Disclaimer: This blog post contains my thoughts and opinion and it is of general nature. It is not intended to provide medical or nutritional advice. Please speak to your health professional for tailored advice and guidance .
Have you ever noticed that when you feel strong emotions your appetite gets affected? Perhaps you feel overwhelmed and find yourself binge eating? Or you don’t feel like eating at all?
Eating due to emotional reasons is normal
If you have experienced either of those things…it proves that you, my friend, are in fact human. These are completely normal reactions to coping and dealing with strong emotions. It can feel overwhelming and very uncomfortable. Think of emotions as “energy in motion”. When we allow the energy to move through our body, it’s as though we are “digesting” or processing emotions.
All emotions are OK
For me the trouble starts when I create “rules” in my head about what is acceptable to feel and what is not OK to feel. In other words, I am judgemental of which emotions I should feel, and which I “shouldn’t” feel. Usually the uncomfortable emotions, like grief, anger, frustration, sadness, loneliness are the ones that I used to try to avoid. And that’s when food comes in to play. Eating until uncomfortably full, or avoiding food until uncomfortably hungry can create a distraction from the emotions that we are trying to not feel.
Emotions are messengers
Emotions are important messengers that often point us towards a need we may have. Or perhaps they are a doorway towards shifting our perception, learning a new skill, or growing spiritually. In fact, learning to hold space for our emotions, just like you would for a friend can feel good. Taking time and space to acknowledge, feel and “digest”. I find that water activities like swimming, fluid movement like dance, and drinking fluids like cups of tea can also help.
Healing emotional eating at your pace
I love the description Anita Johnson gives in the book “Eating in the light of the moon”, of the log and the river. The process of healing our relationship with food is very personal, and has to be done at our own pace, space and time. We see that perhaps using food as a coping mechanism may in fact be a blessing.
Self-compassion is at the core
At the core of peeling back the layers and understanding your relationship with food is self-compassion. You are unique, your journey is unique, and your healing is unique.
Let’s think about binge eating. If you normally binge when dealing with difficult emotions, as a first step, you need to begin to bring some compassionate awareness to your life. Notice what is happening without judgement. This often takes practice and you may benefit from a coach or a psychologist. As you are more aware, mindful and compassionate towards yourself you begin to have the ability to respond to situations. You may recognise that there was a trigger (a difficult emotion) that initiated that binge eating episode. Eventually, and in baby steps, and perhaps with the right support, you may choose to sit with your emotions. Every person is different. But do you see that the problem here is not the food?
When was the last time you “held space” for your emotions?
Emotional eating helps us to cope
So you see when you are eating for emotional reasons, food is helping you cope – food is not the enemy. You are a human being expanding, growing and understanding yourself more. As you learn to hold space for your emotions, you are allowing your self to go through the emotions and fully experience them.
“You are a human being expanding, growing and understanding yourself more.”
I now allow myself to feel my emotions more – I welcome them, remembering that they are messengers. Doing this has helped me heal part of my relationship with food. Of course, there are many tenants to healing our eating and body issues, as diet culture is alive and lurking at every corner.
As you go through this journey remember that it is a journey. It is not about arriving at a perfect destination. I find it ever so fascinating that our relationship with food and eating often uncovers other needs that we may have and we may not be paying attention to.
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