Pause Your Stress Eating To Read This Meme About Your Lonely Mouth
You may have seen this popular meme floating around of a dictionary definition: “Kuchisabishii (口寂しい): When you’re not hungry but you eat because your mouth is lonely.”
You laugh because it’s a funny spin on our tendency to eat when we’re bored. It’s funny because it’s true. But after the laugh wears off, we’re just left with its truth: we overeat because we’re bored. And in the age of Covid? There’s a lot of boredom going around thanks to our entire global social scene on lockdown, which leads to overeating. Ultimately, this is just a form of stress eating.
Healthy eating habits serve multiple purposes. Of course, we need fuel to survive. Humans also eat as a social activity. While other animals fight over their hunt, humans come together with their respective “hunt” and gatherings (in this day and age, a grass-fed steak from Bones and Blades and fresh organic veggies from the farmers market). For better or worse, we also deal with our stress by stress eating. And it’s for a scientifically-proven reason.
One of our “happy” hormones is oxytocin. It is released when we’re born to help us bond with our parents. It flows when we hug people or pet animals. It’s an essential chemical for making us feel good. It is also released when we’re babies while breastfeeding. Our bodies are so hardwired for these oxytocin-triggering actions that the physical act of eating anything - not just essential breastmilk - releases oxytocin. It’s the emotional reward we get for taking care of ourselves. But the body doesn’t know the difference between eating for health versus stress eating as a coping mechanism. When we overeat to deal with stress, we still get the oxytocin reward. As you can imagine, this makes it hard to beat emotional eating. How can we beat emotional eating if we’re constantly feeling the reward of overeating?
Just knowing that it is feeding a desire for that oxytocin and dopamine rush can help reframe why you’re overeating. If the ultimate goal is not actually the food, but the happy feeling, think about other ways of achieving happiness. We can release oxytocin from:
- Hugs. If you have friends and family around, take every opportunity to physically connect to them for as much time as possible. So, that may mean hugging your mother hello for an extra few seconds. That’s right; go for the awkwardly long hug. Make it so awkward you both end up laughing about it. Sounds like a better activity than stress eating, right?
- Chiropractic care. As a hands-on method of health care, chiropractic adjustments provide the physical touch that ultimately elicits those feel-good hormones. For many chiropractic clients, their adjustment is the only time in the day or week that they receive substantial human touch. If you know anyone who lives alone or is isolated, suggest they visit their local chiropractor.
- Pet your cat. See if you can delay the stress eating by hanging out with a furry friend for a few minutes. Petting a dog or other animal releases oxytocin.