Eating represses feelings, Exercise lets them go.

I’ve always been physically active; I played sports and fidgeted in my seat in class. I’m happier when I’m active. For the past few years though, in a household of TV watchers, I became couch potato chip-eater, and therefore depressed. I ignored my instinct to go outside and walk because everyone else sat inside. (Observation not blame.) Recently an emotional eating webinar helped me process my emotional attachment to overeating snacks. As my repressed regrets drifted away, I got up and started exercising. I felt happier, but it was more than actually exercising: it was the simultaneous act of letting go.

Science tells us that we’re happy after exercise because it releases endorphins, but I think it’s deeper than that. Exercise helps us release our negative thoughts and feelings, and we feel physically and mentally healthier after they’re gone. Whereas eating holds in those negative emotions, stuffing them deeper inside as we stuff our faces, allowing us to continue ignoring them.

Further, I realized that eating is a control issue. When I stopped eating gluten foods and dairy for health reasons six years ago, people-family, friends, cooks- were offended, not sympathetic. Why would people be bothered I couldn’t share the nachos they bought, or the lunch they made you. Because they thought I wouldn’t. But even if I wouldn’t, why did that matter? Why is it so important that I eat what someone want me to, what they choose for me? Because they want to control us. They want to influence our thoughts and decisions to be similar, connected. Food is personal. It goes beyond movie or sports interests. It’s a part of you. If you reject food people offer you,  you are rejecting the control they have over you. You are rejecting them. (I realized that food builds your cells and therefore literally becomes a part of you. So if you eat different foods than someone else you are physically different than them.)

Sometimes I literally eat things that bother me later to avoid arguments or offending people. Relationship harmony is sometimes worth my digestive discord. But it’s much less often than it was before, when I kept eating bread to avoid parents’ anxiety or friends’ tantrums. Mostly I say no when I need to, and eat what is best for me.

People don’t need to be so invested in what you are eating. It is not a commentary about their choices or lifestyle at all, and it doesn’t affect their personal choices. We can still share experiences without sharing everything on our plate. 🙂

Published by shireenhakim

Shireen Hakim is Mexican-Pakistani-American author from Los Angeles, California. Her award-winning refugee story "Rabbi the Rabbit" is published in the anthology OUT OF MANY, ONE: CELEBRATING DIVERSITY by Houston Writers Guild. Shireen is a Buzzfeed Contributor. She is a NetGalley Top Reviewer and has written for Book Riot and The Muslim Vibe.

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