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Emotional Eating - what it is and where to start.

I know how all consuming, frustrating, overwhelming and exhausting thinking about food, battling with food, succumbing to food can be. Over time it wears you down and can hold you back from reaching your goals.

When you get hit with emotional eating, it feels all too powerful, almost like it has power over you and that there is nothing you can do to overcome it. It can be instant, an emotional hunger that needs to be satiated immediately and there feels like there is no choice to ignore it.

With this being said, let me first point out that Emotional eating is natural, in born and perfectly human. We eat with emotion. For example, we eat to celebrate milestones, we eat on dates, we eat and feel loved, connected, relaxed, excited, sad or lonely. We are emotional creatures and are programmed from birth to regulate our emotional and physical experience. Think about it, as babies, we cry, we get fed, we stop crying.

It is ingrained in us to feel bad - eat food - feel better.

So it is not your fault that you turn to food for comfort, chances are you've been doing it since birth.

This is where we need to look at it differently. Emotional eating is a powerful eating concern that is designed to get our attention. But often we choose to ignore it. Let me put it out there, that it is not about the food. It’s about our unseen, unnoticed energies inside, our inner emotional universe. We often look for something externally like food to heal an emotion, to fill a void and ultimately make us feel better. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way with food.

It is impossible to heal something intangible ie stress, with something tangible, ie food. This is not possible no matter how hard you eat! The answer needs to come from within. That means reimagining emotional eating as your friend, a teacher, a whispering that needs to be listened to, heard and learnt from rather than overwhelming with food. It is important not to treat the food as the problem, it is not about the food. That means, no amount of dieting, calorie counting, or restriction will resolve the problem. That’s why diets don’t work as you will stick to it for a period of time, then when you stop you put the weight back on as you haven’t looked deeper into why you emotionally eat.

What is causing your emotional eating?

This can be caused by a range of factors which are different for everyone from a past trauma, unspoken truth, grief, a breakup, work stress, perfectionism, feeling unfulfilled, boredom in life and so much more.

Our relationship with food is a symbolic playground of the psyche.

Whatever is going on in our inner emotional world, the psyche will often use food to help us play out the lessons we need to learn.

Food is a profound symbolic substitute.

When we can’t get what we want, the psyche reaches for the closest approximation, food. Food can be a symbolic substitute for love, fun, company, connection, joy and more. Food has the ability to soothe us, to pick us up, to make us feel better, and sometimes it’s the only coping mechanism we know. There is nothing wrong with this.

However, it can become problematic when we overdo it. For many, food is our primary relationship. It makes us feel good, it allows us to numb out, not feel whatever is going on. It is an effective distraction from life. But often when food is what you turn to regularly to cope, you don’t feel great always diving into food at every emotional state.

It is the fear of emotions that is the root cause of emotional eating, not the emotions themselves.

We turn to food to stop the emotions from surfacing. Emotional eating is very good at creating a major distraction and bypasses the rawness of the emotion. Eating can help to numb the pain but if you don’t allow yourself to experience your own feelings, you will be sleep walking through your life and those feelings will continue to surface and you will continue to respond with food. However much we think that food will take the pain away, it won’t. So this is about learning how to feel, learning how to stay present and not numb out with food. Learning how to feel and stand by yourself when you feel what you feel.

Why might you want to end emotional eating?

1. It is holding you back, keeping you small, stopping you from reaching your weight goals. It doesn’t matter what diets you follow, exercise programs you do, without having control over this, it will be very difficult to reach your goals.

2. You aren’t dealing with the real issue going on in your life. By emotionally eating you are avoiding the real problem which will continue to come up until you pay attention to it.

3. It is your body’s way of telling you to pay attention to what is going on in your life. When you pay attention, you can heal and move forward.

4. It is fear of emotions that is the root cause of emotional eating. We turn to food to stop emotions from surfacing, creating a major distraction and bypassing the rawness of being alive. We cannot make lifestyle changes unless we are aware of what’s not working in our lives.

So here are some questions to get you thinking:

- What emotions do you experience the most on a day to day basis?

- When do you feel most stressed, anxious, bored, upset or overwhelmed?

- What triggers these emotions? Is there a theme when you emotionally eat?

- When are you looking for happiness? Why?

- Where are you lacking happiness in your life?

- How do you want to feel?

- What can you do which makes you feel good that doesn’t involve food?

Allow yourself to open this door daily and explore those emotions. Feel them and identify them. Work through these questions and pay attention to your answers. Notice what trends come up for you. When you allow yourself to feel, you will not need to run to the pantry to eat or hide a bag of chips in the car and eat them when nobody is looking. The deeper you dive into your psyche and re-write the story, the easier it will be to end your reliance on food as an emotional substitute.

This is the first step, to stop emotional eating. As always, if this resonates with you and you would like to talk further, please click on the link here for a free 15 minute consult and we can talk further on what you are wanting to achieve.

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