Is anger making or keeping you fat? At some point or another, we all get angry. There are times we will rationalize that it is justified, circumstances call for such emotion. Still, anger has some pretty profound negative effects on your body. Anger can have a destructive—even deadly—effect on your health. According to Dr. Don Colbert, M.D., author of Deadly Emotions, anger can profoundly damage your health. “Depression, anger, guilt, condemnation, low self-esteem…these are only a few of the lethal toxins…,” Dr. Colbert warns.
He supports these claims with scientific evidence about the effects of anger on the physiological aspect. Anger triggers a biologically embedded “fight-or-flight” response. In ancient times, when human beings faced physical threats like animal predators, the fight-or-flight response saved our lives by pumping our bodies with hormones and chemicals necessary to fuel intense physical action. In modern times, that is usually not necessary. In fight-or-flight, your body’s resources mobilize for immediate physical action. Any bodily function not directly related to fighting or fleeing is put on hold, including digestion, cell production and body maintenance.

Marianne’s Anger Sabotage

Marianne was proud of the twenty five pounds she had lost on her new diet and exercise regimen. It was easy and enjoyable. A few days later she was part of a decision making team at work. Arguments and insults flying around made her afraid to give her opinion. Marianne sensed something was missing and she grabbed a pillow and then placed it in on her abdomen. What a relief! During that stressful moment Marianne missed the ‘padding’ that her fat had provided. The cushion blanketed the messy feeling.

On her drive home she thought about the meeting and felt demeaned and diminished. Why was it okay for her colleagues to vent, but leave no space for her views? Anger rose up. Her rage felt like shards of sharp glass ready to lacerate her insides. Marianne stopped at a store and bought a cheesecake and a large bag of potato chips. That combination was her most trusted and true numbing device. The sharp glass became frozen with layers of reassuring and calming comfort food. No chance of any disgusting leaks of weakness. Keeping her cool was rewarded by yummy admiration and scrumptious respect. Later, she felt remorse, guilt and bloating.

There is an acronym used by those wanting to stop drinking, “HALT“. They are told not to drink when Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. The same would apply to binge eating. Often I see clients who will follow a diet so carefully and then self-sabotage when someone or something makes them angry. I will share with them something the Buddha said, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

It is important that we look at our emotions and try to understand what they are telling us. Anger stems from pain, so what is it about the situation that is hurting? What do you need to change in your life regrading that emotion? Trust your first signs of anger as a signal to protect yourself, then re-cycle your angry energy into motivation to be heard and acknowledged. Use the motivation to risk saying what you feel as you become aware of it. Feel the validation of taking that risk rather than the weight of keeping it all in, and then build on that feeling. Remember to HALT, think before you stuff yourself like a waste bin.

Exercise is a key component in maintaining more balanced emotions. Use that energy in a positive way. Release those feel good hormones into your system. If you know that you’re going to be entering into a situation that is likely to make you angry, go for a brisk walk first.  The walk might be useful not just because it works off some excess energy but also because it gives you a chance to think about what made you angry in the first place – or how you want to handle the situation.

If you need help with anger or angry (emotional) eating, consider hypnosis. We can utilize the power of your subconscious mind to find that pain and eradicate it. You deserve to feel good, look good and live well! Don’t give your power away to anger or pain.