When people come to me for coaching one of the first things I often hear about is their struggle with emotional eating. Awareness is a really good thing. It’s hard to change a behavior if we don’t know that we have it, or what it is.
Awareness is a part of the solution. Unfortunately, emotional eating is a challenging problem.
Before every avoidant or numbing behavior like overeating, drinking, working or spending… your body likely tries to get your attention. Maybe you feel tense, heavy, shaky, twitchy, buzzy, or hot. Maybe you feel a knot, or fluttering in your gut.
This signal in your body lets you know that something is off – something doesn’t feel right.
Maybe you feel anxious about being late, angry with your children, or conflicted with a co-worker. It has been said that e-motion stands for Energy in Motion. It’s energy moving through you. Instead of examining the feeling and dealing with it, most of us look for a way to not feel it. Instead we turn to food or other short-term pleasures to ease, comfort, avoid or numb the feeling.
If we listen to our mind we might also notice a corresponding thought. As long as we’re talking about emotional eating it might sound like this. “I’ve blown it now I might as well keep going. I deserve this. I had a horrible day. I had a great day! I can’t handle this.” Then comes the craving. “I need something to eat – chocolate.”
It’s not about the food. Emotional eating is about negative emotions. It’s about stress. So that’s what needs to be addressed.
Look for a solution at the source of the problem. Act on it. That might take care of the butterflies in your belly. Try to let the discomfort go by letting it move through you, rather than pushing it down with food.
If reading this is bringing up feelings of guilt or shame, perhaps this is an opportunity to turn over a new leaf. Notice right now where, or how that feels in your body. Just sit with it. Accept that tuning out and/or overeating are simply coping strategies you’ve learned. There are better strategies.
Be mindful. Notice. Accept the feeling. Accept yourself. You might be surprised how comforting it is to honor the truth. Yes, awareness is a really good thing.