Your Career Might Be Making You a Compulsive Eater

by Courtney on March 27, 2013

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“When I’m at work, I can’t help but eat the doughnuts and cookies people bring.” “I get so stressed at work that I eat to get through it.” “When I get home from a long day at work, I’m so stressed and tired and I end up eating a lot at night.” and sometimes people say, “I eat much better on days off.”

These are common things I hear from my clients when they describe the terrain of their compulsive eating patterns. Of course, not everyone who compulsively eats does so in relation to their work or career, but a great percentage do — enough to make me want to write a blog post about it.

I’ve been there, too. I’ve had times in my life where I had a job I didn’t like, and I’d eat a lot just to get through the day, and certainly to “decompress” at night. In fact, often, food was the only thing I looked forward to in my day. The highlight was the time I got to go home after a stressful, boring, or overall non-joy filled day and go home and eat – and usually overeat – my favorite foods. I tried to think myself out of doing these things, but it never worked. I’d tell myself I wouldn’t eat a bunch of sweets during the day, and I’d still do it. I’d resolve to eat lightly when I got home so I wouldn’t feel stuffed and icky going to bed, and I still would do it.

When my clients engage in Juice Feasts, the link between their eating and work becomes even more clear. They notice how they want to eat  the candy someone brought in just because it was there or eat the special pie their co-worker made because they put so much effort into it. How they want to eat on the drive home and eat when they get home.

But eating to get through the day and to decompress isn’t the only way many of us eat because of our work environment or career. In a much broader way, many people realize they continually compulsively eat because they aren’t fulfilled by their work. I’ve been here, too. The compulsive eating doesn’t stop on weekends. It just seems like it’s part of our lives.

I have had many Juice Feasting clients, especially ones who aim for very long Juice Feasts (1-3 months), who have actually quit their jobs or careers and started making plans to move in a different direction. They’re almost always people who did not, in any way, intend to change their career at any time soon when they began the Juice Feast. When we juice cleanse, the underlying reasons we eat compulsively come up – especially over the course of a few months! And when we’re challenging ourselves to not reach for food when emotions come up, everything comes up incredibly fast. And many of us realize that we eat in general in our lives because our careers and jobs – things which take up such a huge percentage of our waking hours – are not exciting to us. And we sometimes realize that we have to leave the career if we want to get out of the addiction with food, and more importantly, move into a life in which we feel alive, where we are following our passions and getting to know our souls. Examples of clients who have transitioned during or soon after a juice feast include: a government office worker who left to become a beach dwelling yoga teacher, a lawyer who wanted to get back into music and be a life coach, and a live-in caretaker who left to go to naturopathic school.

The Lonely Watch

I do not wish to imply that in order to heal compulsive eating one needs to quit their job. For many people, this is not necessary. If work is a reason someone compulsively eats, sometimes the changes that need to be made are smaller. For example, perhaps someones lifelong perfectionist tendencies need to be overcome so they can relax and not obsess over being a superhuman, perfect person at work. Perhaps someone’s fear of angry people needs to be worked through because they eat every time they deal with an angry customer. Small changes may be more about taking action. Maybe you like your job, but you don’t like that you work in a small room with no windows and fluorescent lighting, and you wouldn’t reach for food if you had a nice view and natural light. You might enjoy your work with lots of people but you just need some alone time after work is over, and so far you are not allowing yourself any.

We are not meant to be robots who plug into a hamster wheel of earning and achievement and life tracks that don’t honor our soul’s true passions. We are allowed to love what we do, to spend time on what inspires us and makes us feel alive in every sense of the word. We deserve to do what we’ve always dreamed of doing, to have a life so delicious that we don’t need food to make it worth living.

Love,

Courtney

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Evergreen March 27, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Courtney:

I love this–thanks! I used to work at a government agency and the misery was palpable. I left because although everyone was superficially nice they were miserable souls. It was incredibly difficult to maintain my own positive energy when I worked there. I even requested to be moved to a somewhat isolated location for self-preservation. The ONLY thing that perked this floor up were cake, cookies and other vending machine plastic-wrapped nightmares. People would “come to life” when a sugar opportunity arose. They were pleasant to be around while cake was being consumed but knowing all that I do about processed foods…I couldn’t enjoy the moment as much knowing how much they were hurting themselves. After reading your article I wonder if they beat themselves up by their eating choices, furthering the damage. They surely didn’t realize they were suppressing life with processed food. I love the examples of those who Feasted and were reconnected to their true selves! May this be a seed planted in all who may benefit from it.

Love and Blessings

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Courtney March 28, 2013 at 4:35 pm

It sounds like you experienced something that is indeed prevalent, which is a work culture where perhaps many people really aren’t living in their passions and dislike their jobs, and sweets are the most enjoyable part about going to work. And yes, the element about the fact that we’re also hurting ourselves is a whole other level of things, and as you said, it is hard for many people to stop eating processed food once they’ve started. Good for you for moving on to something that is more in alignment with your soul!

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kc March 28, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Great post Courtney! I watch my co-workers doing the same thing. They’re always bringing pastries to work and talk about doing cleanses while they’re reaching for a second piece. I see both the guilt and the pleasure on their faces. I often think to myself guilt is a terrible thing to eat.

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Courtney March 29, 2013 at 10:53 am

Ah, that must be a painful place for them to be in. It hurts to eat when we feel guilty, for sure!

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Christina Blasick March 30, 2013 at 11:15 am

“Maybe you like your job, but you don’t like that you work in a small room with no windows and fluorescent lighting, and you wouldn’t reach for food if you had a nice view and natural light. You might enjoy your work with lots of people but you just need some alone time after work is over, and so far you are not allowing yourself any.

You could have written these two sentences about me, Courtney. While I don’t tend manage stress by reaching for food, I still don’t always handle it well. Thank you for sharing another great post. I don’t often comment, but I read almost all of them and always find them inspirational.

Much love,
Chrissy

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Courtney March 31, 2013 at 11:55 am

That’s a great point, Chrissy – many people feel imbalanced by their work even if they don’t use food to cope with it. I really appreciate your comment and your sharing, and of course your reading! Love you!

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Chaya-Ryvka April 2, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Hi Courtney,

It’s great to read you writing about compulsive eating. It’s something I dealt with for most of my life, whether eating all raw or back when I was obese on the SAD diet. It was never my work, but an emptiness in my heart which I imagine is a similar emptiness most compulsive overeaters deal with. I recently started writing about my own journey with compulsive overeating and steps I have been taking to confront and overcome the underlying issues.

Thank you for sharing, and I look forward to reading more about what you’ve written and experienced.

Much Love,
Chaya

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Courtney April 3, 2013 at 10:53 am

Hi Chaya darling,

Thank you so much for your comment. You said it so well “It was never my work, but an emptiness in my heart…” Even if work does seem to be a cause of eating, it is because of a deeper issue which is the reason that we are willing to spend our time in work that doesn’t fill our heart. You are such an inspiration for so many!!

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