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.

5 Ways A Mindful Approach Helps You Heal Emotional Eating

 
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When you integrate mindfulness into your process of making peace with food, you approach healing your relationship with food in a whole different way. If you have been struggling with emotional eating, stress eating or are frustrated by the weight loss and regain that happens with the dieting roller coaster, this approach may be just what you are needing.

What would making peace with food look like within your life? For many of us, a peaceful relationship with food would offer the experience of releasing all the mental and emotional anguish surrounding food. If your relationship with food is anything but peaceful, it may feel as though your mind is constantly pulled towards distress, fear and frustration surrounding what to eat, what not to eat, calories, guilt and on and on…

Mindfulness offers a different way to approach shifting your relationship with food so that, well—food can be just food. How much mental and emotional space would open up for you if you no longer had food on the brain what feels like 24/7? Most likely A LOT! Mindfulness offers five super useful ways to begin to integrate as you approach making peace with food.

1.    Mindfulness Allows You to Live in the Present Moment—The Only Moment

Mindfulness is paying attention from moment to moment with a non-judgmental awareness. When you are fully engaged with the present moment, the worries about future stress related to food, such as what to eat, how many calories are in this or that food, fantasies about restricted foods all but slip away.

When you are fully engaged in the present moment, the worries about past stress related to food, such as, “I shouldn’t have eaten that, I overate on that, I already messed up my day” and so on, slip away. When you are truly engaged in the present moment, that is ALL that can exist, the here and the NOW. What are you doing right now? Can you focus on and just do that? Try allowing your thoughts/fears/reactive responses related to food no longer control your mind, your emotions and your inner world. Engaging fully and completely with the present moment may seem simple, but it is definitely not easy. This is a practice and requires time, effort and dedication to build as a practice. When you do, you will find your ability to create a sense of inner peace grow, which will transform your life for the positive in so many ways.

2.    Mindfulness Creates Emotional Awareness

When you are emotionally eating you are eating out of an unconscious—or maybe conscious—desire to escape emotions. While most often this escape happens subconsciously, before your conscious mind is even aware of it, mindfulness helps you become more consciously aware of your emotions, thoughts, feelings and actions. When you are being mindful, you are able to witness, explore and understand your emotions in a whole new way on a whole new level.

When you give yourself space to witness your emotions, you reduce your fears surrounding feeling uncomfortable. Giving yourself an opportunity to explore and understand your emotions allows you to know why your emotion has shown up in the first place—whether it is a comfortable or uncomfortable emotion. Emotions are valuable information about your experience of the present moment and are necessary to assess how to respond to the variety of circumstances you experience on a daily basis. When you are mindfully present with your emotions you are more likely to become aware of the why behind your emotions and no longer feel the unconscious pull towards food on such a deep level.

3.    Mindfulness Offers Less Emotional Over-Reaction

When you are experiencing an emotion over and over and it builds and builds and you do not directly attend to the needs of the emotion, at some point it will blow. You may find yourself unnecessarily irritable with loved ones or unnecessarily hard on yourself. When you eat your feelings without acknowledging and understanding them, they don’t just go away! When you eat to numb your emotions, you create a domino effect of uncomfortable emotions. Eating emotions is stuffing them. They will come up and come out at some point, no matter what. However, the more mindfully aware you become of your emotions, the more able you are to respond to them in a healthy and effective manner. When you are less reactive out of your emotions, you have a choice on how to respond to your emotions. This creates empowerment and reduces the need to soothe with food.

4.    Mindfulness Removes Judgement

When you are non-judgmental, you are not assigning any emotional response to your emotion, your food choices or yourself. When you create an experience of non-judgment you create true freedom. Think about being able to look at food and not assigning it as good or bad based on whether or not it is a “health” food. Think about food just being food.

What would it be like for you to no longer internalize the feelings of eating something you label as “bad” and that causing an uncomfortable feeling of guilt, of feeling as though you are a bad person? This is a powerful shift in perspective and in your ability to experience food, eating and yourself without added tension resulting from judgmental thoughts. Non-judgment opens you to being able to reduce stress surrounding your food choices, which ironically leads to less overeating and often more preference for nutrient dense foods.

When you no longer assign food labels such as “good” or “bad” you can concentrate on just how the food makes you feel. You can focus on what this food has to offer you and whether or not that is in alignment with your own personal wellness goals. You can make a choice surrounding food without judging yourself or feeling as though there is something you have to do to make up for or justify your decision. You don’t have to feel morally superior or deprived if you choose a salad over pizza. Try viewing your food as simply food. Ask your food what it has to offer you. Try not to assign emotions to your choices and notice the powerful impact.

5.    Mindfulness Deepens the Mind-Body Connection

Lastly, the fifth way that mindfulness helps you to make peace with food, as well as with yourself, is that you create a deeper mind-body connection and awareness. When you are frustrated with your body, your weight, and your choices this can create an internal experience of disconnecting with your body. When you are not aware of your body you lose touch with your intuition.

When you have been stuffing emotions for along time, they can become unbearable to experience internally. This causes the disconnection between mind and body to grow and grow and you then struggle to assess your food-mood connection. You may no longer be able to accurately notice how different foods make you feel. Most importantly, when you disconnect from your body you disconnect from your hunger and full cues, you disconnect from the pleasure of eating as well and never feel truly satisfied.

When you are being mindful with the process of eating and when you are mindfully aware of your body, you can assess your feelings accurately on all levels. Ideally, we want to be hungry when we eat, we want to stop eating when we are full. We want to eat for nourishment and pleasure, not for self-soothing and avoidance or simply to become full. The mind-body connection is quite powerful and the more you practice mindfulness the more you will strengthen this powerful connection.

Has mindfulness made a big impact on your life for the better? I’d love to hear your story!