Words are the calories I consume at night.
Gobbling up vowels
And swallowing consonants;
All the things I cannot say
Sit on my hips
And remind me of the words I ate Yesterday.
I remember the day I recognized that I had an emotional eating problem. I had gone back to the kitchen for a second helping of sticky sweet dessert. I knew I wasn’t particularly hungry; in fact, I was quite full. I had already overindulged in a big dinner, and as I carved out another serving of grandma’s apple kuchen, I became acutely aware of the guilt I felt in knowing I was feeding a problem that went far beyond any physical hunger; that didn’t stop me. I scooped my shame into a bowl and headed to the bedroom where I intended to numb the pain by binge eating and watching television.
I never made it to the bedroom. I was a young mother at the time and rather than putting down the bowl to open the baby gate; I made the hurried choice to step over the three-foot hurdle. This decision landed me square on the floor with a face full of kuchen. Embarrassed, I sat in the hallway covered in food and shame. How had I come to this? I recalled countless memories of what I now call television eating, and I saw a pattern that stretched back to early childhood.
Those of you who eat out of emotion know all too well the process of cloaking feelings behind a piece of cake or a bag of potato chips. We eat our loneliness, we eat our boredom, and we eat to feed a hunger that cannot be satiated by food.
I wasn’t trained in hypnosis at the time, and even though I saw the pattern, I felt helpless to stop the cycle. I’d be lying to you if I said that the food didn’t offer something in the form of relief, although it’s temporary, and ultimately perpetuates more feelings of discontent; while you are eating, it feels just a little bit better. Feelings of relief are quickly followed by self-deprecating thoughts about the loss of control which leads to a craving for more food. If the pattern has gone on long enough, there are sure to be issues with weight gain and a lack of body confidence.
Emotional Eating Pattern
But I have to eat to survive!
Unlike a person who uses drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol to cope with their feelings, food is a necessity, and cannot simply be avoided; we must eat to survive. Fortunately, there is a solution, and emotional eating is a trap that can be escaped. By learning to eat mindfully, you can release yourself from destructive patterns and live in harmony with your true hunger while feeding your emotions with the care and attention they deserve.
The first step in erasing the emotional eating habit is to identify the triggers that cause emotional eating. There are three main categories that will trigger emotional eating.
Stress – When most people think of stress, they think of high pressure, real life, and real-time situations, such as a looming work deadline or a screaming toddler; these are certainly stressful situations and will commonly trigger an emotional eating episode. Stress can also and is often brought on through a conjuring of the mind. When we are in a daydreaming state reliving old hurts or imagining new ones the body responds, and our imagined thoughts become very real stressors.
Boredom – How many times have you found yourself standing in front of the refrigerator staring blankly at spotlighted food item that has no real appeal. Your physical hunger is not there, and nothing looks appetizing, but you reach for whatever is available to fill the time and space between activities. Idle hands and an idle mind can be dangerous ground for someone with an emotional eating habit.
Celebration – As a culture, we eat to celebrate. I suppose this goes back to our early ancestors who must have gorged themselves after long periods of famine; I can only imagine the happy celebrations that followed the successful return of a hunting party. In today’s modern world food is prevalent, and yet we continue to celebrate our accomplishments and happy moments by rewarding our efforts with food.
Once your triggers have been identified, it is important to address the emotions behind them. There are several ways to do this, but I have found the quickest and most effective is to acknowledge that what you are feeling is real. Recalled, or imagined; current, or pressing. Your feelings are real, and they need to be acknowledged. Stop what you are doing and ask yourself “What am I feeling?”.
Often, identifying the problem is enough to stop the pattern, but if you find that you are still in need of something, then take a deep breath and ask yourself this second question, “What do I really need?”. Do you need to address a painful feeling? Do you need to find something to do? Do you need to raise your hands in joy?
Coping with stress, alleviating boredom, and celebrating accomplishments can be healthy, rewarding, and uplifting. Here are just a few of the helpful activities that my clients use to successfully replace the emotional eating habit.
Learning To Eat Mindfully
When we learn to eat mindfully, we learn to eat with intention. To eat with intention, we must be fully present. Dividing your attention by watching television, reading a book, or surfing the internet will distract you from your purpose and enjoyment. The delicious tastes and aromas should be both nourishing and savored.
Tips on learning to eat more mindfully
- Have a dedicated place for eating. You don’t often brush your teeth in the kitchen so why would you sit on the couch or lay in bed to eat?
- Take time to enjoy your food. Chew each bite and put your utensils down between each mouthful.
- Plate your food; beautifully plated food is the wrapping on the gift of nourishment you are providing for your body. Never eat out of a carton.
- Give thanks. Gratitude is a powerful emotion and whether you are thanking your creator, the plants and animals that gave their lives, or the people who sacrificed their time to your meal; by giving thanks you are living in the moment and creating abundance in your life.
But I still need help!
Help is within reach. In my practice at Airó Hypnosis, I help my clients to identify the triggers that cause emotional eating. Once identified, hypnotic suggestions are given to re-teach the subconscious mind more productive and satisfying ways to address feelings. When a person learns through hypnosis, it’s like taking all of the practical advice from this article and uploading it to the automated response system. Emotional eating that has plagued a person for a lifetime can be eliminated in a matter of a few sessions. If you feel powerless in your struggle to overcome emotional eating, you are not alone. Reach out to myself or another qualified professional and take back control.
Written by Tara Martin CH, Airó Hypnosis