This week I wanted to talk about why processing your emotions and our emotional processing is the key to is getting to the root of emotional eating. This is a bold statement. The reason we use food to cope is because it temporarily masks those emotions being triggered in that moment.
Specifically, in the moment you are emotionally eating there is a specific trigger happening. Back in the day they thought emotional eating needed general therapy to go over all your issues and didn’t trace the specific trigger. But the way I work with clients is specific to these triggers in that emotional eating situation. This gets to the root of the behaviour and is more focused. This saves time and allows you to start creating those healthy eating habits sooner to nourish yourself.
Why is emotional processing so important?
The type of processing I am talking about gets to the root. Our unprocessed emotions live in the body and to fully process them we need to get into the body. The method I use with clients is getting them resourced in themselves on a body level so they feel good and then accessing these emotions. We then process these emotions and bring them to completion or resolution. In the process we create a new way of being that is authentic.
When we feel an emotion if we were taught to be with the emotion and use them the way they are intended as a society we would have an emotion -> feel through it -> “hear” the message.
So for example when we are sad that might mean something hurt us and we feel the sadness or grief and hear the message. Then we can ask ourselves consciously what we need to do moving forward.
Or if we are angry, someone crossed a boundary and so we feel the anger and then when calm make changes. Maybe express our boundary with a close person or speak up, etc.
The point is that when we process the emotion and are calm we can have clarity on the next step that is neutral.
What we do…
BUT what we do when we feel an uncomfortable emotion (or joyful one) we might have been told in our family to not feel that and we shove it down. When those emotions come up we need something to cope with it because we won’t allow ourselves to fully feel it. We use food and other things to cope with it like social media.
We don’t want to feel the discomfort. The discomfort comes from us also judging the way we feel. We think it’s wrong to feel that way because that is what we’ve been conditioned to believe. We judge, feel badly and then eat to numb out from the judgement. And so we go into the cycle of guilt. No where in this cycle do we get to the root cause which is in the body and the trigger.
I was triggered…
For example a few years ago I found myself eating many (like 5) meals in a row. I was triggered. I had seen something that made me feel really uncomfortable and it triggered an experience in me without my awareness. I had to journal and discovered what was happening. I was feeling discomfort and shame and I couldn’t feel them consciously. All I could do in that moment was eat the food. My mind knew “eat the food, you’ll feel good”. But after I ate those 5 meals I did not feel good.
I felt really crappy eating that much, I felt guilty and I felt out of control.
When I started to unpack what happened I realized I had all these uncomfortable feelings and I didn’t know how to just feel in that moment. Over time I was able to feel my emotions more and more. Now I have a better way of accessing the emotions and processing at a deeper level and integrating it.
BUT when you are going through a binge it’s hard to stop yourself. It takes time to build up the awareness.
If I was able to recognize I was uncomfortable in that moment, sit with that emotion, process it with journalling or feeling it in my body and releasing that emotion and then creating a new behaviour or seeing what I really needed in that moment, THEN I wouldn’t go to the food to try to make me feel better. I would have worked on what was really going on and got to the root of it.
A lot of the times that is what is happening with emotional eating. We don’t know how to be with those emotions. This takes time. At first you might need someone to guide you especially with those uncomfortable emotions. You might need someone to tell you it’s ok to feel this way and walk you through a process where you resolve it in a contained way. For example, yes feel your sadness but be with it rather than in it.
I want to add in that true nourishment helps to build the body so that emotions are processed well. Emotions that are unresolved live in the body and create bio-chemicals and take up nutrients in the body. Shifting the way we look at our bodies is also important as well.
Emotional eating can get in the way of us nourishing ourselves and getting to the health and life we desire. Isn’t it time we get to the root?
Certified Holistic Nutritionist + Emotional Eating Expert.