“Pay careful attention to the bodily sensations that you recognize as hunger. When you feel yourself starting to get hungry, sit down for a few minutes (and if you can’t sit down, stand still). Where in your body do you experience hunger? In your throat? Your chest? Your stomach? Your legs? How is this sensation different from the sensation, let’s say, of excitement? Or loneliness? What happens to you when you feel yourself getting hungry? Do you feel that you need to eat immediately?”
― Geneen Roth, Breaking Free from Emotional Eating
This is a fabulous post by Catrina Bengree from Nourish ‘N Nurture Ltd. I hope it will help many of you to recognize the emotions that lay behind emotional eating and binging.
After eating naturally for 20 years I now know that I used to use food to control my emotions. I was completely unable to cope with a lot of things that had happened in my life. So instead of acknowledging them and allowing myself to feel loss, sadness, and grief I ate instead.
This meant I didn’t have to feel because that was too hard and completely overwhelming. I was able to control my feelings by using food. To be honest, I probably lived for 20 years of my life in a fog, doing what I needed, to get through the day, but not actually living or feeling.
When I was diagnosed with depression and bulimia in 1996 I was completely blown away. I’d more or less worked out that I was suffering from depression as most days I didn’t want to get out of bed. But the fact that I had Bulimia was a real eye opener. That’s because I never made myself sick, what I did was exercise excessively instead. Eventually, I learnt that this was simply another form of purging. It was also another form of control. I would eat very little and only “healthy” food, exercise at least once if not twice every day and then binge in the evenings. It was a very negative cycle of dieting, exercising and bingeing.
It enabled me to cope, but I was living a very unhappy and unfulfilled life.
When I learnt how to eat naturally I also learnt how to love and trust myself again. This was the way back to normality. To do that, however, I had to actually notice the feelings I was having, acknowledge them and then choose a positive action to take.
I hadn’t cried for 20 years. After working with a counsellor every week for a year I finally cried on her shoulder in the last session and probably for most of the hour!! But what a relief that was. I didn’t have to hide anything anymore, I could let go, grieve for my losses and move on in a positive way. That was when I knew I was well on the way to recovery because I was starting to face things, feel them and get them out of my body by crying, laughing, screaming or singing.
These are all positive and empowering actions which make us feel better and then able to make a positive choice on what to do next.
Eating for emotional reasons keeps you stuck because your body doesn’t want food. It wants some sort of comfort such as a good cry, love, kindness, a hug, a walk in the fresh air or a chat with a trusted friend. These are all positive and empowering and comforting, but food for a lot of us has been our natural default in times of stress.
To break this negative controlling habit I encourage you to try the following:
- Notice you are wanting to eat when you are obviously not hungry.
- Acknowledge the emotion you are having. Are you sad, angry, disappointed, depressed, lonely or even bored?
- Feel the feelings and let yourself cry, scream, talk it out with someone, exercise or write in your journal to get it out of your system.
- Then do something you love that gives you joy, instead of punishing yourself by overeating.
It can really hurt to sit with our feelings, but then you can make positive changes. Remember our body only wants food for nourishment, if you find you are eating for comfort it is time to start looking at the cause so you can resolve it instead of merely controlling it.
Don’t Forget Catrina also offers complimentary Natural Eating consultation in person, or by phone, or Skype. Please contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org