YOUR EMOTIONAL EATING HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH FOOD
A new take on emotional eating that will have you focusing more on your head than your plate
If you’re anything like me, at one point or another you’ve tried to “think” your way out of emotional eating by manipulating your diet, eating habits, or by making a tight fist of willpower around food.
You may have even been successful for a short time in each of these approaches before falling back into the very familiar realm of emotional eating.
I tried relying on willpower to curb my destructive food behaviors, and time after time, this approach failed me. I just couldn’t figure out how to break the cycle I was in. I was left feeling defeated, frustrated, and confused. No matter what intellectual technique I applied to “fix” my emotional eating, changing the food part of the equation didn’t “fix” anything at all.
IT’S NOT ABOUT THE FOOD
What I learned is this…If food was the root cause of emotional eating, then we would absolutely be able to solve this problem by changing our interaction with food. But food isn’t the root cause of emotional eating. Food is just a symptom, and a way of expressing a much deeper inner issue.
There is a reason emotional eating isn’t called intellectual eating, and it’s because our intellect isn’t the issue. We know that stopping the behavior would benefit us. We know that food doesn’t solve any of life’s problems.
But knowing isn’t enough to truly heal from this pattern of food-related self-soothing. If it was enough, we could simply change the food we eat to solve our problem of emotional eating.
So what do we do?
We don’t have to keep fighting with food to end this battle. Emotional eating has nothing to do with our relationship with food. Emotional eating is about our relationship with our emotions, and this is where our focus must lie in order to resolve this issue once and for all.
Our emotional eating is a way of self-medicating and numbing so that we don’t have to feel emotional pain. The unintended consequence of this behavior, though, is that we numb ourselves from fully experiencing any part of life, and that in turn causes more pain that we numb with emotional eating.
ANOTHER APPROACH TO EMOTIONAL EATING
If you understand that food is a messenger and a symptom – you can more easily move your focus off of food as the root cause of your suffering.
From this understanding, the path becomes clearer. If emotional eating is a way of self-medicating and numbing so that we don’t have to feel painful emotion, the way that we remove emotional eating as a needed tool is to allow ourselves to un-numb, and to feel all of the emotions that exist in the human experience. This spectrum of emotion includes everything from joy to despair, love to grief, ecstasy to boredom and everything in between. In order to fully experience any emotion on the spectrum, we have to be open to every emotion.
When you’ve lived with a behavior that protects you from intense negative emotion, the prospect of experiencing these emotions can be scary and unwelcome. And while our fear is that these intense emotions will last forever, we actually experience them much longer and more intensely when we resist them through behaviors such as emotional eating.
YOU CAN’T CHANGE WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE
The most effective and powerful way I know how to get in touch with emotion is by creating awareness of the thoughts that give rise to them. Humans have the ability to think about our thoughts, and to choose the thoughts that we keep. This ability to observe our mind is what makes us different from any other animal on the planet. And by creating awareness of our thoughts we can actually choose to change the thoughts that we think on a daily basis. Changing our thoughts allows us to change the emotions that we experience, and from here we can permanently change our behaviors without constant struggle. This concept of managing our minds and thus our emotions is called “thought work.”
When I first learned about thought work, I was amazed and excited. The idea that I could change my emotional state by creating awareness of my thoughts was a complete game changer for me and led me to finally break free of my own emotional eating.
Here is what it means for you: through doing thought work you can choose to feel happy instead of sad (even when nothing in your external life changes). You can choose to feel love instead of hate. You can choose to feel acceptance instead of shame.
Life will always contain negative emotion, and part of inner-work requires that we come to peace with feeling those negative emotions as a part of being human. But if we know and accept that we can always work on our emotional state by being aware of our thinking, we can work our way out of negativity.
Wherever we create awareness we create the opportunity to change how we think, how we feel, and how we behave in daily life. This means that emotional eating becomes a choice rather than a default, and our emotional life becomes something that empowers us rather than defeats us. Being able to fully engage in life, without the tether that emotional eating has on us, is a freedom that we all deserve to feel and that we all are capable of achieving.
3 KEY QUESTIONS TO CREATE AWARENESS
You can create awareness in your life today to heal emotional eating. Try using the questions below to start creating awareness around your emotional eating. Before or during an emotional eating episode, ask yourself:
1) “What emotion am I avoiding right now?”
2) “Why am I choosing to emotionally eat?”
3) Consider your answer to question two and ask, “Is this a good reason to keep emotionally
Don’t let yourself answer with, “I don’t know.” These questions will begin to open you up to self-awareness. These questions will empower you to start considering that you do have the choice, power, and ability to change because change comes from within!
HOW YOU EAT IS AS IMPORTANT AS WHAT YOU EAT
When you begin working on self-awareness, you may find yourself also dealing with physical cravings for foods as a result of your emotional eating patterns. Therefore, it is important to work on what goes in your body (and how it gets there!) at the same time you work on your mind.
Here are a few simple changes you can make:
1) Slow down. Most of us eat very quickly!! When we do, we negatively impact our body’s ability to process, digest, and absorb our food. Fully taste and chew your food to really experience your meal. Take a few breaths between bites. Try to make each meal last no less than 15-20 minutes.
2) Eat when you eat. Put down your phone, put down your book, and focus on what you’re doing. When you tune into the sensations of your body, you will be able to feel small changes in hunger and satiety signals, and be able to respond to them!
3) Eat the best quality foods you can afford. Focus on whole, unprocessed foods. The fewer the ingredients on the package the better.
4) Eliminate sugar and flour from your life for 30 days. This will also help to regulate your blood sugar and insulin levels, which in turn will help you to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger.
5) Eat healthy fats to keep you feeling full, and to give your body an excellent source of fuel. Foods such as: avocados, nuts, olive oil, and grass-fed butter are all excellent sources of fat.
6) Drink plenty of water to help flush your body.
YOU AREN’T BROKEN
There is no magic pill or smoking gun to fix emotional eating. It takes time, and it takes work. But it is possible, and if nothing else, I am a testament to that. After binge eating for more than a decade, I am at peace with food and free from emotional eating. I embrace my emotions and process them in a way that serves me rather than hurts me. This freedom comes after years of believing that I would always struggle with food, and that I was inherently broken. Now I can positively tell you I’m not broken, and I never was. Neither are you.
Sheryln Smith is a certified Life Coach and Eating Psychology Coach. She guides highly sensitive women through the process of understanding themselves, body and soul, and finding peace from emotional eating.
Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
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