Last week we discussed emotional eating. Many of us are susceptible and good nutritional habits can be easily derailed by it in times of extra stress or hardship. Your challenge for this past week was to work on cultivating mindfulness and creating space. Check out last week’s blog post if you need a refresher.
This week I want to share 3 additional tactics to help you combat the trap that is emotional eating. Work on practicing each different skill and decide which benefit you the most.
Experience your emotions.
The space created by distancing yourself from the distraction of food allows you to experience these emotions, receive their message, and explore what they are trying to tell you. They aren’t useless, they tell us what in our life is or isn’t aligned with our values and goals. They signal to us that something isn’t right and needs to change. Until we have this information we can’t start working on the root cause of the emotion, rather than the symptom of eating.
Explore whatever you’re experiencing (free from judgement). What are you feeling? What are you thinking? Where are you? What are you doing? Who are you with? Keeping a food journal (what you eat as well as what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling before and after eating) is a worthy tool to help in this process.
For many, this is the most challenging and uncomfortable step of handling emotional eating. As unpleasant as an emotion may be, though, sometimes the only way through it is through it. Emotions are part of the human experience, and we generally benefit from experiencing, exploring, and embracing what they are trying to tell us.
Do what you can.
Ask yourself what you can do about the emotions you’re experiencing. Many emotions are rooted in circumstance that are within our control. Take stress, for example. Is it your job… finances… relationships? What steps can you take right now to start working towards a solution? If it’s loneliness, what might you do to foster meaningful relationships? What clubs, religious organizations, interest groups, or meetups could you pursue to connect you with like-minded individuals? Hell, even going to a coffee shop, museum, or dog park might be an option, even if only to be around other people without speaking with any of them.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, what can you do to ease your burden? If you’re feeling like a failure, what’s one thing you can do collect a “win”? If you find certain places or people to be associated with the feelings driving your emotional eating, how can you start distancing yourself from them?
Some emotions may simply take time. Heartbreak or mourning after someone exits our life, for example, are often completely out of our control. That said, even if there’s nothing you can do about the circumstance surrounding such feelings, food is not the only tool at your disposal. When working through these emotions, explore other options. Can you seek out the support of friends or family? Can you fill the void left by your loss with activities like hobbies or volunteering? Can you direct that emotional energy towards a worthy cause?
Would you benefit from the help of counseling or therapy? If so, there’s no shame in that. We’re not meant to go through life on our own, and if you need help, seek it out.
The key takeaway is that emotions are signals that something in our lives is out of alignment, and that it’s on us to figure out what to do about it. Explore your options. Do what you can with what you have.
Hang in there.
This isn’t intended as some blanket encouragement to just “deal with it”. It’s a reminder that you are not perfect, emotions and all, and that’s totally okay.
Your methods for dealing with emotions – even if through food – are valid. Nothing you feel or you eat for any reason is a reflection on you as a human being. You’re fully capable, however, of making a change. You’re fully capable of creating the life that you deserve. You’re worthy of nothing but the best life – complete with all the messy, uncomfortable, unpleasant emotions that come along with it. If you’re dealing with these emotions through food and would like to stop, consider taking the steps listed above.
Whatever you do, don’t quit. You won’t nail this right off the bat. Continue to move forward. Continue to pick yourself up. Continue to dust yourself off. Continue to pat yourself on the back every step of the way. Need some additional guidance? Schedule a free nutrition intro meeting and we can talk about it more.
This will not be easy.
This will take time.
This will take effort.
You’re worth it.
You’ve got this.