I was listening to Jeffrey Yuen speak about how heat turns into fire toxins unless the body damps it down, and it suddenly hit me why people with long term heating emotions might eat the way they do.
In Chinese medicine, the seven emotions are considered causes of disease. If you are feeling chronically stressed or anxious, it can cause a condition of internal heat in the body. Heat can turn into fire, which can harass the heart, causing anger or mental illness, depending upon the situation. Fire, if unaddressed, can turn to fire toxin, a truly toxic situation that can lead to abscesses, ulcerations and even cancers.
What does the body do to prevent this? Fire can be cooled, but the human body lacks internal refrigeration. So the more likely response is to dampen the fire with fluids. Fluids in the body are generated primarily by food and drink.
And what kinds of foods do we look for when we eat emotionally? Sweets, breads, chocolate, ice cream, perhaps with a glass of milk- all the foods that tend to generate dampness when consumed. We rarely have cravings for bell peppers or mustard greens or shitake mushrooms when we are emotionally spent.
Granted there are better ways cool fire. One could swim, or change the external situation so that the stressors stop. A warm bath by candlelight might be better, but rarely feels as compelling or cooling as Haagen Daz. Exercise can release tension, but it is heating, and it can seem difficult to start when in an emotionally hot state. In fact when dealing with stressors, we are more likely to shut down and stop moving.
Emotional eating when feeling the heat of long term emotional stress is a kind of self medication, because the heat from chronic upset can cause real problems in the body. I know in some situations in my life, I have been aware that I had ceased to follow my eating and exercise program, but it seemed victory enough just to survive. And perhaps there was wisdom in that decision, because you don’t want fire to burn unchecked.
So while emotional eating is not an optimal response, it has energetic roots. And if we want to short circuit that response, we should take care to find other ways to quell the fire.