By Casey Lorraine Thomas
Have you ever felt compelled to keep stuffing yourself to the point of discomfort? Maybe you’ve found yourself reaching for a packet of cookies when you’re home alone, tired and lonely? Perhaps it’s even healthy foods you’ve overeaten, such as a whole bag of raw nuts. If so, you are one of many who have eaten for emotional reasons.
Emotional and disordered eating can wreak havoc on your mental, emotional and physical health if left unaddressed, let alone the massive amount of time and energy it takes up, leaving you with much less time to focus on what really matters in your life – your dreams, relationships, contributing, having fun.
Yet despite what your reason and intelligence tells you to do (i.e. give up the emotional eating), you are unable to stop yourself from doing it yet again.
Emotional eating can be a very challenging habit to release as usually:
- it is a deeply ingrained behaviour
- you have been doing it for a very long time both consciously and unconsciously
- it can be frightening to consider a life where you don’t numb yourself with food even if it is a conscious choice you are making for your own good
- processed foods and junk foods are highly addictive so even without the emotional component they can be extremely hard to give up.
But it can be done.
What is needed is support, compassion, kindness and a safe space of no judgement where you can release your fears, identify your emotions, triggers and what your real needs are, and then put in place a toolbox of strategies and methods to satisfy your emotional needs in a way that doesn’t require reaching for a Snickers.
With consistent application of these tools plus a supportive environment where you are guided gently but purposefully to heal and empower yourself, you can move from a damaged, painful relationship with food and your body to a joyful, liberated one. When you have been living in a heavy, toxic body with unaddressed, toxic emotions, to achieve freedom and lightness in mind and body is truly priceless.
There are two steps which I recommend anyone who emotional eats should start with. You can read about those here.
Below are a few suggestions to start creating your toolbox of strategies to move you away from emotional eating.
1.Identify what’s really going on
If you eat without being truly hungry, you are emotionally eating. Yet most people don’t stop for long enough to really see what emotion they are actually feeling before they stuff it down with food. Train yourself to stop when you have the urge to eat and ask yourself “am I really hungry?” If the answer is no, ask yourself “what emotion am I really feeling?” This alone can bring so much awareness that it can start to make small shifts in your emotional eating behaviour as you recognise that there is much more going on that just an uncontrollable urge to eat and that you will not actually be meeting that emotional need with food. This is not easy to do initially but it becomes much easier with practice, dedication and support from people who have been through this process before.
2.Find a safe place or person to release to
To heal your relationship with food you need to safely express yourself and release the emotional conflict you feel. A safe place or person will allow you to do this. There can also be a lot of shame and embarrassment around binging so a safe space to release becomes even more important. Get into a journaling practice where you can write about whatever you are feeling with no talk back, criticism or judgement. Find a person, ideally a professional, who you can speak to about your behaviour and about what’s really going on for you. Create or find a space where you can go to be quiet, think, cry, laugh, journal, talk, meditate, pick your nose or whatever else you want to do. Having a space for yourself that you can always go to will give you a sense of comfort, nourishment, familiarity and a haven as you heal.
3.Created a sacred ritual
One of the best ways to nourish yourself every day is to create a sacred ritual that makes you feel centred, strong and harmonious. When you include this ritual in your routine you will find that over time you are better able to identify and deal with thoughts, feelings and stress that contribute to unhelpful habits such as emotional eating. What you include in your ritual is entirely up to you. For most people, one or a combination of the following works well:
- Deep breathing
- Setting intentions
- Nourishing movement
- Yoga and stretching
- Drinking water or herbal tea
- Reading inspirational material
- Listening to music
- Speaking to a loved one
- Playing with your pets
- Having a hot bath or shower
4.Understand and appreciate what food gives you
For many people who suffer from disordered eating patterns food is the enemy. It is the thing you stuff yourself with and make yourself feel sick with. It is the thing that traps you into eating copious quantities until you feel heavy, tired, unwell and miserable. It is what adds the kilos to your body that you despise. It is what you have to avoid at all costs to stay painfully thin because that’s what you see as beautiful or worthy or your way of maintaining a sense of control in your life. For many of the women I work with, an important step in their healing is helping them to understand what food really is - how it gives life, nourishment, beauty, joy, pleasure, energy, healing and yes, comfort. Nourishing yourself with real, high quality whole foods that are not filled with chemicals, refined sugar, salts and fats, and learning how they act in the body to produce beauty, health and energy so you can do the things you really want to can change your view of food as the enemy. Respect is built for the role food plays and in turn a respect for what it does within your body (and therefore your body itself) grows.
5.Unleash your creativity and do something you love every single day
Everyone has so much untapped creativity and passion within them. When you don’t allow yourself to express, create, be and do as you’d like to, you end up repressing yourself. Repression leads to out of control binges on food as a temporary way to numb that undirected energy. Find a way to build in some time every day to do something you love, that gives you a creative outlet for self expression, and that allows you to be exactly who you are or takes you a step closer to where you want to go. Before you start using the no time or energy excuse, know that you only need five minutes to start doing this. If you have more, that’s even better. If you are honouring your needs and desires by actually acting on them every day, you will be far less likely to look for the answer in a chocolate cake. Self satisfaction and happiness comes with nourishing your whole being – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually - consistently. This is your way out.
If you would like to be guided and nourished through the process of freeing yourself from emotional and disordered eating, you might like to check out my Freedom From Emotional Eating Program, which is a 10 week program beginning on the 10th of February designed to show you how to love your food, love your body and satisfy your emotions so that you are happier, healthier and more fulfilled. Without the drain of emotional eating, think about how much time will be freed up to focus on what you really want out of your life!
The program gives you the guidance, education, support, compassion and real life strategies to truly heal. Learn more here.
The journey to conquer emotional eating can be long and challenging, but it can be done and the liberation you will feel is truly worth the effort.
Casey Lorraine Thomas, Detox and Wellness Coach, publishes "Bloom Time" - a free weekly e-newsletter to help you live the life you want in a body you love. If you're ready to ditch the frumpy feeling and start looking and feeling fantastic in 7 steps, get your FREE report, tips and guidance now at http://www.CaseyLorraine.com