litany of unpleasant side effects, including anxiety, depression, stress eating, and more. The only way to repair this is to move your life in a direction more consistent with where you want to be. An important step to repairing some of this cognitive dissonance is to speak with your wife about your sexual orientation. 

It is no one’s choice but your own to decide what the future holds for you. I’m not here to convince you to leave your wife, or to stay. I understand your worries about what others will think of you if you choose to come out. Remember, you are the one who needs to live with your decisions, not the people around you. This will be a difficult decision no matter what you choose to do. 

I would recommend seeking counseling (if you haven’t already) to work through these emotions and help you to decide how you want to proceed. I am a huge advocate for counseling, because speaking to someone outside of your situation can provide powerful insight. 

I wish you luck,

Hailey

Posted in Q&A

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