The correlation between being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and an emotional eater is too significant not to share. It’s a pairing that I see often – and one that I see in myself. The aim of this post is to share my knowledge of the Highly Sensitive Person in an effort to provide a sense of sanity to your emotional eating habits. If you are anything like me, the tremendous shame surrounding your overeating has caused you to retreat from the world in an effort “fix” yourself. When you begin to understand that the reason you are overeating is perfectly justified and completely sane – your mission to “fix” yourself will gently fade away.
So what exactly is a Highly Sensitive Person? Being highly sensitive means you pick up more sensory inputs from your environment — you feel things more intensely (both your own feelings and those of others) and reflect deeply before acting. In addition to having heightened sensory input, HSP’s are often physically sensitive to specific foods, making digestive issues and auto immune disorders commonplace. Because of this high level of processing and analyzing, the body and mind are more likely to be overwhelmed, overstimulated and over aroused. This is precisely where food comes into play.
Overwhelm is the catalyst for unconsciously using food as a coping mechanism to oversensitivity of outside people, places, situations, and especially emotions. Food becomes an escape route from a world that seems too much handle. The HSP becomes a sponge for the stress of the world – literally absorbing it into their bodies.
Highly Sensitive People have a strong propensity to live in their heads – their strength lies in analysis. The downside of hibernating in your head is that anxiety undoubtedly finds you there and will hold on to you for dear life. When you feel yourself overwhelmed with anxiety, seeking solace with food – recognize your need to retreat. When we honor that we are sensitive beings – we honor the part of us that needs time to recharge, restore and rest. It’s a balance of finding life’s confines and the confines of our sensitive bodies – and finding a way to flourish within their boundaries.
I know being highly sensitive may seem like a weakness given it is masked in your overeating habits – but when you are not coping, your sensitivity will paradoxically be your greatest gift. Because HSP’s have the capacity to see what others may miss, they are natural visionaries, peacemakers, creatives and humanitarians. So you see, you are not a problem to be “fixed”, rather a tenderness to appreciate.
To gain a deeper understanding of the Highly Sensitive Person, I highly recommend Elaine Aron’s, The Highly Sensitive Person.