I was recently asked this question on an interview. Women wanted to know how they could focus more on how they feel in their body versus how their body looks.
This is a multilayered question. This is a pattern I see with a lot of emotional eaters and a lot of my clients. They emotionally eat and they have a very negative mindset around their body. They want their body to look a certain way thinking they’d have that love, acceptance and validation they are craving.
This story is my story as well. I tried all the diets and exercise programs because I wanted to look a certain way. I didn’t know how to control my emotional eating. I didn’t know how to control food. I didn’t look the way I wanted to look.
I didn’t know why it was so hard for me and why others could just have this normal relationship.
I was on the surface trying to control food and control my body.
This question is really interesting because I could almost say do this “X” to feel good in your body, but it’s a combination of things. I’m going to simplify it a little bit here.
When we are emotional eaters, our deeper needs were not met. First of all, we needed parents or caregivers to help us move through any discomfort, uncomfortable emotions and truly see us, hear us, validate us, accept us, love us through it all.
If we didn’t have that we developed the emotional eating pattern. We are still deeply trying to fill this need.
And if we don’t have those needs met, it’s painful and it gets re-triggered. That emotion is telling us that something is unmet, something is missing.
We eat food to cover up that pain, to cope with it. But underneath our emotional eating is that part of us screaming out for these certain needs.
Then we also get the message that if we look a certain way then we’re more valued, we’re more acceptable and can get that love.
We feel out of control with food and our body because we’re emotionally eating and we’re longing for that love and acceptance. We pile on the diets and the exercise and we have that voice deep down telling us we need to look a certain way.
I know this because I had that same voice. And that is what was driving me.
When we have that voice, we’re doing all the things and it’s like a craving to finally feel ok.
We can’t see clearly, we can’t look at our own beauty, we can’t look at our own body, we can’t feel into our own selves.
It’s hard to see ourselves because we weren’t mirrored back who we really were. So now we just keep that critical pattern repeating inside. What we have to do is to start shifting that mirroring and to start connecting to who we are at this higher level, to meet those deeper needs and to truly see ourselves.
This is a process
But this is a process. One simple thing I do with clients to get them started on the surface of feeling into their body is to look at their body as objectively as possible. To look at the utility of each body part.
So if you have an issue with your stomach area, you need to really remind yourself that it holds your main organs, your stomach. That’s how you nourish yourself, that’s how you have energy to live, to continue on. If you’ve had a child, that’s where you carried your child and helped life to come into this world.
Deeper trauma work may be needed
If that’s not sufficient enough to shift the way you think about your body and you’re doing this with each part in your body, there’s deeper trauma there. You might have been shamed in your family, you might have seen parents, relatives, just maybe giving someone compliments if they looked a certain way or making remarks about celebrities or making remarks about you. Or feeling like your love from them was withheld because you didn’t look a certain way.
A simple shift
You can be loved, accepted and validated and not have “that body” or have the body. It’s not mutually exclusive.
But having this critical mindset about yourself actually puts you into a more stressed out state that triggers emotional eating. This makes your body move away from its healthy. In this stress state there will be more inflammation, more digestive issues and yes even weight gain.
You’re perpetuating this pattern by being critical. If you shift to acceptance, you reduce that stress and you allow your body to shift into it’s healthy.
It might not look like what society says it should look like, and it might. And it doesn’t matter because you individually have your own healthy, you individually are on your own journey. What I’ve come to see and feel is that we can tell when someone is in their healthy and they are feeling confident and they’re feeling beautiful, They don’t have to look like what we think they have to look like.
If you look at a lot of celebrities that have that body, they have very unhealthy lives and they don’t feel great about themselves. If you look at their face, it’s not that they’re in pure joy and happiness. We think that because they have fame, but we don’t know what’s going on on the inside.
I’m not saying this is for everyone.
To get to those deeper roots we use somatic meditations with clients in The Emotional Eating Evolution Program. Some clients have this deeper wounding around their body and some don’t. It just depends.
What I’ve learned…
What I’ve learned through my own journey is that when I started to shift away from *just* what I looked like to the feeling in my body I didn’t have to like the way my body looked.
I didn’t have to love it. I just accepted it. This is why I teach acceptance first, I don’t want you to jump into loving or liking your body. For me, I started to feel good, accept my body and then have appreciation for it.
That reduced my fight or flight response, my cortisol, my stress response in this area.
And guess what?
My body started to transform. So when you shift out of that stress mode, you get into rest and digest. This is where the body can reduce digestive issues, inflammation and yes release weight.
Of course, this is coupled with the deeper emotional work around our emotional eating as well. Shifting the way we nourish our bodies and shifting the way we even take care of our bodies is important here. It all adds into reducing the stress and triggers to emotional eating.
You get to a place where it’s your body and you appreciate how it looks, you can appreciate how it feels and you can accept it. You realize that you don’t need to look a certain way to be loved or accepted or validated and start seeing that this reality exists.
Even though our society tells us we have to fit into a certain box to get those things, you don’t necessarily have to. If you do that internally, there will always be people that love you and value and accept you and there will be people that don’t. It’s really learning who are the people you want to move towards?
The funny thing is when we get into this place of acceptance and we move through our emotional eating pattern things shift. This was the case for me, my body started to transform to reflect that more and more.
I always say this, it didn’t take a month or a day, it took a few years. But I was just on the path day by day nourishing my body, accepting my body’s rhythms, moving through the triggers. If I fell off, I came back on and became better attuned to what I needed and that’s what really transformed me.
This was a very long process for me. It took me many years. I had this emotional eating pattern for so many years before I recognized that this is what was going on. Before I could see like something was off. And then when I started trying to find the solution, that took many years as well of trial and error.
And so now what I see is that this pattern, we’re able to shift it in, we can shift the pattern. The Emotional Eating Evolution Program is 12 weeks. This is the foundation to creating this new way forward that’s going to help you create that sustainable change.
So I hope this video has helped you see that you don’t have to fit into a certain box that’s sort of the old way and that there is a new way forward. There is so much possibility to move forward and to have that relationship to your body that you want.
It doesn’t have to be you love your body right now in this moment, but getting to acceptance, appreciation, and then hopefully eventually love is the pathway that I see.
To acceptance + appreciation,
Certified Holistic Nutritionist specializing in Emotional Eating