There’s A Reason For It, You Know
Something is driving you when you pick up that pack of chocolate chip cookies. And have one…two…three…okay, LOTS (!). But still not be able to rest until you dig into that packet of crisps you had tried to hide at the back of the kitchen cupboard….and then that tub of ice-cream.
But then you feel awful. “Oh God, why do I keep doing this? I didn’t even want all that. Why can I not just control myself, for goodness sakes?!”
I certainly have been through this experience. And I bet you have too.
You wake up the next morning feeling bloated and miserable. And vow that today is the first day of the new you….you will be a new woman who drinks green smoothies, eats salads and would never dream of eating whole tub of Ben & Jerry’s in one sitting!
But that never lasts, of course.
I realise it has become too easy to find a diet to fit in with whatever you happen to feel like eating…and that diets are not there to be picked and mixed but picked and stuck to.
Which is exactly what I shall begin to do once I’ve eaten this chocolate croissant.
– Bridget Jones, Bridget Jones’ Diary
It’s Not About Willpower
Please don’t feel shame for what you think is your lack of willpower! Willpower is really only a tiny part of the problem…and is never going to get you very far when it comes to changing your eating habits.
You can force yourself to stick to a diet for only so long. You can deprive and bully yourself for only so long, before falling back into the same old habits.
So, isn’t it better to try to get to the bottom of why you eat they way you do – so you can make some changes that last?
You Eat What You Are
We all know that “we are what we eat”. But what if I told you a more appropriate phrase might be “you eat what you are.”
Because what you eat tells a great deal about how you’re feeling inside.
None of us were brought up to be skilled at dealing with our feelings. Nobody taught us what to do with all these big feelings we were having growing up. So we learned to push our feelings down, to deny them and to eventually become so disconnected from ourselves that most of the choices we make on a daily basis are unconscious. We couldn’t even tell you why we do what we do!
Food works that way. We have no time or tools to really get in touch with what we feel, so instead we eat.
It’s understandable. From the day we are born, food has been a source of sustenance, comfort and connection for us. When we eat, we can believe we are safe, looked after and all is well.
Every time we feel uncertain, worried, sad, angry, bored or lonely – we eat.
But, oftentimes, we think we really want a cupcake when what we really desire is what that food is going to do for us.
What Are You Really Craving?
Do you feel you could eat and eat…and then eat some more? But no matter how much you eat, you’ll still feel dissatisfied, empty? Do you feel like your desires for food will never be satisfied?
But what if I told you that your emotional eating is actually a substitute for what you are really craving?
What if your desire for food is really just a desire for something much deeper and more important?
We have hungers, all right. But we deny them. And instead think that food might be the thing to fill us up. We suppress our real desires in life and instead try to meet those longings with food.
How about asking yourself, if I wasn’t devouring this jar of Nutella, what would I be feeling/wanting?
Could This Be What You’re Really Hungry For?
You may be lonely. Or craving a close intimate relationship with another human that you can rely on. This relationship doesn’t have to be a romantic one. You can be single and have very close girlfriends and you can be in a marriage where you have never felt so alone. We all need companionship and a sense of belonging. Without it, we can turn to food as a comforting ‘friend’.
We also crave physical touch for comfort, grounding and support in life. And just to feel alive. When we are starved of touch (from hugs, back rubs, kisses, sex), our bodies can turn to another source of physical comfort instead: food.
How can you ask for what you really want from others? How can you stop denying your needs and have the courage to seek connection – in whatever way that applies to you?
Do you work in a job that doesn’t fit who you are…and then come home and spend the evening giving to everyone but yourself? Do you remember the last time you had a chance to do something that was just for you and lit you up?
We may not all have it in us to become professional artists, but we are all creative beings. Our lives are every day an act of creating. This creative energy needs to be expressed – whether through writing, cooking, decorating, dancing, singing, crafts, gardening….anything, really, that helps you bring who you are out into the world.
When we are children, we create constantly, but as adults, creative expression gets placed at the bottom of the ‘to do’ list, along with other ‘indulgences’.
But unused creative energy gets stuck in the body and often manifests in a general dissatisfaction or resentment or unnamed longing. And in our dissatisfied state of longing, we believe food will be the balm. So we keep eating, but never feel satisfied.
What is it you could be doing at least once in your week that would help you express your fun or creative side (we all have one!)? What did you love as a child, when left to your own devices?
There’s something bothering us, we know. And if we allowed ourselves to feel what it is for long enough, we’d probably figure it out.
But sometimes, it’s just too uncomfortable to go there. Or we’ve spent so much time avoiding our feelings, that we really have no idea what’s going on with us. We’re terrified that if we open the flood doors to our emotions, anything could happen!
So we push our feelings down the best way we know how: with food. Just keep putting food in our mouths and it might comfort and distract us for long enough to get rid of that pesky anger, grief or fear.
But pushing our feelings down doesn’t get rid of them. Our great craving is peace. Peace with ourselves. But we can never get to this peace without first going through the turmoil of addressing those feelings.
You’re bored. You’re sitting at work and can’t face another stupid spreadsheet…so your thoughts stray to other ways to keep yourself happy. Hmmmm….there is that box of chocolates in the staff kitchen… Or if there’s one good way to pass the time in the evenings when you’re settled in front of the tv, it’s to dig into a pack of Pringles.
Food becomes a way of passing the time. And probably stops us from asking the question: if I’m bored, should I be looking to spend my time some other way that would do me more good?
You’ve just survived a hard day – work was a nightmare, the kids were particularly “lively” – and now it’s all over. You feel you ‘deserve’ a reward. A glass of wine and a Chinese takeaway should do the trick. Or a lovely big bowl of pasta and some ice-cream.
But is this really what you’re longing for? Is this the best way of taking care of yourself and bringing pleasure and ease into your life?
If you could wave a magic wand right now and grant yourself the most perfect evening that would make you feel loved, revived, calm, appreciated and joyful….would it really be a stodgy meal in front of the tv? Or would it be something that really felt like self-care?
How To Really Fill Yourself Up
It’s important not to use this as another excuse to berate yourself for not being ‘good enough’ or for not ‘getting it right’.
There’s no right or wrong. There’s just cause and effect.
And how you feel about yourself and how you deal with your needs and your feelings will either bring you peace with your food and peace or in your life…or the opposite.
The first thing you can do is just observe. Take note of how you are feeling when you have an urge to grab a bar of chocolate and dump it inside you so fast you barely register you’ve eaten it. Just keep noting and observing, without any judgement about yourself.
Then start to ask, what do I really want? What am I REALLY craving right now? And how can I bring more of what I truly need into my life?
If you’re ready to understand and stop your emotional eating, please get in touch. Using reiki with nutrition coaching, I will not just give you personally tailored information on your best diet, but also to help you with all of the emotional baggage that stops you from sticking to healthy eating and feeling your best.
Emotional eating is a big topic and one I’ll be coming back to in future posts. Sign up below if you’d like to make sure you don’t miss out.
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