I wanted to talk about trauma and emotional eating because I think it can be a little bit scary to talk about. When we hear the word trauma, we might think this is such a big topic. But I want to break it down and help you understand what’s really going on. This is a way to understand emotional eating and help you resolve it.
I want to just define what trauma is because it’s because of trauma that we usually create this emotional eating pattern. Trauma is on a spectrum. It can be from the big things we think about when we hear the word trauma, the big “T” versus little “t” trauma, which can be something that we think is less significant. For example a little “t” trauma could be if our emotions weren’t validated but I would argue that is significant and it’s what I see in clients again and again.
These “t” traumas happen if we weren’t validated, if our emotions weren’t regulated, our parents weren’t able to help us move through uncomfortable emotions, OR our needs weren’t met, etc. When we have this trauma, internally we can’t regulate ourselves. This is where emotional eating, a coping mechanism comes into play.
We start using food to soothe ourselves whenever that uncomfortable emotion or that trigger happens. This keeps repeating and our brain creates a pattern. We go to food whenever we feel discomfort.
How did I get here?
This pattern is constantly playing out. Over time this becomes a bigger and bigger issue because you just start feeling out of control around food and out of control of your body wondering, “how did I get here?”. This pattern usually goes back into childhood and we can’t quite pinpoint it.
We need help with excavating it. So if you’ve tried all the tips and tricks and tools to change your behaviour and it’s not working – there’s something deeper going on. What I see with clients -> the original trauma happens, then we develop emotional eating, then we also layer on more and more things that compound the trauma.
We don’t understand how to resolve it. A lot of the times the advice given is to bypass the trauma. We don’t actually know how to get to the root of it, to process and resolve it. So we end up layering on more and more things thinking it will help. We live in a society where we think if we look a certain way that’s going to solve our problem, if we do this diet, THIS is going to solve our problem, this magic bullet, this way of thinking, this bypassing, but we never get to the root.
We’re still on the surface trying to figure it out. We end up amassing more and more layers of trauma. Things don’t work and we spiral more and our willpower runs out.
Let’s dive deeper
At the core root of emotional eating is this trauma but we need to be able to access it in a particular way when we can’t consciously think about it. Even if we consciously knew, we need to be able to process it at a body level.
When I went to talk therapy (cognitive behavioural therapy) I started to learn about my triggers. I was aware of my patterns with dieting, restriction and all of these things but I couldn’t change it sustainably. Even though I was creating all these changes and doing the behaviours.
I wasn’t getting at the deep root and meeting my needs at that level. On the outside we might be doing the “right” behaviour and eating the right way. That “should” produce the result we want. But if we don’t get into the deeper layers and shift it at this body level, at the subconscious level, we will keep fighting ourselves. That’s the thing with trauma is we need to access it at that level.
What we can do
Part of the way that I work with this, with clients is through somatic meditations with parts work and inner child work. We need to be able to get into those layers to shift this pattern. We need to be guided into it. Of course, once we understand it, we can start doing this more and more for ourselves. This is where we start shifting the trauma and shifting the pattern. This is how we integrate because in those moments of trauma we have different parts of us that are separate, and we need to get them on the same page. One part wanting to emotionally eat and the other saying no and other parts needing something else.
We need to create a new way forward that all of us is going to be on board with. So we’re in alignment. We don’t want to be fighting a part of us because we end up losing.
We move forward not by understanding this process but by embodying it. Feeling it and moving through it. I can’t translate that in a video. It’s an experience. And when it happens in the body, you see the shift, and it’s pretty amazing to see how that happens. When you shift it at this deeper level, the pattern shifts because you are actually meeting your true needs.
So the substitute, which is food, can’t ever meet that need when you become aware at this level. There’s no going back.
Inside of the Emotional Eating Evolution program, I use these somatic meditations with psychotherapy tools like inner child work and parts work and somatic experiencing to get to this pattern at the root to resolve it. This is one phase of the program along with True Nourishment and Body Acceptance.
If this is resonating with you, I would love to invite you to check out more about the Emotional Eating Program HERE. It’s a comprehensive program with support, guidance, meditations, community and more to help you get to the root of your emotional eating shift it so that you can finally feel confident in your body and around food.
Certified Holistic Nutritionist + Emotional Eating Expert