Inner Strength Focus: Vitality to Heal Emotional Eating

 
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Having a sense of inner vitality requires strength in both mind and body. Vitality as a personal strength requires choosing your health and wellbeing over temporary desire. When you are building and using the strength of vitality you are living in alignment with how you want to feel. Feeling vital requires opening yourself to the foundations of wellness: nutrition, movement, sleep and relaxation.

If you want to be well, feel well and live well, it is helpful to engage in a daily wellness practices. The path to wellness is individual and is best when it’s intuitive and aligns with your personal needs, schedule and natural rhythms rather than feeling like something you have to do, or something that is out of alignment with how you would choose to live. When you are truly approaching life with a sense of vitality as an inner strength, the choices do not feel like a chore, they don’t feel like a punishment, they feel natural, uplifting and ultimately enhance your life.

When you apply the inner strength of vitality to living in alignment with a mindful approach to making peace with food, mindfulness is at the core. When you are making mindful choices about how to treat yourself, your own inner wisdom and intuition is your most effective and useful guide. When you are making forced choices, you are giving away your power (like to a fad diet or exercise regimen) and it is unlikely that you will maintain those choices. 

Emotional eating zaps our vitality because it is the stuffing, avoiding and denying ourselves from feeling our feelings. Emotional eating does not leave much space for vitality and creates a drain on energy and emotional and physical wellbeing. When you approach managing your emotional world with vitality and a sense that emotions are neither good nor bad rather that they are valuable information about our inner world, you will build vitality through emotional awareness. When you are emotionally aware and no longer avoid or attempt to stuff your feelings with food, you naturally open up to honing the inner strength of vitality.

Begin with a simple and doable daily practice that will allow you to get in touch with your emotions. This could be journaling and/or a meditation practice. If you feel very out of touch with your emotions it can be beneficial to receive additional support such as therapy or a support group to help create a deeper awareness and acceptance of your emotions. When you approach the process of emotional awareness with vitality, it will create alignment with feeling empowered and healthy on a deeper level than simply attempting to eat well and exercise to control or maintain a particular physique. When you address the underlying emotions you will make choices based on experiencing an inner exuberance and truly living in vitality and vibrancy.

Begin today with noticing where you are making choices about your vitality that are NOT in alignment with how you want to feel. Ask yourself if you are engaging in certain wellness practices, why you have chosen these particular ones and is it for an outcome only—OR for a consistent experience of vitality?

Where are you not in alignment with how you want to feel?

Pick ONE area of wellness and begin to focus solely there. If it is nutrition, with each food choice you make throughout the day, ask yourself if it will increase your vitality. If not, it may not be the best choice as it is not in alignment with how you ultimately want to feel and the strength you are attempting to build. If the food choice WILL increase your vitality through pleasure, energy and possibly a shared positive experience, and yet you have been taught to label that particular food as a “bad” or “off-limits” food, remind yourself that vitality and nutrition are not about being perfect. In fact, restriction leads to overeating, less pleasure derived from eating and feelings of guilt and shame. If there is anything that will dampen your vitality it’s feeling guilt and shame surrounding your food choices—and you will only remain stuck in the damaging cycle of emotional eating.

This week pick ONE area of wellness (nutrition, movement, sleep or relaxation) where you’d like to increase your vitality. Start small and work to create this shift because it feels intuitively and authentically like what will improve your vitality and then allow it to continue to grow.

Inner Strength Focus: Using Curiosity to Heal Emotional Eating

 
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If you are striving towards greater happiness, inner peace and contentment, developing the inner strength of curiosity will help you approach challenges in life with more ease and awareness. Increasing your knowledge and growing wiser all throughout your lifespan allows you to feel as though you have options and opportunities to shift your perspective to any circumstances.

Here at Wholistic Food Therapy, the primary focus is on supporting and uplifting those who struggle with emotional eating, so the examples given to grow this particular inner strength are directed towards this personal challenge. However, if emotional eating, managing food cravings and body image are not your focus, you can apply the same intention to your own areas of struggle—all challenges we face are usually metaphors for how we approach attempting to manage, control and make sense our internal experiences and our lives.

Applying curiosity to emotional eating is allowing yourself to grow in your knowledge base—and more importantly—becoming wiser surrounding your body, food choices, and judgements. When you struggle with emotional eating, you may feel out of control or powerless to food and therefore need a diet, a plan or something external to create a sense of control and willpower. This is a lie sold to you by the dieting (and now wellness) industry! Being curious about your own body, its specific needs for nutrition, movement and relaxation is all about being mindful and intuitive in how you approach not just what you eat but how you eat it. It is not about what the next best fad exercise program you should try, but about what makes you feel energized, healthy and vital. It is not about finding that perfect diet that is sold to you in a way that makes you believe it will somehow create happiness through weight loss, but really about being curious as to what foods, portions and combinations make you feel your absolute best—physically, emotionally and energetically.

When you are curious about how what you eat makes you feel, you can apply mindful and intuitive eating techniques and grow in your knowledge, awareness and therefore develop body-wisdom. When you are truly guided by your inner wisdom, you no longer question your choices, or live in regret, punishment, deprivation and judgment—nor do you resist what is best for you (aka self-sabotage).

Emotional eating is what happens when food cravings arise from a subconscious attempt to repress emotions. Being curious about what the feeling is about and growing in your knowledge of emotional intelligence can allow you to be truly wise. When you understand why an emotion has arisen, you no longer attempt to avoid it through suppression with food. When you understand why it is there you can make a choice about how to respond to it, rather than eat in an attempt to avoid, soothe or delay the emotional experience. Emotions are valuable information about our experiences, when avoided we avoid our lives.

For this week, if emotional eating is an area that you are working to grow and improve, I recommend following a mindful & intuitive eating practice for at least one meal or snack per day. Allow this to be a moment of being fully present with your food and your body. Make a conscious choice as to a specific meal or snack that you’d like to eat. Approach the opportunity to be curious about your experience with being truly present with your food (and yourself) in the following way:

·      Ask yourself what you want to eat.

·      Ask yourself what you truly are hungry for (emotional suppression or nourishment/something tasty).

·      Ask yourself why you want that particular food.

·      Ask yourself what the food has to offer you.

·      Ask yourself how hungry you are in this moment and allow that to guide your portion.

·      When you are prepared to eat, first notice the aromas and site of the food and notice your reaction internally to this meal or snack. Does it bring you pleasure? Are there feelings coming up for you about the food (not good enough, anxiety about calories, worried about how healthy or unhealthy it is)? If so, try to release these feelings and become mindfully aware in the present moment and let go of any judgmental thoughts.

·      Allow your environment to be as calming as possible without distractions such as TV and cell phones.

·      Tell yourself that you deserve to eat what is nourishing and brings you pleasure.

·      Notice your breath and relax your body.

·      Be grateful for your food.

·      Begin to eat.

·      Chew slowly and thoroughly.

·      Notice the taste.

·      Place the utensils down between bites or food down if eating with your hands.

·      Check in with your full cues.

·      Stop when you are satisfied.

·      Thank yourself for taking this time to be mindful and present with your food.

·      Notice how you are feeling.

·      Take time to journal if it feels as though it would be useful to continue to grow in your knowledge of what is right for you when it comes to food choices, portions, nutrients and mindful eating.

How’d you do? Developing curiosity about your own body’s needs and not what some random dietary theory says is the most valuable way to be truly body-wise and to grow in awareness of your own personal needs for nutrition, movement and relaxation. When you are learning from your own inner wisdom rather from an external source you will have a deeper respect for your body and make choices that serve you—you will choose you rather than choosing a temporary moment of pleasure or restriction.

Healing Emotional Eating With Mindfulness

 
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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.