Emotional eating – how to win against yourself

I could feel the the anger bubbling up from within, I believe it started in my belly but I could most certainly feel it by the time it hit my chest. It may as well have burnt a hole for the whole world to see, a bright red and burnt black hole in my chest. It kept moving up and then sat in my throat – a big lump, and it didn’t move from there. I couldn’t swallow and I couldn’t talk. I was so angry. I found myself reaching for the chocolate, to push the anger back down again, to take me to a place that anger doesn’t exist, a place with sweet sensations, happy feelings, a little sunnier place where I feel in control.

Anger is a secondary emotion, a reaction. It is a response to a primary emotion.


Most of us are not taught how to handle anger and to be honest I am still not sure I know how. I do know that it is confronting and if I released the fury as a kid I was punished. So I learnt not to. Not to release the anger. And now it gets stuck. Stuck in my throat.

Because most of us don’t know how to handle this emotion we transfer it somewhere else. Some are aware of the transference some are not. Even those that are aware, can’t necessarily change it. But it starts with awareness. There is anger, and where does it go?

If anger is the secondary emotion what it the primary emotion? Even if we learn not to transfer anger and handle it in a healthy way, that still leaves the primary emotion. What if that primary emotion is fear, fear of not being loved, fear of not being good enough or grief and loss, or maybe that emotion is shame, embarrassment or even sadness and disappointment. These are dark and intense emotions.

Our current society is one of instant gratification, of imbalance. We want the good without the bad. We want things now without having to wait. We want to be happy without the sadness; we want life without the loss; we want money without the times with no money; we want the job without the times not having a job; we want to be doing exciting things without the time of doing nothing; we want to know everything without the learning; we want life to be predictable and certain without the unknown; we want to be achieving but we don’t want to fail.

We don’t like not being in control of the other half of life. The waiting, the sadness, the rain, the no money, the no job, the doing nothing, the uncertainty and the failure scares us.

We want all the pleasant emotions but we don't want fear, grief, shame, sadness or disappointment.


So we do what we always do to get what we want. Instant gratification. Buy now pay later. Eat to get instant gratification of happiness, control, certainty. Buy now, pay later with your health…..

If you want to win against yourself, to beat emotional eating, I am sorry to say it is not easy, it is simple, but not easy. Will power is not the answer. It might work in the short term. Maybe the first 2-3 weeks of your diet. Eventually these feelings come up and unless you get to know them better and spend some time with them, emotional eating will continue to show its ugly head.

You must spend some time with uncertainty, not knowing what tomorrow might bring, you must become friends with shame, allowing yourself to be seen – flawed and imperfect, you will need to cry and immerse yourself in sadness sometimes. You must break down the wall you have put up around yourself to prevent yourself from feeling these feelings. You must restore balance in your life, the good with the bad.

The way I start with my clients is only 5 minutes. Its not too overwhelming, but its an introduction to those feelings, to get to know them better and then we work up. Here is my 2 step process:

  1. When you are emotional and find yourself reaching for the sweets, food or even want to keep yourself busy (another distraction) sit for 5 minutes with those feelings. What event just happened? What thoughts just popped into your head? How did that make you feel?
  2. Once you have experienced 5 minutes of those feelings and increased your awareness of the cascade of events reach for a healthier alternative, start with a healthy treat then as you get better try an activity that is not food related.

So I hopped into the car, with the ball of anger in my throat and went to the beach. I watched the waves crash on the rocks like the anger beating my body and then I watch the waves take my anger back out to sea. I could then see clearer, the hurt, the betrayal, the fear of not being loved, the shame of having my flaws seen, and I cried. I didn’t fix my problem, it was and maybe still is there, but I showed myself the respect to feel those feelings, instead of hiding from them.

I would love to hear about your emotional eating experience and what you will do to allow yourself the freedom and self care of feeling your feelings.

 

Ecclesiastes 3 New International Version (NIV)

A Time for Everything
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.

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