Healing Emotional Eating With Mindfulness

 
mindfulness.jpg
 

Mindfulness is something of a buzzword these days. When concepts, words or disciplines become buzzwords they can lose their true meaning and power. Mindfulness is paying attention from moment to moment with a nonjudgmental awareness. When you are practicing mindfulness you do not judge the present moment, you experience it. When you are living mindfully, each moment of life as it is experienced just as it is unfolding in the here and the now. The ability to stay present invites you to experience your life in a meaningful way, where you are not simply responding to past experiences and stress or future worries. Engaging with the present moment is experiencing what is true right now.

When you are able to experience what is true right now you are able to acknowledge, feel and accept your emotions. The act of being mindful—of being completely engaged in the present moment—offers the opportunity to no longer act or respond to life out of your unconscious mental and emotional programming. When you step away from acting out of autopilot mode, you can begin to make conscious choices about how to live your life right now. When you are able to both be aware of your emotions and make a conscious choice, emotional eating becomes less overbearing and more within your conscious control.

While mindfulness may seem like a simple concept, it is definitely not an easy practice. While there are helpful apps, classes and books you can use to learn and practice mindfulness, having quiet time to be present and reflect on your experience of the present moment is where your power lies. The power is in the practice, not it in the learning about and studying the practice itself.

When you can experience your rich internal emotional world without hesitation or attempt to flee from any emotional distress or discomfort, your self-awareness grows. Through a consistent mindfulness practice, your ability to make a choice in the present moment is enhanced. When you practice mindfulness in a disciplined manner, over time, you free yourself from the binds of emotional eating. While this progression may sound simple, or too good to be true, remember that it requires these two elements that allow it to be integrated, over time, into your life: dedication and self-discipline.

When you bring the element of dedication to the practice of mindfulness you can offer yourself time daily to pause, reflect and release any emotions that are triggering your emotional eating. (You can read more about creating this personalized plan from a previous blog on this process here.) The importance of self-discipline is all about showing up for the practice, showing up for yourself and your emotions for the long-term. When you are fully conscious of your emotions, they become less uncomfortable and more of a message about your experience of your life. When you are more deeply connected to your internal emotional world, you can respond in an empowered way to your emotions and therefore not run from them, not attempt to escape them with food—or anything else that only serves to numb out your emotions.

To establish a mindfulness practice, it is best to start with one minute and then build from there. One minute of attempting to witness your emotions, thoughts, body sensations and external environment can feel like a really long time when you first begin the practice! After two to five days, increase to two minutes. Over time you may find that ten minutes feels really great! I recommend spending some time in reflection following the practice whether through journaling or simply acknowledging what the experience was like for you. I also recommend logging the minutes and making some simple notes about how you felt before and after the practice and any emotions or thoughts that arose, just to notice, not to judge.

As you apply this practice to food, eating, and further into your life, you will see how showing up for yourself in this way is empowering and freeing. You will see how allowing yourself to experience your emotions offers you valuable and deeply meaningful information about your experience of your life. Being mindful and emotionally aware allows you to make a choice about how to respond. Over time, food becomes less of a coping tool and more of a space where you can derive nourishment and pleasure. When you begin to integrate a consistent mindfulness practice into your life you open the opportunity to truly make peace with food.

I Just Discovered I'm An Emotional Eater, Now What?

 
emotionaleating.jpg
 

Have you tried every single crazy diet and dietary theory, (like keto-paleo-vegan) every exercise program, every supplement and pill or any other random thing that offers a promise of losing weight? Did you have some success initially only to regain the weight? Chances are, you might be an emotional eater. If this seems to resonate with you and yet you want to stop reading, I don’t blame you! This can be tough to acknowledge because food has been a consistent emotional suppressant and stress management system for you. Just having this realization in and of itself can be super scary. It’s even scarier to know where to begin to change this most likely deeply entrenched habit. If you feel overwhelmed by taking the steps to begin to do something about it, you are definitely not alone. 

Emotional eating is a major struggle for tens of thousands of people. The diet industry preys on people who are desperate to lose weight and makes their specific diet plan seem easy, healthy and like it’s the only way. They often make us feel as though we don’t have the discipline to do it alone, so we need their plan to lose weight and then equate the feeling or experience of “being thin” to happiness. Restricting food, not eating enough calories and possibly not receiving enough valuable nutrients that your body needs to function effectively sets you up for “cheat days” binge eating, being mentally and emotionally preoccupied by food obsessions, low energy and low motivation. While all of this is reason alone to question diets, their promises and systems—no matter what they promise and/or deliver—none of them address the root cause of weight gain in the first place: emotional eating.

If you have been an emotional eater for a long time, you may have begun to see your own patterns and how there is something missing. If you are just beginning to acknowledge that you are indeed an emotional eater or stress eater, there is good news. This is where you can begin to heal because awareness is the first step. You can start feeling hopeful when you are no longer sinking into a space of avoidance and denial, or spending more money on another book, pill or plan only to be disappointed over and over again. With awareness as the first step, acknowledging that the process is not a quick fix is the second. Reinventing your relationship with food, your emotions and yourself is possible and it requires time, dedication, consistency and effort.

The biggest difference here is that as you begin to work towards healing the root cause of the weight you wish to no longer carry, awareness alone does not cause the weight does not just pour off! Usually the process takes much longer than a crazy crash diet as there are many layers and steps to working through emotions. The work requires developing new ways to manage emotions, developing new routines, thought patterns and alleviating negative cognitions you may experience about yourself that seem to keep you feeling stuck. These negative beliefs may feel like, “I have to be perfect” “I will fail,” “I’ve tried to change before and it didn’t work,” “what’s the point,” “I’m too lazy,” “I’m not good enough,” “my body fights me,” and so on. These negative beliefs often run deep and are perpetuated by thoughts which will significantly impact actions, behaviors and choices. Not to mention that through the healing process it is helpful to address nutritional imbalances within your body, metabolic function, blood sugar balance and body image. It can be overwhelming because it is indeed a ton of work.

Once you make this choice that tackling emotional eating is the change you want, there are two concepts that are essential to come to terms with as you begin. The first is that you need to believe in your ability to create the changes you desire in your life. The second is that you are willing to commit to creating the change you desire. Once you fully integrate these two concepts, you will be well on your way. This is where you can address the challenges, blocks, negative thoughts and feelings. There will be resistance, but that’s ok, through the change process you will build resilience. There will be back-sliding, but that’s ok, there is nothing you will ever create for yourself that is truly meaningful and long-lasting that doesn’t have a learning curve and opportunities to grow into becoming your best self. It all starts with the decision to change, the desire to know and understand your internal emotional world and to befriend your mind and body. Once you create the belief and dedication, you then take it one day at a time.

While the process can be overwhelming and seem like a major task, breaking it down into doable, practical and meaningful steps will begin to propel you forward. As you begin to shift your mindset and work from a space of focusing on what’s going well rather than whether or not you are perfect, you will make progress. As you make progress you will see the internal shifts happening slowly and steadily. When you turn the focus away from losing weight and towards healing your relationship with food, your body and yourself, you will remain motivated to create the lasting change you desire. Often with diets there is a promise of losing weight fast. However, when addressing emotional eating, it will not be a fast journey. This is a steady, action focused journey where you begin to create your own personalized dietary plan. You create the movement in your life that is pleasurable. You create opportunities for self-reflection and emotional awareness to learn and grow. You are in charge of what makes your body feel energized, healthy and vital. You know what’s best and you will develop trust in your body and ability to change—and keep changing.

If this feels new, strange or something you have not considered or if you have known you are an emotional eater for a long time but avoided facing it due to fear or denial, now is the time to step into your personal power. It’s time to reclaim your health and wellness in mind, body and spirit. It is time to begin your personal journey towards making peace with food.

If you find you could benefit from support along the way, reach out, there is no need for you to go through this process all alone. Whether you reach out to me, another coach, therapist or best friend, find your team that will support your growth, change and will encourage you to create a life you love.

Heal Emotional Eating to Heal Your Body and Yourself

 
Self-love.jpg
 

Emotional eating is a struggle for so many of us. It can dampen and diminish life in so many ways. Emotional eating causes you to not experience the full range of your emotions. Emotional eating often creates feelings of frustration and defeat related to unwanted weight gain. Overall, emotional eating causes a sense of disconnection from both your mind and your body. For so many that struggle with emotional eating, healing your relationship with your body can be the biggest challenge to overcome.

Body image issues run deep. A disturbing number of girls put themselves on a diet as early as the third grade. Many teenagers say that they want to lose weight to look more like images they see in fashion magazines or on social media. Most men and women say they feel insecure when they see celebrity images and other ads. This is not cool. Not only does the struggle with body image, insecurity and not feeling good enough begin quite young, many say that these stereotypes and feelings are often perpetuated within their peer groups and families.

Emotional eating can be driven by a negative body image and feeling less than, not good enough, or inadequate. These feelings create further uncomfortable internal experiences which will inevitably trigger more emotional eating. The first place to begin is to develop emotional awareness, which if you are unfamiliar with how to do this you can read more on several of my past blogs, one of them you can find here. When you are actively working towards emotional awareness and feeling more present and connected to your emotions and your life, it will be helpful to address the emotions that surface related to how you feel about your body.

How often do you complain about your body out loud? How often do you complain to yourself about or wish your body was different? How often do you judge other people’s bodies, either to yourself or to others? This is where you can begin to create the change you desire related to body image. First of all, if you are judging other’s bodies, practice thinking kinder or more neutral thoughts rather the negative biased thoughts. If you are talking about other people’s bodies, practice pointing out what you might compliment versus judge. When you treat others with kindness and respect and end the judgement thoughts and statements you can begin to heal yourself.

Working to heal your relationship with your perception of your own body may be more of a challenge than changing your perception of others. It starts with healing your relationship with food and feeling as though you are not intentionally harming your body or sabotaging your body with negative thoughts, beliefs and actions.

Even though you desire to heal the root cause of your struggles with emotional eating and body image issues, weight loss may be a goal for you. This can bring up additional uncomfortable emotions such as fear. You may be fearful of the attention that weight loss attracts. You may fear the line of questioning around your weight loss such as, “how did you lose so much weight?” or “what diet did you use?” and so on. You may also fear only being noticed for weight loss. You may fear being judged or even being more attractive to others and what that might mean. You may fear being considered “good” if you lose weight and “bad” if you gain weight. This is super complicated stuff. So to think a diet, a workout plan or even a few compliments will heal these deep-rooted thoughts, beliefs, feelings and actions, think again. It starts with healing yourself. Food and even weight have only become metaphors for the challenges, fears and insecurities you experience.

Many of those I work with initially say that they want to lose weight. But really, as we dig deeper, they want to feel more confident about their body. They want to make choices that create a sense of control and empowerment within their lives. This is where the real work begins. You see, there is no diet that will offer anything more than a temporary feeling of accomplishment. There is no workout plan that will help you address and explore your emotions. There is no compliment that will change your mind about yourself or your body if you don’t believe it in your heart. 

When you set out to begin healing your relationship with food, your body and yourself, here are some important elements to consider. I recommend getting out a journal and spend time reflecting and writing down your answers to the following questions.

-What do you like about yourself?

-How do you want to feel?

-How has your past impacted your body image and your choices? (You can read more about your food story here.)

-How have comments from others impacted how you feel about yourself?

-How have certain food choices from this past week caused you to feel about yourself now, why?

-When in your life did you feel your best about yourself and/or your body, why?

When you take time to deeply reflect on yourself, your body, your thoughts, beliefs, actions and choices you can begin to know yourself more deeply. The more deeply you know and understand yourself, the more you can practice self-acceptance. When you reflect on your answers to the questions above, what stands out to you?

Now begin to determine your strengths. Take time to acknowledge what you like about yourself. Become very clear about how you want to feel—both about yourself and in general. Begin to work with these elements first. How can you use your strengths to empower yourself to take ownership over your choices. How can you use the positive attributes you can recognize about yourself right now to heal your life? Now move into awareness of your emotions (if you’d like to learn more about this process you can read more here). Practice noticing, accepting and understanding them. Move into a space of applying this same practice with food. Ask yourself with each food choice you make if that choice supports feeling a sense of self-respect and self-love.

As you grow in your ability to make healthy, intuitive and mindful choices relating to food, the next phase of healing is to move your focus into your body. While this may feel awkward in the beginning, integrate a time to practice being grateful for individual elements of your body. Practice looking at a specific body part, such as your feet, and express gratitude to them for walking you where you need to go. Focus on your heart and thank it for never missing a beat. Gaze into your eyes in the mirror and express gratitude to them for allowing you see all of the beauty of nature and those you care about. These practices of appreciation for all that your body can do will allow an internal shift of how you experience and care for your body.

When you offer your body gratitude, you are offering yourself a place to feel more accepting, loving and kind towards yourself. Allot time daily to engage in the practice of healing your relationship with your body and with yourself. I recommend keeping a journal through this process as you will begin to experience a powerful shift as you practice over time.

Another step to heal your relationship with yourself is to compliment yourself. Acknowledge when you working hard, and tell yourself that you appreciate this hard work. Acknowledge when you practice elements that are challenging and thank yourself for remaining dedicated even when it is hard. Acknowledge when you make a specific choice that you feel proud of allow yourself to really feel this pride within. Practice stating to yourself what you do like about yourself, what you are good at, what physical attributes you appreciate about yourself. Validate your feelings to yourself and be grateful to yourself for choosing the difficult path of healing as opposed to remaining stuck in a space of struggle and fear.

You see, you are not your body, but you do live in your body. You have to determine what kind of home for yourself that your body will be. Will it be one that you fight with, detest, complain about and harm? Or will it be one that you respect, treat with kindness, love, and deeply care for? As you treat yourself with care and make choices that support how you want to feel, you create an opportunity to transfer that care to your physical body. Conversely, when you are kind to your body, you are creating a deeper kindness for who you are at the core of your being.

As you heal, your relationship with food will transform. Over time, you will not judge, restrict, binge or complain about food. Over time you will treat your body and mind with the respect and care that they deserve because you will feel your worth and have a longing for this deeper well-being.

When you work with these practices I would love to hear about your experience. If you find these concepts to be overwhelming, you don’t have to go it alone. Reach out for support either from me or from someone you trust. Know that there is hope for healing.