Welcome back to week seven in our 10-week Clean and Delicious intuitive eating series with Dani Spies and the team at essentialdietguide.com.
This week Dani has a fantastic topic for you and will be chatting all about how to cope with feelings without turning to food. Many of you will relate to this as it’s definitely a hot topic. This is something that should be taught in elementary schools. Not so much the food part but certainly how to cope with feelings part.
Many people walk around thinking that we are supposed to feel happy all the time. At any time that we are not feeling happy we think that something has gone terribly wrong. This could not be further from the truth. We are not supposed to feel happy all the time we have lots of different emotions and learning how to recognize them and interpret them and be with them is really a very powerful practice.
If you missed the first six weeks of this series you can find the links below. We recommend that you go back and watching all of them because all of these principals tend to build on one another so watching the entire series is definitely going to be to your benefit.
Intuitive Eating Video – Week 7
Let’s chat about food and feelings. Emotional eating has a lot of different layers to it and it’s not necessarily a bad thing although it does get a very bad rap. Technically there is a lot of different ways that we can eat emotionally. For instance if it is somebody’s birthday and you decide to have a piece of birthday cake at the party this is technically emotional eating. Usually we are not hungry per se, we are eating the cake to celebrate. Another example of emotional eating is when we go for ice-cream with our kids and get an ice-cream cone. Most of the time we’re not getting ice cream because we are hungry, we are partaking because the ice cream is delicious and we want to be a part of this moment of connection and togetherness with our family.
Other times we may eat emotionally to help us cope with our feelings. We might consciously or unconsciously eat to help us distract ourselves, comfort ourselves or numb ourselves from uncomfortable emotions. It is important to note that uncomfortable emotions do not only have to be the negative emotions or what we call the bad emotions. You might find yourself tending to want to take the edge off any feeling that is really big. It could be a really big positive emotion or again it can certainly be a negative emotion, but it’s not always the negative emotions and this is something to be aware of.
You would agree with this statement that food is love. Sometimes food can be a distraction and sometimes food can be a reward and sometimes food can be comfort. These are perfectly fine but what we want to be careful of is that it is not our only source of helping to ease and manage and cope with our emotions. Sometimes it’s going be okay and other times you are going to want to use other techniques. Ultimately at the end of the day we need to learn to deal with the source of the emotion. We have to understand what is going on in our life and then tend to that need. Always be mindful that we can have some food to comfort us or distract us or numb us out from that moment. At the end of the day that doesn’t actually solve or change anything except for that short brief moment while you’re eating, but once you’re done eating that emotion is still going to be there waiting for you.
What tends to happen is we create this negative spin cycle around emotional eating. You may have some type of uncomfortable emotion arise and then you turn to food to help cope with that emotion. What happens after you are done eating, oftentimes we feel guilt or shame about eating the food. Maybe eating too much food or just eating when we are not hungry and then that guilt and shame creates more negative emotion which then creates a desire to eat more food to help soothe that negative emotion. It is a very negative cycle that spins and spins and spins. Then we think that our problem is food and overeating and eating when we are not hungry. We become removed from the initial cause of what was happening in the first place
While turning to food emotionally sometimes can feel helpful if it is your only source of dealing with or coping with emotions, what ultimately happens is you create more of a divide from yourself and the things that you’re really wanting and the things that you’re really needing. We have to remember that our emotions are like our internal guidance system. Our emotions have a lot of information for us. There is a lot of wisdom in our emotions so learning to pay attention to them and learning how to take care of ourselves and those emotions it’s a super powerful practice.
We want to reiterate that you are not supposed to feel happy all of the time. So if you find yourself thinking that maybe there is a problem because you are not feeling happy all the time just know you are not supposed to always be happy. That is one of the biggest lies that we are fed through advertising in the media. We are supposed to have it together all the time, but to be honest, we are done with feeling like that, and that is where Dr Brené Brown comes in … she says that we can only feel as good as we allow ourselves to feel bad. We can only go as high as we are willing to feel low. So allowing yourself to feel the totality of all of the emotions that come with life, that is where the magic lives.
When it comes to emotional eating the very first thing that I want you to acknowledge for yourself is that this is not self-sabotage. This is you trying to do the best that you can. To show up and take care of yourself in any given moment. The truth about you know eating to help with emotions is that in the moment it works very well. If it was not for the byproduct of gaining extra weight or feeling physical discomfort then eating to help comfort or distract ourselves or numb out certain feelings is quite the brilliant strategy. Be aware that this only works for a moment and then as soon as that moment is over we still have to deal with the root cause of whatever it is that’s going on in our life.
We want you to grab a pen and paper to write out all of the pros of emotional eating. Really think about all of the benefits. How has eating emotionally served you in your life? Perhaps it was comfort to you or it made you feel like you had somewhere to turn. Perhaps it made you feel better at that point when eating. Whatever it is we want you to write out all of the ways that emotional eating has actually served you.
Next we want you to write a list of all of the cons of emotional eating. Think of all of the ways that it has affected you negatively. Maybe it has caused you physical discomfort or created a sense of isolation for you. Or maybe it has put you into hiding. Ask yourself what are all of the ways that eating emotionally has not served you. We want you to really think about that and then write those out.
Now going down your list, do your pros outweigh your cons or do your cons outweigh your pros. Does emotional eating really serve you in the big picture and how much of it do you want to keep in your life. It’s important to note that sometimes we just want a little something in the form of food to help handle emotions. There is nothing wrong with that, but you should be asking yourself, how often do you want to be doing that.
There are other ways to help you deal and cope with emotions. If you are ready to start exploring these other ways to cope and deal with your emotions and feelings then this little practice will help. First you want to pause and notice that there is some type of feeling or emotion that is going through your body and catching your attention. Then the next thing you want to do is try to identify that emotion. Is it loneliness, is it sadness or is it excitement? Maybe there is frustration or anger or just eagerness. There are so many different different types of emotions and you can probably just google a list of emotions as sometimes it helps to actually see them on paper in case you can’t put a word to it. So try to identify whatever the feeling is for yourself and then ask yourself what do I need to do to deal with my current feelings. How can I fulfill this need without using food.
In the long run anything other than physical hunger, food can not actually take care of. So just remind yourself that food is not going to fix any emotions. Ask your self what is it that I’m actually wanting or needing in this moment. Be really easy with yourself by being kind and gentle and patient and curious. Like everything else you have been learning in this intuitive eating series, this is all a process and it’s all a practice. You want to give yourself permission to practice and attempt to do it differently and then again not do it differently. Do not use this as a reason to stop trying. Sometimes we just have to set our intentions to continuously show up, no matter how many times we fall off the horse or how many times we don’t get it the way we want it to be. Remind yourself that this is a work in progress and all of this is an ongoing practice.
You may have been turning emotionally to food for many years. You would not expect to get up off of the couch and go run a marathon, so you shouldn’t expect that you are going to give this a go one time and have it all figured out. Keep that in mind as you approach any of the principles that we have covering in this 10-week series because that is the key to creating any type of change for yourself.
As always we are super excited to hear your thoughts, your questions or aha moments and your experiences with food and eating and emotions so please share them in the comment section below. If you haven’t already please share this series with anybody else in your life who you think could benefit from this 10 week series. You would agree that this is life-changing information for anybody who has ever struggled with food, diet or their body. We highly encourage you to pass all of this goodness along to them.
Week eight is all about respecting our bodies which is also another great topic that will help you along on your food journey.
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