Emotional Eating or Panic Attack? (Not Afraid Challenge Post #4)

October 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

Hey Everyone!!  This is my 4th post in my October “Not Afraid” Challenge and Giveaway!!

If you want to join in this challenge (and see what the prizes are) just check out my 1st post on the topic here

This was the question I asked you last Thursday:

Imagine this scenario.  You suddenly get it in your head that you want something to eat.  And it is not time to eat.  You know you are not hungry.  And what you want is off your food plan.  Maybe it’s candy.  Maybe it’s driving through the fast food restaurant.  Whatever it is, there it is. That thought.  And the slow descent into madness begins.  The mental fight where you try to resist giving in but it becomes harder and harder.  In that moment, what are you afraid of? What do you think could possibly happen if you just don’t give in? If you just don’t eat the food that you are craving?  Have you ever stopped and asked yourself at the height of that moment….what am I so afraid of?? What could possibly happen if I do not eat what I want in this moment?  

A lot of people in society will say things like:

I’ve never had food accidentally end up in MY mouth”

You can decide to eat and you can decide not to eat.  It’s that simple”

And my personal favorite

“Just put down the fork”

This is what they are thinking.  They are thinking that your problem is NOT a real problem because it’s controllable.  You CHOOSE to overeat.  And therefore you CHOOSE to be “fat”

And so I have no sympathy for you


And–YES— it’s true that food doesn’t jump in my mouth.  But it still ends up there at times.  And many of those times do not feel as if they are in my control.  In fact, there are times when it actually feels Do or DIE.  And that is totally different from CHOICE.

Put someone in a do or die situation and ask them if they feel they have a choice.  Ask this same question to people who have been in desperate situations.  Even life threatening situations where they had to do things they never would have otherwise done.  Ask THEM if they did what they did by choice.  They will tell you that they felt as if they had no choice.  That they were doing it by force.  Maybe out of a survival instinct.  Trying to stay alive.

This may sound really crazy to a lot of people but I have had moments like this.  MANY MOMENTS.  I have even had someone tell me ,”No one has a gun to your head making you eat”    But to be honest to ME there were times when it felt exactly that way.  I literally felt that desperate about it.

There have been numerous times in my life when I ate out of a “do or die” feeling.  But that level of panic is totally different from what we might call “emotional eating”.   I have eaten for emotional reasons many times.  But that is not panic.  They are two different things. It’s like this.  You have someone who works a tough job with a stressful home life.  So you give them a self help book on how to be less stressed out.  Would you give that same self help book to someone locked in a dungeon underground living in chains under the rule of a vicious dragon?  Do you think they’d appreciate a book called “How To Be Happy”?  Even if they appreciated it do you think the suggestions would work?  Possibly not for that drastic of a situation.  This is how I feel when it comes to most anything I’ve read on emotional eating.  There is a difference between feeling like you need a pick me up after a rough day AND feeling as if your life is being threatened.

I can control emotional eating much easier than I can control panic.  Neither is easy but it’s like asking me if I’d rather be in a rainstorm or a Tsunami.   And what general society doesn’t realize is that most people who are overweight and even severely obese ARE controlling the rainstorms fairly well.  But controlling a Tsunami is a different story.

People just look at someone who is over 400 pounds and think that person must have zero control at all.  NOT TRUE. They probably spend 24 hours a day white knuckling it.  Gritting their teeth and gutting it out.  Trying as hard as they can to NOT overeat.   I was able to control the rainstorms at least half the time .  That is why I weighed 417 pounds instead of 517 pounds.  Or 617 pounds. If I hadn’t been successful at least SOME of the time at controlling it, I would have been dead long ago.  It was the Tsunami size panic episodes that were too much for me.  But whether people realize it or not….YES….most people who are overweight are able to control emotional eating to a degree.  They do not always give into their emotions.  That is why they are still alive.  Because YES….they do often resist the food.

But that is not panic.

A panic that could take over your entire body until you feel that you might actually pass out.  Have a heart attack.   Go insane!

911!! EMERGENCY!!!!

As if  I literally am about to lose touch with reality.   I’m not exaggerating either.  I’ve actually thought that I would go crazy if I didn’t eat.  That I might have to be locked up in an asylum.  Or that I would have a heart attack and die because of it leaving my children as orphans.  As if not eating a Snickers bar could do that.  As if a Reeses could wield that kind of power.  But trust me—in THAT moment—it feels that way.

When you feel that level of fear and panic, you must find a way to stop it or you worry it will kill you.  Here is a comment someone left about what that feels like:

“My fear is that if I don’t give in and eat, then the angst will never end – that I’ll continuously have the horrible torturing feeling.”

I know what that feeling is like.  And yes–torture was the perfect description of it.

Trust me—if the government could bottle this kind of powerful brainwashing it would be frightening what they could do.  Because in that moment you are utterly convinced that the panic you are feeling will either kill you or cause you to go insane.  You feel like you have NO CHOICE but to end it by any means necessary.  By any FOOD necessary.  Because at that point you are going to die anyway.  What is the point of being thin if you’re dead? Or locked up in an insane asylum?  So in that moment there is no choice.  YOU HAVE TO EAT.  Eat or die.  Eat or go crazy.

That is NOT just standard emotional eating.  That is MORE than dealing with an emotion.  That is a full fledged panic attack.  Panic attacks mimic heart attacks.  Many people truly believe they are dying when they are having a panic attack.  The symptoms of a panic attack can be shortness of breath,  chest pain,  palpitations, feelings of unreality or that you are going to lose your mind.  There may also be dizziness, vertigo and numbness in your hands or feet.  For me, I actually lose feeling in my face and even my tongue if I allow it to progress that far.  That leads to me worrying that my throat will swell up and I will not be able to breathe or swallow.  Which leads to more panic.  There is also the feeling of sweating, shaking,  and the fear of fainting.  You generally feel that you are losing control or you are going to die.


That to me is NOT the same thing as what other people describe as “emotional eating” or even “stress eating”.  Stress is sitting in traffic.  Stress is losing your keys.  The feeling of facing total annihilation, a psychotic break and imminent death is NOT “stress”.  It’s something else entirely and far more horrible than STRESS.  And unless you have felt the above sensations you probably don’t understand just how intense it can be for some people when they are trying to not eat.  I wonder how many people in the world would be able to stick to a diet if THAT Is how they felt every single time they tried to resist overeating???

Luckily that is not what I feel every time.  But it is OFTEN.  And that is fear.  Debilitating, mind blowing fear.

The skills that are taught to individuals who cope with panic attacks are the ones that have helped me more than any book I ever read on emotional eating.

This is the best way that I have found to deal with panic attacks.

#1—Identify it is as panic.  Recognize it for what it really is.  Not hunger.  Not an actual immediate life threatening attack.  BUT PANIC

#2—Acknowledge that it WILL pass.  That it will come to an end.  All panic attacks do.  They actually cannot kill you.

I think I have read every book and website on panic ever written.  At least it feels that way.  Believe it or not the best resource I have ever found was written by Dr. Claire Weekes.  Her books were written quite a long time ago back when they referred to it as “nervous illness”.  Literally, they have saved me in more ways that I could convey.  On my nightstand I have three things.  My Bible, my Bible promise book and Claire Weekes on audio. That’s how much she has helped me.  I’m for real about this woman.  She has the key to dealing with panic.

Dr. Claire Weekes wrote and recorded MANY talks and books for helping with panic disorder.  I have probably bought and read every single book ever written on the topic of anxiety and panic attacks.  NOTHING has helped me the way this woman’s writings have helped me.  I find it beyond sad that her work was not more publicized because of how helpful  it is.  I truly believe that releasing yourself from food obsession can cause panic attacks.  It could be the panic preceded the overeating. Maybe the overeating came first and now trying to let go of it is causing panic.  Whatever order it comes in—there it is.  And if you think you are going through an episode of panic rather than just a standard bout of emotional stress–then try to find some of her work and see if it helps.  It is hard to find a lot of her work because it is distributed in England.  I highly recommend getting her books on audio because she has a way of speaking to you that relaxes you.   For me, I need that.

I love listening to her books on audio and the Bible on audio for that reason.  As a single Mom, putting my head on that pillow alone at night can sometimes be rough if the day has weighed heavy on you.  But this way I never feel alone.  Instead of reaching for food as I used to, I reach for something on audio and it helps.  The benefits of her work are not just in writing.  The benefits are found in the soothing comfort of her voice and the way she lets you know that she gets it.  I highly recommend snapping up every piece of work she has ever written even if you have to search for it on Ebay.  Even if you don’t think you have a panic disorder.  If you substitute the fear of agoraphobia (which she often is speaking about) for the panic you experience about needing to eat then you might find her strategies work.   I own everything she has done in written and audio format and you may find that a lot of what I say is from her influence.  I owe a lot of my progress to her.

Pass Through Panic: Freeing Yourself From Anxiety and Fear   (audio…)

Freedom From Nervous Suffering   (audio…)

Essential Help for Your Nerves: Recover from Nervous Fatigue and Overcome Stress and Fear

Self Help For Your Nerves: Learn to Relax and Enjoy Life Again by Overcoming Stress and Fear

More Help For Your Nerves

Hope and Help For Your Nerves

Peace from Nervous Suffering


I truly believe that underlying issues of fear,anxiety and panic could be a root cause for overeating.  I believe many people may actually be dealing with an anxiety disorder without realizing it.  Depression can manifest itself in many ways other than sadness.  So why couldn’t anxiety?

Did you know that many people diagnosed with clinical depression never thought for a second that they were clinically depressed?  They might not be sad but they were irritable.  They may not feel depressed but they have memory problems and find it very difficult to think clearly.  A lot of people actually have depression and anxiety without realizing that is their root problem.  They just have been controlling it for so long with food that they now think food is their biggest problem.    That is why I think it’s good to stop and put the pause button on sometimes.  If we can identify what is going on we have a better chance at dealing with it more efficiently.

I’d like to thank everyone for their thoughtful comments.  It has truly helped me so much in exploring and re-exploring these ideas.  I appreciate so much hearing from others.  Sometimes it just opens up my eyes to something I would never have seen.

For next week, I would just like to ask you this:

How do you deal with panic?  Have you ever experienced feelings of unreality (like you are going to lose it!) when it comes to food? Or other situations? Can you share any methods or strategies that have helped you?


Happy Thursday!!!

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Mrs. Abella October 23, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Lots of hugs and prayers for you as you battle the attacks. I remember when I was a single parent for a few years with an autistic/medically fragile (at that time, he grew out of issues from his micropreemie hood and is strong as an ox), the anxiety that flooded my heart. I was a brand new baby Christian, and had no clue what to do. I prayed. But, I didn’t know what else to do. I ate. I cried. I worked long hours and dealt with the issues my son had (he was 1 1/2 at the time I became a single mom.) I grew from the 24(ish) size up farther, and over the years mostly stayed larger than that. I remember well the feeling like a huge ocean wave just pulled me under, and fighting to simply breathe–it truly made me hyperventilate. I had my last panic/anxiety issue a year ago in September, when I had to place my son for 2 months in a residential psychiatric treatment facility, I had that overwhelming ocean wave for weeks. I ate everything in sight.

Thankfully, with prayer, discipleship, leaning hard at times on a pastor who is there, and good friends who understand, those fears have passed. We as a family are whole again, and we work through the issues by putting them to the Lord…most of the time anyway.

Thank you for sharing the resources you have, they will be valuable to many!
Mrs. Abella recently posted..Popcorn to the Rescue!My Profile


Holly from 300 Pounds Down October 23, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Thanks so much for sharing that with me. I am so amazed by what you have been through. You are an inspiration!!


Mrs. Abella October 23, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Thank you, Holly! I have to say, you’re an inspiration yourself, and I’m glad to have found your blog and your story. I’ve only been on the battle ground 2 months, trying to drop from 401 down to 200 (I’m large built, muscular, like a German tank or something, 200 or below and I look anorexic).

We’re both in a long term war, the ol’ devil would have us to roll over and lay down and quit the fight, to let eating and fat overtake and turn us into someone who is not effective in serving the Lord. That fat issue is already affecting my stepdaughter, who is 10, and who lives with us full time–hubby has sole custody of her and her brother, who is 13. Their mother weighs over 600 pounds, unless she’s lost weight recently, and for a while could not fit behind the dash-passenger side–of our old Silverado–when we would pick her up to have her at the kids’ birthday parties. Her size, and seeing mine, it affects my SD. She at 10 years old has started the starvation and things that are not at all safe. She is large built naturally, athletically built and develops muscle very easily, and she’s not fat, but since she doesn’t fit in with the rail thin kids at school, she is made fun of. And the kids make fun of me to her because I’ve been so big. So…more reason to get on the battlefield and get the weight under control and fight the demons that lead to overeating. I don’t want her needing to drop 100, 200, or 300 pounds in her adulthood, if she’s using me or her bio mom as an example.

Question for you: did you have medical issues develop due to your weight?
Mrs. Abella recently posted..Popcorn to the Rescue!My Profile


Calleigh October 23, 2014 at 8:39 pm

I always look forward to your posts Holly. It may be selfish but they show me I’m not alone or im not ‘abnormal’ to a point where im the only one in the world struggling with certain issues or feelings.
I’ve been right there with you. As someone with depression and anxiety issues, panic and loss of control are very well known to me, I struggle every day. I find exercise helps me a lot. I don’t often work out to lose weight, I work out to keep my sanity! Even a gentle walk does wonders.
Thanks for the audio book tip, I’m going to give that a try!


Jessica October 23, 2014 at 9:42 pm

I don’t know if I would call them panic attacks…but more like frantically looking for food to fill my mouth, all the while knowing that it won’t make me feel better or help the situation. But I will eat like there’s no tomorrow, and when the binge is done, I have only a faint recollection of what I put in my mouth. I do a lot of living in my head…I have lots of conversations with myself and other people, that I don’t seem to be able to say in the moment. That causes a problem sometimes, as I am a mom to 2 young girls (almost 2 and 4 years old) as well as a wife, and a senior manager in my company. So when I’m feeling really out of control, or upset, I retreat, and almost script out what I would say if I felt brave enough. In those moments, I almost always have the craving for sweets. And at this point in my life, I’m able to usually identify it, and stop the craving, or at least ignore it until it goes away. But when it grabs a hold of me, I feel powerless and weak, then the failure feelings start in, then the apathy. I’m actually dealing with a lot of apathy right now…I just don’t care. But I’m trying very hard to start caring again, because I don’t want this life for me or my family. Sorry for the rambling!!!


Sherri October 23, 2014 at 10:28 pm

Boy I love reading your posts, you really get me to stop & think. I’m not sure I ever considered myself in a “panic” over food. But perhaps I was fooling myself. The signs were definitely there: sweating, rapid heartbeat, uncontrolled thoughts. I think I chalked it up to “nerves” or being anxious. But I do believe it was likely a panic. My way of dealing was to quickly get involved in something else to get my mind off it. That’s when I was able to not put that wanted food item in my mouth! I must say I’ve been better about it lately, but there were days I wasn’t so lucky! I swear those cookies or cakes knew my name & were calling me to eat them! The only way I can really stop the madness is just to keep them away from me. If they are within my vicinity at a weak moment, I don’t always have the willpower or desire to turn away. One day at a time & working through every tough situation as it comes up makes me a little stronger.


Renee October 23, 2014 at 10:37 pm

I hold you in high esteem, after reading this post. My daughter has suffered panic attacks for several years. They are frightening. They are unimaginable to someone who has never experienced it… but they are very, very real. The closest I have been to a real panic attack is when my daughter (who was 20 miles away from me in high school) told me she wanted “to end it all”, she couldn’t do it anymore. Since then, I have talked her “off the cliff” many times. She has a therapist, and has made such great progress since those days. The best advice I give her is to breathe… just slow down, put your hands in your lap, close your eyes, and just breathe. Count your breaths, listen to yourself counting…slow everything down….This sounds so simple, but it works, at least for her.
I have moments with food where I feel like I cannot do one more thing without the oreos in the cupboard. They call to me. It is not a soft caress… those bitches scream… Renee… I am here !!!!! LOL


Christine October 24, 2014 at 12:57 am

Anxiety/Panic attacks run in my family. Because of that, I have read up on it LOTS and it all seems to tie back to adrenal fatigue. Having it genetically, and then add to that being middle aged, perimenopausal, and stressed, it GREATLY increases our inability to produce proper amounts of cortisol, adrenaline and DHEA – everything you need to deal with stressful situations. I am a BIG supplement taker and spend a lot of time researching to make sure what I take isn’t full of fillers, etc. I have found that Gaia Adrenal Health (liquid capsules) help by taking the edge off. I’m not saying it would work for anyone else, but they help me if I take them regularly. So, anyhow, I’m just throwing that out there in case anyone would like to try it to.
My situation, to add to already having genetic adrenal problems, Is a job that is extremely stressful because I do a lot of analysis to cut people’s jobs. In addition to that, I also play a role in having to send military on deployments. BTW, this is not a career field I chose, and I have been doing it now for 25+ years (a lot invested for future retirement). I am also epileptic and stress/panic can induce seizures. Seizures that I cannot take medication for because I’m allergic to something in it. Now top it off with a husband that has Aspergers (a form of autism) with genetic manic depression.
Sorry to sound like a whiner, but I wanted to mention my situation because I hadn’t mentioned it before and taking the supplement does help with all of it.
Holly, you are definitely a Godsend bringing all of us together to manage our situations one step at a time. I have definitely embraced the tortoise and have made an instant collection of them so that I’ll see them throughout the day. Before I ran across your site, I felt really alone because I didn’t know a single soul that has weight fluctuations like I do. That helps immensely in knowing I’m not alone. Hugs!


Sue October 25, 2014 at 3:02 pm

I had just watched something I recorded from Oprah last Sunday before I read your post..I highly recommend going to this website and reading this article on “SHENPA”. which is also like an “urge” to do whatever, I relate it to giving into to binging on sugar, being in that moment when nothing else matters and you have to give in…very inspiring article, hope you read it.


Sue October 25, 2014 at 11:56 pm

Here’s a link to the website I spoke about above.


Susan October 26, 2014 at 6:12 am

I have not had to deal with panic attacks. But I can understand the reality for someone that does. I am in menopause so I have been through palpitations. I have a friend that deals with panic attacks. She is honestly better in a crisis than I am, but she may lose it later when the action has passed. I do realize that I stress eat. When I get under a tight deadline I start searching the drawers in my office for snacks.

I can get a craving for something, and sooner or later I am going to give in. I don’t beat myself up when I give in – I just count it in MFP food diary. I have quelled the craving by telling myself tomorrow you can have it. Sometimes my tomorrow finds me stronger. Sometimes I am not. Sometimes I even test myself by having my favorite foods, and trying to let Hubby eat all but the last one.

My time that I struggle with… Is when I get home from grocery shopping. I want to dive in. I don’ t want to portion out the week. I even want a snack on the way home. I tell myself, “You got to wait until you get home. There is no telling the germs you picked up from the shopping cart handle!” Sometimes this works, sometimes I am holding the food in its wrapper – like that makes it OK.

When I was a kid, my Mom & Sister would take me to the grocery store every Saturday, and I would get 1 piece of candy. Of course it never made it home. It was pure bliss to devour it in the car on the way. Sometimes we went to Town, and those Saturdays included a trip to the Sunbeam Bakery – last stop. I would get a creamhorn, which was a puff pastry with a sweet creamy filling, and it was the biggest thing in the case. I was in the back seat of that old Ford – in total bliss.

Thank goodness the bakery closed when I was a teen, and we never got another that could hold a candle to the Sunbeam Bakery. I have to find the adult in me that holds that child back now. I read the labels, I try to make better choices, I portion out the snack to the servings on the package – if I don’t I find myself deep into the bag – with no resolve to turn around.

I am enjoying the posts on this month’s challenge. I have been researching the adrenal connection, and I learned about shenpa. It has given me a lot to think about. The turtle talk has reminded me we all have our own path, and we can take it to our destiny, because we are wonderfully made and shaped by Him ( Psalms 139 13-16 ).


Anneli Byrd October 26, 2014 at 9:49 pm

You are a warrior! I love the way you put names to things on your blog. I think you should re-read this post anytime you begin to feel down on yourself for struggling with weight. I’ve never felt anything close to what you’re describing, and I still can’t quite get things under control.

I loved reading this post tho. I helps me blame myself a little less. Obesity is a problem. Just that. A problem. I’d never dream of blaming myself or you if I had a bad head cold and you had double pnemonia. It’s just a problem.

If I were attacked, I would fight. I might win or lose, but I would not blame myself for having to fight.

Keep up the good fight!!!


Michelle October 27, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Yes, this journey which we are on is definitely not for the “merry-go-round” crowd–it’s one for the “rollercoaster” rider as its full of ups and downs, thrill and spills, and is always unpredictable. In addition to walking, running, riding an elliptical or partaking in some other form of physical activity, when those feelings of helplessness and panic seep into my brain, I pray and then recite to myself over and over “Day by day, in every way, it is getting better and better. Day by day, in every way, it is getting better and better….”

I know that if I haven’t prepared myself by having healthy food choices at hand, I will be tempted to go for “trigger foods”. I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt there is no way on God’s green earth that I can eat just one French fry, or just take a little taste of mashed potato. I KNOW that once I do that an avalanche of craving will be just around the corner, yet when in their presence, some small voice from deep within my brain will begin chanting and cajoling me to partake in their carbohydrate loaded goodness. I can actually feel the physical change in myself even as I type this…my heart rate increases as does my breathing and I get a tingly sensation as my nervousness increases in anticipation of the cerebral battle I will face.

Will I win or will I lose? The outcome lies solely in my ability to make a choice…pick up the fry or, literally, run for the hills???? What will I do?


Holly October 30, 2014 at 8:54 pm

I had to think about this question a while! (Notice I am answering way late.) My mother suffers from panic attacks and anxiety, and has for many years. Probably not a coincidence, she also has a lot of food struggles. She deals with her panic mainly by isolating herself, very rarely leaving her house. She also takes medication, and shops QVC and eats. It’s a sad life, but I have learned over the years that I can’t be responsible for her. I have personally experienced panic a few times, mainly while I was in the process of divorce. I actually checked myself into a mental hospital twice because I thought I might kill myself. I think probably I was less suicidal and more panicked. But I had no idea what to do with those terrible feelings, so hospitalization seemed to be my safest option. Here is the funny thing- both times I checked myself in, I was really active in OA and working hard to get a grip on my overrating! At the time, I couldn’t make a connection but now it seems pretty clear that while the divorce was awful, the divorce FROM food was what really knocked me out. I had no reserves to deal with life once I took the option of eating myself into oblivion away. I guess the happy ending to this story is that I survived- the divorce, the hospital, the panic- and while I’m still fat and still SOMETIMES overeating, the degree is much less severe. I feel like this happened through gather grace of God, because it sure wasn’t anything I did. This realization has been humbling and life-changing. I used to be real uncomfortable with the idea of God saving me specifically. Now I believe that for whatever reason, He did, and it’s my pleasure and responsibility to be of service in whatever way I can be. I’m working on my relationship to Him, so I can hear whatever call there is.
Holly recently posted..The One with the Regrets (and Thanks)My Profile


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