Healing Emotional Eating - 7 Helpful Tips
How often do we use food to numb difficult emotions?
Some people use cigarettes, alcohol, drugs or sex. Others use food. Over time snacking to give ourselves a temporary happy hit can develop into a habit. How can we increase our general happiness to a level, where this emotional crutch is no longer necessary?
Rather than being something we rely on to pick us up, food can be a 'condiment to contentment'. This means we already feel happy and at ease, and eating adds to the pleasure. We can enjoy the food for what it is, and then let it go. We can start and finish a meal feeling content, free of any craving for a little more.
Food will not replace contentment. Food, and sharing food with those we love, instils a sense of fulfilment within us. This is wonderful! However it is not the food that has done this, but our response to the dining situation. Certainly hunger has been satisfied, but any emotional attachments are purely self-created. There is no issue with enjoying our food, however the difficulties arise when we rely upon food to make us feel better. We have an addiction to the pleasure, rather than enjoying the meal and then moving on to the next thing.
I know what it is like to reach for food to numb my experience of a difficult emotion. I am getting better at identifying these voices of need; the need for loving nurturing of a variety other than edible. My ability to stop before I reach the pantry is improving.
It doesn’t matter if the food we eat is deemed healthy, if our attitude is not. If we are thinking about a slice of delicious cake going to our hips when eating it, where is the pleasure? How stressful it can be for the digestive system to be worrying about what we’re eating? The psychological damage of self-judgement is real, and we cannot underestimate its role in hindering our search for balance and wellness.
How thoughts about food affect us
If you are eating something, stop and listen. It will take just a moment. Are you happy to be enjoying it, the flavours, textures, colours? Or are you thinking about summer on the beach and how this mouthful will lead to hip and thigh misery. If you think it will, IT WILL. We create our lives by the thoughts we invest our energy in. Loving thoughts are the most important staple in your diet. Not everyone experiences these issues with food. For many, food is merely a fuel, to top up energy levels when required. For others over interest in diet, food preparation and health is avoiding looking at the real issues. Like: do I love and accept myself and my body exactly as I am? I have been there, to extremes, and am now finding a middle path, listening, really listening to my inner teacher, and being kinder to myself.
We are all finding a balance between merely fulfilling energy requirements and eating addiction (it its many forms and shades). We all have mental and physical habits to varying degrees, and aural pleasures tend to top the list, possibly initiated by the infantile security of the breast.
Feeding ourselves kindness is the answer. When we eat, do we feel beauty-full and beautified by the food. It’s that simple. If there are underlying emotional rapids, do we have the courage to look at them. YES! We have a choice, and awareness is the first step to freedom.
What is beauty nourishment? Beyond fad diets, we want food that looks, tastes and feels beauty-full. We may realise that feeding ourselves what we call ‘junk’ food, is telling ourselves that we deserve junk, that we are junk. We can learn how to gift ourselves food that heals, food that feeds our soul, to rejuvenate the skin from within, and assist the digestive system so that we may be as vital and energized as possible, whatever our age.
Here are my 7 Helpful Tips for improving our emotional relationship with food.
1) Before you eat: Make space. Beautify the table. Light candles. Put on some music. Sit down. Any of the above will aid digestion due to their calming effect on the body.
2) Breathing out three times is a simple effective means of grounding and settling your whole being. Truly arriving at the table from the buy-ness of life.
3) Say a prayer of gratitude. It some cultures it is said that this blessing immediately enhances the nutritive value of the food. It also brings our awareness to all of the work that has been given as your dinner journeyed from the field to the table. We remember that plants, animals and our human body, which can digest our food, are all miracles of nature.
4) Visualise the food as healing medicine. Each mouthful will bring you greater strength and vitality. At this moment, if you intuitively feel that your choice in food will not assist you to health, then eat something that will. This does not mean that there are forbidden foods, rather that we choose that which will serve us best. Listen to your inner voice.
5) Chew well. Savour. Try chewing the first mouthful 30 times. It will amaze you how quickly you may drift back into unconscious eating, shovelling it in. Apart from the emotional benefits, chewing is the number one digestion aid… remembers the stomach has no teeth! Like any worthy improvement, it takes practise. Becoming a pedantic 50 chews per mouthful eater is not our aim either.
6) You may like to try this for an
enlightening look at relationship to food. Feed a friend or dear one an entire
meal, each of you feeding the other, one mouthful at a time. Watch your minds
response to being ‘out of control’.
7) Find a therapy that works, like EFT . Work through the underlying emotional issues that support your habit. You can book a personal online EFT session with me. It's excellent value and it can work for you, wherever you are in the world.
In General learn to be kind to yourself in all actions, and enjoy your food thoroughly. You can do it!
I am continually researching the links between food, body image, emotions and self-love, both personally through experience, and in conversation and reading. An area of my developing passion and interest, if you feel like sharing your story, write me a letter or email.