The One Essential Practice to Overcome Emotional Eating ~ Make Friends with Your Emotions!
Our bodies are truly amazing. Science has been discovering so many wondrous details about the workings of hormones, cells, genes and emotions. Some research explains that emotions are generated and controlled by different chemicals in the brain, but there is no one "love" or "hate" chemical. At any given moment, dozens of chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, are active. Emotions are created in the moment. The terms feelings and emotions are often used interchangeably. There is a distinction whereby emotions are the purely physical phenomena, while feelings involve our thinking which brings up the emotions.
I will not be picky about the use of either word here, but it shall be noted that emotions and our thinking are closely connected. They do happen in the brain, - and also in our body.
For various reasons many of us learned to suppress or at least judge our emotions and feelings. We somehow get afraid of them or we feel powerless over them.
Emotional eating is a reaction of dealing with unwanted emotions and feelings. Eating can be a way to temporarily silence or “stuff down” uncomfortable emotions, such as anger, fear and sadness.
When you numb yourself with food, you can avoid the difficult emotions you’d rather not feel. However, these uncomfortable feelings do not go away. They are just being suppressed by excess food. As time goes by it becomes harder to keep these feelings at bay. That’s why over time it takes more food or other substances to avoid your feelings. The only way to get beyond this pattern of using food to stuff down your feelings is to move through the discomfort, feel your feelings - and ultimately release them.
Modern science has given the notion that on the atomic level of existence everything is simply energy. Energy in the form of electricity has become an all-present force in our lives. Modern medicine measures its flow, for example an electrocardiogram (EKG) records the electrical signals of a heart or an electroencephalogram (EEG) the electrical signals of a brain, and such tests are used to diagnose problem conditions, or also as therapeutic aids in biofeedback treatment.
In Oriental medicine the concept of energy as the primal aspect of the body has long been taught. In Chinese medicine the flow of chi (life energy) has been corrected with acupressure and later acupuncture for at least two thousand years. Western science has been opening to this perspective, even though there has been no physical correlation found to the energy paths and points used in acupuncture. In the Chinese understanding, energy and the functioning of the various organs of the body is a complex system, and energy can get stuck or flow too much or too little, and benefits from support to flow freely and in adequate amounts.
So, rather than imagining stuck emotions as something in a reservoir that needs to be drained, like too many chemicals in the brain, the energy model provides a more dynamic understanding.
Restricted or suppressed emotions occur when energy is not moving freely.
It also takes energy to restrict emotions, like tightening certain muscles to prevent feelings or expression of them. In a way, in such a condition different flows of energy are fighting with each other and create tensions. A person in a state of catatonic depression, with symptoms of complete withdrawal from the outside world, not speaking and sitting motionless, is best treated first with a muscle relaxant. The energy flow has become so stuck that relaxation needs to be affected before further treatment is possible. While most of us fortunately do not experience clinical catatonia, this extreme example underscores that relaxation is an essential ingredient to support a healthy emotional body.
Even though everything is energy, a wall still feels, to most of us, like a strong barrier when we run into it, and feelings, even though just energy, they sometimes hurt or scare us.
You may fear that once you open the valve to your emotions you won’t be able to shut it off. But remember, emotions are energy, and energy wants to flow.
Feelings of anxiety, fear, anger or other low vibration emotions are indicators that energy is not flowing freely. When energy is flowing freely, you will feel higher vibration emotions like confidence, happiness, joy and peace. Learn to accept all of your feelings — even the “bad” ones. When we don’t obsess over or suppress our emotions, even the most painful and difficult feelings can be released relatively quickly and lose their power to control our attention.
The key is to become mindful and learn how to stay connected to your moment-to-moment emotional experience, without attaching so much importance to the story connected to these emotions.
You want to realize that feeling your feelings does not mean that you have to act on them. You do not have to lose control and hit somebody when you feel very strong anger. You have the power and ability to channel and release your energy in a constructive way. Our bodies want to be happy, which means energy wants to flow freely and richly. The best way to deal with your feelings is to acknowledge and listen to them, accept them and encourage them to flow.
One of the most effective tools that I apply and teach to my students and clients is Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), aka Tapping. These techniques will help you manage, evolve and release stress, anxiety and distressing thoughts and emotions.
EFT has been shown to be effective in dealing with many problematic issues including emotional eating. It is an amazing tool which regulates the flow of energy and addresses and integrates associated thoughts, feelings and emotions.
Tapping will enable you to relax, start listening, allowing and releasing your emotions with less judgment and more acceptance and compassion.
The following three steps will enable you to begin to make friends with your emotions, evolve and ultimately release the painful and difficult ones.
Start learning to pay attention to what’s happening in your body. For example, when a strong food craving comes up, ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” Initially, if you can’t figure it out, don’t worry. See if you can sense where the feeling is in your body. Explore by asking yourself, “What is this feeling?” Avoid analyzing the emotion, just gain awareness of how you feel. Practice this several times a day, anytime you feel tension or a negative emotion. This is a great first step to start reconnecting with your feelings.
Next, strive to take a few minutes during the day to practice deep breathing in silence. In time, this will help you identify what you feel. If you place your hands on your heart it will activate heart coherence and make these short breathing breaks even more nourishing. Focus on your breathing for the first 6-8 breaths, and then listen to your body and your heart to see if there are emotions you need to hear. If you apply mindful tapping for a few minutes each day, this will accelerate your ability to drop into your body, release stress and connect to any emotions that are ready to arise.
To overcome emotional eating, you must learn to accept your thoughts and feelings, without judgment. You have to look at yourself with acceptance, and eventually with deep caring and compassion. Acceptance of where you are in life and the way you look and feel is the beginning of your journey into health and wellness.
Let go of perfectionism! You want to cultivate a feeling that you are enough. You must allow yourself to be imperfect if you want to let go of emotional eating. Shame or self-rejection — “I’m not good enough,” “I’m unworthy,” “I’m ugly,” — are often the root cause of food addiction. Such deep core beliefs generate feelings of guilt, loneliness, emptiness, anger, or hopelessness. When you hear yourself engage in self-rejection and negative self-talk, strive to observe without getting attached and replace it with positive, supportive self-talk. Acknowledge that you have learned to treat yourself poorly and that you want to – and can - learn a new way of being with yourself, and the world.
Release & Let Go
Sometimes just listening, acknowledging and accepting your emotions is enough to have them dissolve and release. However, many need to take the next step and get the energy flowing to fully let them go. Again, I recommend that you apply Tapping if you are not doing so already.
There are a number of other ways to experience emotional release: going for a vigorous walk, working out, practicing yoga, dancing, etc. Years ago, going through a difficult and painful break up, I was distraught and overwhelmed with emotional pain. The best thing I did was to get a massage. I still remember the deep emotional journey and release I experienced as I surrendered to the masterful, strong hands of my massage therapist.
The key is to get in touch with your emotions, allow them to flow without getting caught up in the story.
If you have experienced trauma, I strongly recommend that you seek professional help. You do not have to live with this. With the right professional support you can release and heal even the most painful experiences.
Although there are other contributing factors that need to be addressed in order to overcome emotional eating. The practice of making friends with your emotions is essential to put an end to this destructive pattern. Taking the time to listen to and accept your emotions and ultimately let go and release low vibration and distressing thought, feelings and emotions is an aspect of learning how to truly take care of yourself. As you take care of yourself you will naturally feel more self-respect, confidence, freedom and happiness.
If you want help learning and applying these practices contact me for a Free Discovery Session (just mention this article) where we will explore your specific challenges and design a clear path to enable you to overcome emotional eating.
Until next time, I wish you all the best on your journey to health and wellness.