Today I wanted to talk about emotional eating and how we can use it to go deeper and get to the root cause. December is full of get togethers and perhaps more emotional and stress eating than usual. I hope it wasn’t though but if it was we can use to help us!
It’s January and most of us are trying to get back on track. We can start looking at our patterns from the last month. Emotional eating is an important topic and I believe we all are emotional eaters to a degree. I mean, it’s a great coping mechanism for stress and avoiding our feelings!
Check out the video below:
In general I find we aren’t taught to really feel our feelings and that negative feelings are shut down or cut off. For example, if a child falls we tell them they are ok rather than letting them trust the feelings they are experiencing.
If over time we are constantly told we are ok when we are not, we keep cutting off that part of us. The emotion remains unprocessed. This means it will come up to be processed and to complete the cycle. It stays in our nervous system and can be triggered or remain triggered in a subtle way. This means our nervous system is not in a calm state.
If we are using food to cope with emotions we are not getting to the root cause of what is going on. Check out this video to see if you are truly hungry, emotionally hungry or thirsty.
For me, I didn’t know when I was truly hungry and experiencing emotional hunger. I would realize after eating 5 meals in row and feel worse off physically and emotionally. I (my mind) would bypass the feeling completely and be in an instant hunger. This was the best way for me not to feel the uncomfortable feelings.
Food and addictions work well to flood our system with feel good chemicals but it is temporary. That’s why we can be in a cycle and spiral.
So with emotional eating, if you can tell when you are triggered this is key. For me using this tool helped a lot so I could recognize that I was triggered before eating rather than after. The work is to go into the emotion (the root) and feel IF you are able to feel the emotions.
What I find works best is to feel it in your body (sensations, location), acknowledge it, and allow it to BE. Let it process and move through you. This can be hard if we were told that these feelings were not good to feel, this is where the mind comes in and ‘stops’ it. If we try to change our perspective as we are feeling, it will stop the processing and not work. We are again creating a divide within ourself.
If you are very allowing it will not take much time but if you are not it will take longer.
Once you are in touch with the emotion (in the body) you may see or hear what is going on. See images or hear phrases or just feel.
Imagine you are the parent watching the child (emotion) and just have empathy for what the child is feeling. This gives a container and space for the emotion to be processed.
If it is harder for you?
#2 BOOKMARK, MOVE, JOURNAL
If you are afraid to jump in, because you fear emotions may engulf you, you could go for a walk, shower or something to bring the emotion down. BOOKMARK the feeling and situation in your phone or journal so you can come back to it. This works well if you are not in a place to be with your emotions (out and about, at work, with your child, etc.)
When you have time and space, then come back to the emotion and sit with it. You can journal without censoring and allow yourself to feel it.
When we feel our emotion and process it, it brings our nervous system back to balance. Tears release cortisol, and any other energy that is allowed to dissipate will create calm. Once the emotional wave is complete and you are calm and clear you may hear messages or be able to look at your situation to start to create change. You realize what you didn’t like, what has been bothering you or maybe you allowed yourself to feel.
For example, you may eat to not feel the discomfort in a relationship but once you feel the discomfort and realize maybe this isn’t right for you the food will have no power. Because it was just being used to prevent you from what was happening in your relationship.
Sometimes after deeply feeling an emotion you may get really hungry. Drink some water and then ask yourself what you really want to eat. It may surprise you because now you are in a calm clear state.
Still hard to feel?
Sometimes we may need additional support if an emotion is big or traumatic. Also, we may not know how to really accept our feelings and need a friend (very empathetic) or practitioner who can hold space for us or model it for us.
I hope this helps with directing you back to a more healthy place. Emotions are energy and carry messages. As I do this work more I feel so much better and have more clarity. I am able to to go in the direction that is best for me. This is liberating. Perhaps not easy at first but I believe in the long run it’s worth it.
Certified Holistic Nutritionist.