by Lisette Cifaldi, MSW, LMSW, Owner of eatingsanity.com
Lately, I’ve noticed that many of my clients have had their serenity breached by the endless barrage of political rancor. The truth is, a long line at the grocery store and finding my cherished leftovers eaten can breach my serenity, so it’s no wonder that today’s political rhetoric has us all on edge.
The problem with this emotionally laden climate is that it’s not really going to change anytime soon. In fact, it’s actually bound to get worse. The maligning television ads haven’t even started yet. Oh, the fun ahead.
What I know is that all the emotions inherent in this political mess, like bitterness, resentment, frustration, anxiety and anger, (especially the self-righteous, political-kind-of-anger) are easily dulled with a sleeve of Oreos, a stuffed-crust pizza or an extra glass of wine. As a whole, we aren’t very good at emotionally distancing ourselves in a healthy way, like say with meditation. Nope, mostly we want the quick-fix. We silently ask ourselves what will numb us the fastest and then find ourselves mindlessly standing in front of an open pantry door.
I became painfully aware of this dysfunctional dynamic during a weekly Sunday night dinner with my family. First off, you should know that Cifaldi family dinners have always had plenty of spirited conversation. My father is known for goading me and my siblings into a heated debate as a way to encourage us to stay informed and learn the skill of oration. Although some of these articulated family brawls occasionally had me wanting to divorce my family, in the end my dad’s plan worked because I now make a living as a motivational speaker.
However, on the Sunday night dinner in question, politics were the subject on the table. As voices were raised and opinions were thrown around like weapons, I just kept eating. Overly full, and going back for seconds, I was stuffing food in my mouth as a way to avoid saying something I would regret.
I lied in bed that night still silently seething and disappointed in myself for overeating. However, something occurred to me. If I’m doing this, and several of my clients are doing this, then it’s very likely lots of people are doing this. It’s likely that lots of people suffering from political distress are overeating and probably allowing themselves a few extra cocktails on a regular basis.
Let me tell you why this is particularly alarming. Election day is in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle of food holidays — Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Some studies suggest that the average weight gain over the holidays is 7-10 pounds. If we don’t get a grip on the emotional eating triggered by this political tizzy now that average is likely to increase significantly.
As a responsible citizen of this great country it is important to care about your political leaders and to vote. However, avoid the emotional pitfalls inherent in this lightening-rod of a political atmosphere. Here are a few ideas to help you achieve a healthier balance between civic discourse and emotional wellness:
- When engaging in political conversations practice mindful, active listening. In other words, don’t just wait to speak. Set aside judgment and the need to respond immediately on occasion and just fully listen. This skill helps to neutralize the need to match the speaker’s emotional intensity and gives you the opportunity to learn something you may have missed while formulating your response during what should be the listening phase in a conversation or debate.
- Feel free to take a break from Facebook on occasion or temporarily “unfriend” people who post inflammatory and unprofessional political posts. Don’t take the bait.
- Make an extra effort these days to turn off the television while eating. Plug into the eating experience a little bit more by practicing the skill of mindful eating.
- Lastly, ask yourself if you really know why you feel the way you feel about each candidate or are you just believing the messages that have been handed down to you by family members, friends or the media. Start by reacquainting yourself with just the accomplishments of each candidate on Wikipedia to remind yourself of their career endeavors without all the other judgements and assumptions. Knowing just the basics about each candidate helps temper emotion with rational thought.
My fellow Americans, make a pledge today. Pledge not to pack on the political pounds. Deep breaths, and step away from the fridge.
Lisette Cifaldi, MSW, LMSW is a Food Addiction Specialist and Motivational Speaker. Her brand, Eating Sanity, LLC offers food addiction recovery coaching, education and advocacy. Through her SoapBox Inspired brand she inspires individuals, corporations and communities with motivational speaking and team building.