WATCH THE VIDEO HERE.
This article was originally published in 2008. I recently added a video, so I am sharing with you again.
Many people (including myself) turn to food for a variety of reasons other than the simple state of hunger. We turn to food when it’s time to celebrate just as we turn to food when we are feeling down. We turn to food to ease us through an uncomfortable moment and often times as an attempt to escape the uncomfortable moment (which doesn’t work because as soon as we’re done eating, the discomfort is still there patiently awaiting our return). We turn to food when we’re happy, sad, lonely, anxious, bored, etc., you name it, in so many ways food is a friend that holds our hand through the roller coasters of life.
When I first began to realize the way I “used” food in my life, I remember feeling really guilty and ashamed. I was embarrassed of the fact that I would turn to food to cope with emotions that I was dealing with in other arenas of my life. I couldn’t understand why I would turn to food. After all, I wanted to lose weight and turning to food when I wasn’t even hungry was not helping me move towards this goal.
I remember often times thinking to myself that I was gross and disgusting after eating a bit too much or having the frozen yogurt after dinner when I wasn’t even hungry. The more awareness I tried to bring to my eating, the worse I would feel. I would catch myself in the act of eating for the wrong reasons and do it anyway. I would feel the urge to get the frozen yogurt after dinner (that was a big one for me), become aware of the fact that I was not hungry, but still really wanting the yogurt and then buying and eating the yogurt anyway. All the while thinking, “Man, Dani, you have issues, seriously, you’re gross. You can’t even control yourself. You see the pattern and you are still eating.” I felt like I was caught in a cycle of self-sabotage.
Then one day, through a combination of studies and self observation, I realized that eating when I was bored, lonely or anxious was not my way of sabotaging myself, it was my way of trying to take care of myself. Food was comforting for me. It made me feel better (if only temporarily). Sure, it didn’t help anything in the long run, but at that time, in that moment, it would alleviate some of my negative emotions (whatever they may have been).
I wasn’t gross and disgusting and out of control, I was nurturing and compassionate and doing the best I knew how to take care of myself.
But as we all know “once you know better, you do better” and this is where the change began for me.
Once I was able to link together that eating was an attempt to make myself feel better, two things took place. The first was that the negative self talk subsided and was replaced with positive, affirming thoughts and feelings. Instead of seeing myself as an out of control pig, I saw myself as a nurturing, caring person who was simply trying to feel better. The second, was creating a gap between the feeling or the urge to eat and my reaction. In other words, once I felt myself wanting to dive into the gallon of ice cream, I was able to create a space where I could choose a different reaction. Now that I realized that eating was my way of feeling better, I began to think of other options that could make me feel better in the moment all while aligning with my long-term goals of health and happiness (things like giving myself a mini facial, going for a walk, writing in my journal, taking a bubble bath, and calling a friend).
Does this mean I never comfort myself by mindlessly munching out of a box of cereal that is sitting in my lap or by over-indulging in some ice cream?? Not exactly. I still have my moments where I observe the behavior, create the space to choose a different reaction and still opt to stick with the creature comfort of eating my way through the moment, but the difference now is that I don’t kick myself for it. I’m not perfect, nor do I want to be. My goal is to be happy, healthy and wise, NOT skinny, miserable, and obsessed. These days I simply take note of the behavior and continue to work on my intentions and goals of where I want to be. I’ve learned that most of the work is in my mind and not in the physical habit. As I change my perceptions and thought processes, the habits seem to effortlessly follow.
This life is a journey and I am learning to embrace it by learning how to embrace myself, every nook and cranny.
So I turn the discussion over to you…. Emotional eating: Self Love or Self Sabotage? Do you have any habits or behaviors that you feel cause you to “sabotage” your bigger goals? If so, what are they? Have you ever tried changing your mental perception of a situation in order to change the physical habit?
I’d love to hear from anyone that can relate to this in anyway.
If you want to hear a bit more about this topic, you can watch the video HERE.