Emotional eater? Read this
Women turn to food when they are not hungry because they are hungry for something they can’t name: a connection to what is beyond the concerns of daily life. Something deathless, something sacred. But replacing the hunger for divine connection with Double Stuffed Oreos is like giving a glass of sand to a person dying of thirst. It creates more thirst, more panic. – Geneen Roth (my hero)
Emotional eating is just so common. Simply put, it is eating when you’re not hungry and continuing to eat when you’ve had enough.
It’s important to remember that emotional eating is a Primary symptom, not the Primary problem. We want to numb and distract ourselves from whats going on, so we eat. But, if you think about it, overeating just doubles your troubles. You now have the food issue, and the underlying grief is very much still there.
I’ve never been one to go the other way and stop eating when I’m stressed, sad or lonely. My whole life I have always tended to turn to food for my distraction. Geneen Roth has been a huge teacher in this area of my life and her incredibly eye-opening and powerful #1 New York Times bestseller Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything and Feeding The Hungry Heart is a must-read for anyone who struggles with food, whether it’s extreme dieting or emotional eating.
What Geneen Roth discovered through 30 years of working with clients, is that the way we eat is how we live. It’s how we spend money, time and energy, and how we love. How you do anything is how you do everything. The food on your plate is an indication of what you really believe in terms of nourishment, shame, deprivation, what you deserve, and what ‘enough’ is.
Emotional eating is something much deeper. It’s a way of trying to get through to yourself on a deeper level because you’re missing something. Try to notice what you’re saying to yourself through food, without binging and dieting.
The world is on your plate – Geneen Roth
7 tips for controlling emotional eating:
1. Wait until everyone around the table has their food before you eat.
2. Now look at your plate. Did you take more than you really want?
3. Think about why you filled your plate the way you did. Did you take extra food because you’re eating out, or on holiday? Did you take a certain food that reminds you of being a child, or recalls a special memory? Did you take more because it was free?
4. Eat somewhere calming that reminds you to take your time to breathe, chew and taste the flavours. It’s too easy to forget this, and rush off to your next commitment. But it’s non-negotiable. Remember, you are more important. Not only does chewing calm you down, it also makes your digestive process far easier and quicker. Our stomachs are only the size of our clenched fists – bear that in mind when you’re eating.
5. If it’s ‘junk food’, ask yourself what you stand to gain when, in 30 seconds from now, the flavours have gone and you’re left with the calories, gas, chemicals and bloating.
6. When you head for the snack cupboard, ask yourself, ‘Why am I eating?’ Place a hand on your belly and the other on your heart and take some breaths. Practise self-love here, and feel where the hunger lies. Is it in your belly? Your legs? Your heart? Are you eating because you’re bored, lonely or sad? We eat for so many reasons other than hunger. Start connecting with your hunger. I recommend keeping a food journal and writing down how you feel before each meal. That way you can identify the emotions at work behind emotional eating.
7. Be kind to yourself. Show yourself love by switching off that inner-critic. Replace critical thoughts with loving words and self-love. Repeat positive affirmations in your head or out loud when you feel the urge to eat. For example: ‘I eat mindfully’, ‘I am successful’, ‘I chew to make it easier for my digestive system’, and ‘I am good enough’. The healing process is slow and gradual, but with these tips, I hope to guide you toward a healthier relationship with food.
Geneen Roth’s eating guidelines:
1. Eat when you’re hungry.
2. Eat sitting down, in a calm environment. This doesn’t include your car.
3. Eat without distraction. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations, and music.
4. Eat only what your body wants.
5. Eat until you’re satisfied.
6. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.
Beautiful image from The Linen Works.