Do you feel out of control with food?
When you're experiencing uncomfortable or unpleasant emotions, is food your go-to?
Have you vowed more times than you can count, to stop eating emotionally, yet find yourself continuing to come back to food when you want to feel better?
I'm going to share something in this blog that you might not be expecting to hear.
But bear with me, and please, keep an open mind. Emotional eating is a hot topic, it's received a very bad wrap, and our culture has made it out to be something we believe we should be ashamed of engaging in.
I disagree, and here are 3 ideas that I hope will change your perspective about emotional eating so that you can begin to free yourself from shame and start rebuilding trust in yourself!
Eating is emotional! Without layering on what you believe about yourself, who you are with food, what upsets you about your body, how many times you feel you've let yourself down, and the beliefs you have about how you should be able to control your emotions better, at a foundational level, eating is emotional. When you were a newborn you learned that if you cried, you would be fed. Whether by bottle or breast, food became the vessel of comfort, warmth, and safety! Our nervous systems are wired to approach food as a way to move into a sense of calm and connection. Please sit with that for a bit. Really take it in. Your desire to seek comfort when you are uncomfortable, and to use food to do so, is an instinct that you learned from a very young age! It's not bad, there is nothing wrong with you, and it's okay to do this! Can it become dysfunctional? Of course, but like everything, it operates on a continuum! As babies, we didn't have the capacity to learn other ways of soothing ourselves. As adults, we most definitely do!
If you can fully believe that what you are doing, when you are emotionally eating, is normal, as well as protective, you have a much better chance of doing so without punishing yourself. This is so important, because trust is built through consistent acts, over time. Trust in ourselves is not built through punishment and criticism, harsh and demanding self-talk, and self-flagellation. Let's say that you had a very difficult day at work where you had to deal with a few disagreements between co-workers or deadlines that you knew you were not going to meet. Stress was high. You made a beeline multiple times to the breakroom, where you knew there would be the cake from the birthday celebration, holiday cookies and candies, and your favorite savory snack mix. After each trip you silently beat yourself up for not having any self-control or willpower. You tell yourself that you'll just have one more cookie and then be done. You criticise your lack of restraint and wonder what's wrong with you. And you keep going back. You're allowed to be upset. If you have been working on learning how to care for yourself in ways that don't involve food, you are likely going to feel disappointed and discouraged. But if you want to trust that you will be able to develop the ability to help yourself feel safe or better when you are emotionally activated (without using food most of the time), beating yourself up will not help you. Trust in yourself will come when you learn how to have your own back, when you start being on your own side, when you become an advocate for yourself and your healing. Trust in yourself will come when you forgive yourself, recognize that you're trying your best, and be the friend that brushes you off and let's you know that you're worth fighting for! You tell me what feels more empowering!
You've likely heard the adage, "Food is Love." It is! It's also nourishment, celebratory, creative, fun, connecting, meaning-making, ritualistic, welcoming, symbolic, you name it. Food is many things. It's also not everything! Food isn't always the best salve for an ailing soul. Food isn't always the best for dealing with writer's block. Food isn't always the best for dealing with partner conflict! Food isn't always the best when our to-do list is a mile long and we don't know where to start. Food can distract, food can bring us into the present moment if we're intentional with it. And I think if we're going to use food to meet a moment of uncomfortable emotion, we should choose to do it consciously and compassionately rather than beating ourselves up with every bite we take. Ideally, we use it to our benefit, and then use the calm that perhaps we got from it, to more thoughtfully and deliberately, work with whatever is causing us angst. But that means we need other skills and approaches for helping ourselves when we feel racy, buzzy, fuzzy, stuck, or whatever word you might use to describe how you feel when you notice you become preoccupied with food. Food is very tactile, and it involves many of our senses. Keep this in mind as you develop your toolbox of self-soothing activities. Food invites you to move (i.e., hand to mouth, chewing), taste, smell, touch (i.e., every food has a mouth feel), and see. If you want to rebuild trust in yourself, take note of the types of sensory-oriented activities move you toward a sense of safety, calm strength, empowerment, and confidence. Here's a short list that I draw upon regularly! Note that some you could see me doing and others are internal!
Sitting down and feeling gravity working
Meditating (I do a meditation where I focus on feeling how it feels to breathe)
Listening to music
Closing my eyes and recalling in my mind moments of calm, where I felt light and expansive, when I felt excited or joyful, etc.
Putting on very comfortable, loose clothing (I would live in my pajamas if I could)
Exercising (Sometimes I need gentle and low intensity, while other times I need to get after it)
Talking to someone I know loves me
Sitting with my cat on my lap and just focusing on the feeling of his fur beneath my hand, the warmth of him on my legs, and the repetitive moment as I pet him
Sipping on hot water
Running my hands under warm water
Putting my hair up
Vacuuming or sweeping
Journaling and letting whatever emotion is there have a voice; I will ask it what it has to tell me
Noticing and then gently letting go of any expectations of perfection
Brushing my hair
It's your turn...
I created an entire course on how rebuild your relationship with food and trust yourself with it. You can find it here. It's on sale now for just $9.99 through Dec. 22! It's regularly priced at $124.99.