By: Martha Digby, BSc (Hons)
It’s happened to all of us. We get going on a healthy diet (eating fruits and veggies with high nutritional value, choosing lean meats and “good” carbs and exercising regularly) and then WHAM… Something happens that sets us off emotionally, and we fall back on the “feel good” foods—ice cream, candy and chips—high Glycemic Index foods that bolster our brain’s serotonin levels to help elevate our mood, but only for a short period of time. Long-term effects can include weight gain and the development of chronic diseases related to obesity such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. That “something” often has us falling prey to emotional eating. And through this process, many of us, without understanding why, are causing harm to our bodies, over and over and over again.
CONSCIOUS + UNCONSCIOUS TRIGGERS
We’re all stressed out. From work stress (long hours,heavy workloads, poor management) to life stress (marriage, divorce, moving, chronic illness or injury, emotional problems, taking care of an elderly or sick family member, the death of a loved one), external stress can be the conscious source of emotional eating. What about the more subtle unconscious emotional stressors, like fears and uncertainties, not feeling good enough or not feeling loved, lack of connection and purpose, emptiness, loneliness and unresolved grief? These feelings are very much a part of the human condition and are often at the unconscious source of our emotional eating.
HOW TO COPE
When we’re experiencing a conscious, unhealthy stressor that triggers a run to the fridge, we have a responsibility to ourselves to make change happen—no matter how scary it may feel. In my last blog, I suggested the best formula for Conscious Change = (Awareness + Acceptance + Action) / Risk. In other words, we need to accept that change needs to happen, figure out what change needs to occur, and then take necessary action. Susan Jeffers’ Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway is a great source of inspiration for taking action. Working with a life coach or counsellor is another great way to move ahead. Above all else, committing to daily self-care through practices like deep breathing exercises, guided meditations, visualizations, exercise, eating right and drinking lots of water, is essential.
When we experience unconscious, unhealthy stress and find ourselves at the fridge again, we might begin by asking ourselves, “What’s really going on here? Am I just bored? Feeling lonely? Unfulfilled?” Patterns often emerge from past emotional wounds; endless, emotional eating is just one example of that pattern. Imagine having full control over our actions, like eating, because we know ourselves better. Imagine eating in self-awareness and self-empowerment, rather than being consumed by what’s eating us. Imagine knowing why we’re heading to the fridge—to fuel our bodies, not our feelings!
While there are many self-help books to help start the process of healing both conscious and unconscious emotional feelings, nothing beats working with a psychotherapist to help uncover the original pain or wound that is driving our emotional eating. The simple act of sharing in a trusted, non-judgemental environment can bring forth self-awareness, self-empowerment and true transformation of one’s body and sense of self. With this new awareness, empowerment and transformation, we can work together to curb the cravings and, over time, reduce occurrences of emotional eating.
ABOUT MARTHA DIGBY: Martha is a Holistic Psychotherapist, counsellor, speaker, writer and educator who specializes in personal awareness and growth; life crisis and transition; family, relationship and coworker issues; stress; anxiety; depression; grief; loss; and, trauma.Leave a reply →