This is part 2 in my comfort eating series. In the first article, I focused on the physical aspect of comfort eating.
In this article, I’ll be talking about the emotional and energetic components.
Because there is always emotion behind our desire to reach for the food (or starve ourselves).
Why else would we continue to eat things that we know make us bloat or don’t agree with us?
Why else would we overeat despite knowing that our digestion needs rest in between meals, or having a weight loss goal?
The reality is, we do know what foods are healthy for us.
Yes, there is all the noise about different diets and so forth.
But, at the end of the day, everyone agrees that we should avoid refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, biscuits, lollies, chips, chocolate, Maccas) and eat fresh fruit, plenty of fresh vegetables, good quality protein and healthy fats like avocado, olives or chia seeds.[The topic of ‘healthy’ fat is still in debate, but I won’t go into that here].
The point is, we know we shouldn’t overeat. We know what makes us feel bad. We know what we ‘should’ be eating.
But emotions are incredibly powerful, and they drive us to do things that aren’t always in our best interests.
Take COVID-19. There is so much fear surrounding the virus and what might happen that we’re seeing a rampage of panic buying, isolation of employees, people not leaving their homes, countries shutting borders and all sorts. I’m not saying that it’s not got the potential to be deadly (as it does), but all this fear makes people behave in ways they normally wouldn’t.
At the core of it, I believe that there are two emotional reasons we are driven to comfort eat.
One is to fill an emotional void and the other is to avoid feeling an emotion.
In the Western world, food is no longer just about providing nutrients for our survival. In many parts of the world, this is the case, but comfort eating is not so prevalent in those areas.
So, food becomes more of a coping mechanism for many people.
One great question to ask yourself when craving to eat (despite not being hungry) arises is – what were you thinking about when the craving came on?
For example, were you feeling upset about something someone said? Or something that happened? A perceived mistake you made either recently or years ago?
If the desire is to make yourself feel better, you can ask yourself ‘what else would make me feel good right now’?
The answer might be a walk, some yoga, a gym workout, meditation, lighting a candle, playing music – go with the first thing that comes to mind.
Now let’s take it a step deeper.
What is the emotion you were feeling when you were having the thought?
This isn’t going to be something you will know straight away. Or perhaps you will, but there is always something deeper than what is felt on the surface.
I’ll give you my example.
When I am driven to comfort eat, I’m usually feeling frustrated. Frustrated because something isn’t working, I have writers block or frustrated at myself for something I did / didn’t do.
The food would soothe my frustration.
But it kept coming back.
Why? Because the frustration was a cover for what I was really feeling (but didn’t want to feel) – embarrassment.
Embarrassment that I couldn’t get something to work, that I couldn’t get the words on the page or for whatever I decided that I had ‘screwed up’.
And what’s under embarrassment?
Other unpleasant emotions like rejection or loneliness. Things I didn’t want to feel.
Frustration was a defence mechanism. The food soothed that, so then I didn’t have to feel the other things I didn’t want to feel (but I didn’t know this was happening).
It was like frustration popped up as a big flashing ‘danger’ signal on a railway track.
Don’t go down there! It’s dangerous! Go back – do something to stop yourself from feeling it.
This isn’t something I figured out overnight!
It took years of exploration and understanding.
So, don’t expect to know this straight away, and don’t judge yourself for not knowing straight away.
From this journey, I’ve now developed a process that I take my private clients through to help them overcome comfort eating too.
I can’t share the whole process in this article because it’s too long to write out and I don’t know what your situation is.
But I would like to leave you with a couple of points.
The only way to overcome emotional eating for good is to find out the emotions that you really feel and heal from the situation that caused you to feel that way about yourself in the first place.
It’s always going to be something that happened in your childhood – memories you don’t even know you have because they aren’t in your conscious. Things that happened to you when you were very young that caused you to form a belief about who you need to ‘be’ in order to be loved and accepted. Painful things that lead you to believe that you were not worthy as you are.
Think about what your childhood was like, how you grew up, the other kids at school, things your parents or teachers said to you. When did you feel like you didn’t fit in? What’s the emotion? Is it the same emotion as what surrounds your emotional eating?
If you’ve got any questions about my journey or how to get started just get in touch, I’m more than happy to share.