Emotional eating is one of the most common reasons for excessive consumption of inadequate food. For some, it leads to weight gain; others suffer from health problems; and there are those that confront frustration and the inability to lead a productive work or creative life. For many, emotional eating creates a vicious circle that consists of guilt for the eating itself, and the guilt itself is addressed, for a fleeting moment, by… more food.
and those of us who are deeply captivated by that lesson may feel a true, physiological hunger when facing emotional distress, unable to separate the distress from the hunger that stems from the lack of food. Therefore, one of the most common lessons of our childhood is that emotions are difficult to contain.
Well, isn’t that the case? Well, no, it is not.
Staying in the present – Our present consists of many emotions. In many cases, and if we are at a healthy place, if we allow an emotion to flood us completely, without fear or resistance, from the tips of our hair to the edge of our toenails, it will pass before too long.
But lessons from our past hinder such an experience. Many of us presume that an unpleasant emotion cannot be controlled or contained. If we allow it freedom, it will not only flood us – it will drown us.
Simply stated – unpleasant emotions are … unpleasant. And if we managed to find a way that is not destructive to limit their presence, we may as well resort to it, over and over, so as to limit their presence, and their effect.
Well, is that so bad? No, it’s not bad at all.
Emotions and the future – The issue with this ‘system’ is its inherent inefficiency. Emotions are a reaction to our needs. Needs that are satisfied will lead to pleasant emotions, while needs that are not satisfied will lead to emotions that are unpleasant. Unfortunately, dimming emotions does not affect the need that flooded them. If the need is not satisfied, or at least acknowledged, it will continue to send unpleasant signals through the emotion. In reality, emotional eating is the opening of an eternal, future circle, in which we will be forced to continue eating and soothing our emotions, until we manage to address our need or to overcome it.
Exercise: Think about the sources of your own emotional eating whilst satisfying your current desire. You may find that your answer leads to a physical sensation, a thought, or a feeling, or some combination thereof. I emphasised that the purpose of the exercise is not to withhold eating, but rather observation. For the current exercise, I suggest an additional layer: try to focus on the feeling. Allow it to arrive, name it. This is the start of the journey, for what is not named is less recognised in our consciousness. Begin by identifying the feelings that send you to eat, and only then, carry on eating.
Are you finding it difficult to name your emotions? Here is a useful site with an exhaustive list of emotions, and the feelings which arise from them.
Advanced exercise: An unpleasant emotion creeped on you? Stop everything, sit for a moment and allow it to fill yourselves. Succumb to being that emotion and permit it to infiltrate every cell in your body, without fear. Make place for its full development and be attentive to yourselves: how long are you engaged in the experience, and how do you feel when it passes?
Very advanced exercise: if you identified an unpleasant emotion, allowed it room, and as it exits, check to see what unsatisfied need was at its source. If you cannot satisfy the need, try at least to acknowledge its existence, and the fact that it cannot be satisfied. Check to see how this process makes you feel.
You might like to read :
Most professionals in the field of nutrition will tell you that breakfast is the most important meal of your day. The logic for this claim is quite clear, but it is based on fear(s) and so should raise your suspicion. The main fear is that if you don’t eat early in the morning, you will […]
It seems advisable to talk about the ‘post-holiday’ diet before the holidays, for that is when a decision is made to embark on it. Or perhaps, more accurately, to embark on it again, for the same decision was made in previous holidays, and in those that preceded them, etc. The ‘post-holiday’ diet is the most […]
In the world of “eating habits” (a common euphemism for the world of diets) there are well known and common pearls of wisdom which are inefficient. Facially, they seem reasonable and helpful, stemming from common sense and accrued wisdom. But in fact, they are not only unhelpful, but plainly harmful. These include, for example “eat […]
Those who talk about the ‘right diet’ (‘diet’ here is used in the sense of ‘what we eat’, rather than ‘how to lose weight’) tend to assume that there are good and valid rules for the general population. Even where lip service is paid, by conceding that an individual’s needs must be accounted for, at […]
Why is it so important to decipher our emotional eating? First and foremost, to understand what we’re doing, we need to stop referring to emotional eating in euphemisms such as ‘comfort’ food or a ‘treat’, when their effect on us is actually neither. Poor food is not a treat, but rather burdens our body […]
“I’m eating this … for my soul”. Almost always only half-serious, half-joking nudge-nudge, wink-wink. But souls … souls don’t eat earthly food. Souls eat love. That is what feeds and nurtures them. And yet, the peculiar phrase is very common and relatable almost to all. It would be difficult to find someone who does not make […]
Emotional eating is one of the most common reasons for excessive consumption of inadequate food. For some, it leads to weight gain; others suffer from health problems; and there are those that confront frustration and the inability to lead a productive work or creative life. For many, emotional eating creates a vicious circle that consists […]
Does this sound familiar: dinner just ended, everyone finished their meal full and happy, and there’s no chance that anyone is hungry. And yet, a young one asks for food, in a small voice, which signals hunger: ‘Mum/dad… I’m hungry’. Hunger triggers us, mums and dads alike (let alone grandparents). It is seen as […]
Almost all of us eat, at times, out of the need for comfort. And those of us who raise children probably also feed to comfort them. Bad day? Are you upset? Sad? You’re troubled but don’t know exactly why? Food! Nipple, bottle, cookie, chocolate, pizza night, or maybe let’s go out and eat! And food, […]
It’s new year’s eve and you know the feeling. It’s a day like any other, really, but, in a manner that is completely unrelated to your physical reality, you make a very physical decision like … I’ll stop eating sugar. I’ll quit on meat. No more coffee. Or simply … I’ll lose weight, I’ll start […]
A gross estimate would suggest that about 90 per cent of the people I work with are drawn to emotional eating as a response to a victim mentality. Victimization presents a vast spectrum. At the one extreme, we find true victimization, in which an individual is treated in a manner that is cruel or unjust, […]
Many of our dietary challenges stem from our difficulties, or even inabilities, to identify real hunger in time and to address it in a fitting manner. Hunger is a very basic need, not different from the need to empty our bowels, to sleep or to have sex. Our engagement with hunger as a need can […]
Quite a few people who work with me ask for my help to rid themselves of drinking coffee in general, or to reduce quantities. My first response to such a request is that the first thing that a person should rid herself of is the expectation that habit that is kicked out the door will […]