There is actually a positive way in which to cope as well as a not so helpful way in which to cope. The goal to coping is to consciously cope, creating a plan of action, dealing with whatever emotional difficulties might be going on for you, the hurts, the pains, the dilemmas, the negative emotions, feelings of inadequacy, etc. It is important for all of these dilemmas and feelings to come into conscious awareness and by doing that you rely upon your prefrontal cortex to do its job, to deal with whatever it is that needs to be dealt with, acknowledging it, paying attention to it, and determining a way forward.
The nucleus accumbens is considered to be the pleasure centre of the brain, associated with pleasure and enjoyment, and when over stimulated becomes numb over time, creating the need to keep eating even when the enjoyment has stopped. What is really interesting, is that people who can be characterized as more emotionally positive, display a higher level of neural activity between their prefrontal cortex and their nucleus accumbens. It has been found that the more communication you have between these two brain areas, the higher the chance you will suffer from chronic emotional pain. The less communication between these two areas of the brain, the more likely you are to be able to recover before the emotional pain becomes chronic.
So here is what’s really interesting about this, those who are able to sustain positive moods even when life is falling apart, are people who also have a high level of communication between the prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens, and interestingly enough those that have a tendency to be more negative, more emotionally pained about difficult life circumstances, have less communication between the prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens and therefore, are less likely to experience chronic emotional pain and chronic emotional eating.
Those of us, who are the ones that use avoidance coping strategies, not indulging in their negative feelings, attempting to get on with life with self imposed positivity, don't actually succeed in this attempt, it just turns into an uphill battle to just keep on living and just keep on eating. This reminds me of the symbol of the jovial fat person. The deep emotional stress is just being avoided and unfortunately this type of coping drives the distress deeper into the subconscious making it even more powerful, increasing vulnerability to emotional eating, in the attempt to stop the emotional distress to erupt into awareness.
Avoidance is a strategy, and it is a way to cope, but it can come at a cost. Those who instead give into their distress allow themselves to grieve, to crash, to cry, to become angry, tend not to suffer from much of a need to emotionally eat and therefore it does not turn into chronic pain. These deep imbedded feelings constitute an ever-growing pain avoidance strategy that grows stronger and stronger as time goes on and becomes deeply entrenched. Feelings of grief and loss grow as well as a lost sense of self and lost life opportunities, frustration grows with failures of diets, anger develops with your own body not to mention relationships with others and life in general. This grows into despair and depression as a result of the accumulation of these feelings. This results in fear and anxiety, stress and poor sleep, and a prevailing sense of helplessness becomes the new norm.
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