Emotional Eating

Emotional eating has gotten quite the bad rap over the years. Despite the buzz its has created,  it is not a crime to emotionally eat.

Humans all have emotions and food is a way to cope with the  fluctuations of feelings and chemically speaking, a rollercoaster of brain and body imbalances.  Food can actually benefit you in a positive way in relation to stress. For example, emotionally eating frequently happens with family and friends! We celebrate life events and holidays around  food. While sharing a meal with others, we grow in our relationship with each other. Associating  emotions with eating, good and bad is emotional eating. It is crucial to know that celebrating  with food is not a bad thing. In addition, sometimes the body does wants specific foods and  those cravings align with nutritional needs.  

However, sometimes those cravings are your body’s aching for something else. The reason we  are addressing emotional eating today is because of the deeper reasons why we turn to  emotional eating in response to negative or stressful emotions. Many people have told me that  they feel like there is hole inside of them and they are putting more and more food into their  bodies to fill try to fill the hole or to squash down the feelings. That may be why you are reading  this article today; because you know that there is a desire deep inside of you that food will never be able to quench. No matter how much you eat, no matter how much you restrict, that food is  never going to go in and heal and love you and fully nourish you.  

Diet culture inundates us with beliefs that we are always supposed to be controlling our weight.  The diet industry is a billion industry because we are buying into the idea of our weight never  being enough. When we face fluctuations in our weight, there are often feelings of shame and  failure. Emotional dieting is the same as emotional eating. You may feel like you are not enough  and you turn to managing your food as a way to feel like you are in control. By doing so, you  could be facing the same cycle of shame and self-disappointment, and avoiding the deeper  reasons why you are coving a stress with food.  

Be Compassionate to Yourself 

Compassion is the key to addressing emotional eating. Compassion is the foundation upon  which all the other steps are built. It is important that you partner with yourself by treating  yourself with compassion. There is no need to fight, shame, or resent yourself. If you find  yourself thinking these thoughts, you not working with yourself and especially not showing  compassion. Start by making sure you are treating yourself in a loving way. Compassion is key  to moving forward and seeing personal growth in your emotional eating process.  

There is Nothing Wrong with You

It is also important to start this process knowing there is nothing wrong with you. You are a  human being. You are having a human experience when you crave food because of stress. We  all have coping mechanisms and when we are feeling vulnerable, we have instincts to turn to  food. When our lives become uncomfortable, we reach for something familiar and comfortable  to us. This does not only happen with food. Sometimes we reach for someone, sometimes we  reach for alcohol or a drug or a bad behavior. Although those actions are normal, and  sometimes needed, they may not be helpful in serving us in a long term healthy and productive  way. Even when you find yourself utilizing those coping mechanisms, know that you are human.  You are having this experience right now, and maybe in two months from now, all of it will go  away. This coping mechanism may not go away and that may be the issue. By addressing the  coping mechanism, you will be able to personally develop healthier and more productive  responses to stress.  

Growth does not happen from choosing to eat or not eat, but instead in the process of  seeking the deeper reasons to what is triggering your emotional eating.

If we bypass  the process of digging deeper, and only try to fix the food, it will get us nowhere.  Getting rid of unhealthy foods is a healthy step, but it is not addressing the real issue  with emotional eating. However, when one begins to dig deeper into their emotional  eating, the real issues can be addressed. When you start to dissect those root issues,  things can then shift and start to change for a long-term benefit.

If you are wanting to  address those issues head on and take the steps toward personal growth, take a  breath and keep reading.

Emotional eating during a stressful time can be addressed with five  actions below.  

1. Be Proactive 

As you reach for the food to “fix” that emotional stress, take a deep breath and  consider why your body wants to be “fixed” with food. How can we go even deeper?  To be proactive with emotional eating, we can ask “When do I get triggered? “What  happens to me?”

  • Is it more common during a time when I do not have a routine, such  as visiting family or on vacation?
  • Are you most likely to turn to food when you are by  yourself, or after a long day at work?

If you notice some of these trends in your day,  address it head on. Write down those triggers and habits you have. Writing down the  triggers you experience will help you handle around it and even begin to implement  strategies to combat the effects of those triggering situations.  

It is important to remember the root of the issue with emotional eating is not about fixing the  food. It is about being with yourself and finding a way to heal that place in you.

There are so  many different things that you can do to support yourself with the emotions that are coming up  that are making you emotionally diet or emotionally eat. Proactively addressing the reasons behind the areas of desired change is the first step to achieving the personal goals you have for  yourself.  

2. Make a Plan 

Emotionally eating or dieting signals the need for introspection and reflection. You can use  behaviors such as emotional eating or other coping mechanisms around your food as a red flag  that there is more going on than meets the eye. Asking questions such as,

  • “Am I restricting  myself?”
  • “Am I obsessing over things more than I usually do?”
  • “Why am I feeling this way?”
  • “Is  there something I am hating about myself?”

Addressing such questions will help you get to the  bottom of what is really happening at the core of your being, and in turn, causing your  emotional eating. Processes like journaling regularly, seeing a therapist, and scheduling a  session with someone like me is an excellent plan to start addressing the root issue that causes  you to seek out positive feelings through food.

This process of going deeper will help you have  more compassion for yourself and break those stress habits that you hate.

But, you have to  make a plan of attack to address those items that trigger you into any type of emotionally eating.  So, start your plan now. Do some journaling, find yourself a therapist, reach out to me, schedule  a session with me. Do something that is going to address these deeper places that you may not  be able to access on your own. It is so important for you if you are struggling deeply to find  someone to support you and help you to love yourself more.  

3. Self-Care  

Self-care is a topic that is thrown around often as an action to solve all sorts of stress related  issues. Even though the term, self-care, may be used often, it is utterly important to seek self care when addressing emotional eating. When you are able to identify and cut out those food related negative behaviors, and replace them with self-care, you are establishing new healthy habits.

The biggest thing to remember is that this is a process, rather than just an on-off switch. 

When you are emotional eating, it is difficult to stop yourself and seek out a different form of self-care. To start this process of practicing self-care, include it in your day, regardless of your food choices. Self-care in other moments throughout the day aid in soothing of the nervous  system. Some forms of self-care are creating some sort of spiritual practice such as getting  down on your hands and knees and praying or meditating. Becoming activity is another form of  self-care. Activities such as yoga, walking, running, playing a sport, or other activities you love  that require you to move are perfect for self-care. Whatever you can do to calm your nervous  system, lower you stress level, and release that anxiety will greatly support your response to  emotional eating.

Once you have strong self-care actions in your proverbial toolbelt, create a  practice plan that you can do day in and day out. When you find that you are emotionally eating  more, these are the moments for you to pick a bigger discipline and that self-care practice will  be more of a habit to replace emotional eating than ever before. These new self—care habits will shift your attention from food that is external, to the internal food that feeds you spirit and soul.  

4. Celebrate Your Growth  

Self-awareness is extremely important and should be celebrated! Not only is self awareness bringing you to a stronger and healthier personal state, it also builds your  confidence in who you are.

Every time you stop and take that breath, then assess why you are craving food in that moment, is a victory!

You are connecting with yourself on a  much deeper level than simply identifying that you are stressed and seeking a quick fix.  There is going to still be a time where you may still emotionally eat, but the goal is self awareness, self-care, and growth! The answer is not to avoid emotionally eating again  and never return to those tendencies again. But instead, the goal is growth and the  development of healthy habits to help you find ways you can achieve your personal  goals, and celebrate yourself.  

5. Feel No Shame 

There is no reason to feel shame when it comes to eating. When emotions are running  high, we crave food. Eating is our body’s natural response to stress. However, all too often,  emotional eating leaves us feeling ashamed. This initial shame begins a cycle where we are  catapulted back into the same behaviors that we are ashamed of. Often, extreme dieting, food  restrictions, self-deprivation, depression, are all feelings related to the shame associated with  emotional eating. We want to make it about the food and how we are in the wrong, but long  term, these negative thoughts do not work, and the cycle of shame only leaves us feeling  horrible. Therefore, it is so important to nip shame in the bud. You are not your behavior with  food, and no matter your actions, they do not define you.

Choose not to be stuck in shame and  stay in that dark place. Use the knowledge you now have to show compassion to yourself and  bring your perspective back to being empowered. That is key, my friends.

When you feel yourself reaching the point of shame, lean into  compassion.

This is where you are going to gain control of your emotional eating cycle. If you  do not know how to do that, please reach out to me. I can help you. I can support you.  

Establish a Community of Support  

Addressing emotional eating is not a journey that you have to do on your own! I would never be  telling you about emotional eating if I did not have other people supporting me and helping me  through the same process. Sometimes we all need that one person to hold us up and bring us  into the light when we are feeling overwhelmed. As you embark on your own journey of  addressing emotional eating in your life, make sure you have a few people to provide support to you in this process. In addition, they will be there to celebrate your growth and be inspired by  you along the way!  

After years of struggling with her own dysfunctional body-relationship Marla Mervis-Hartmann has transformed her experiences into services to help women discover honor and appreciation for their bodies.

Along side being a Reiki Master and teacher, Marla has followed her passion for women’s health down many paths of study including women’s sexual wellness; postpartum care; Restore Your Core educator training; Tantra teacher certification; Yoga teacher training, and massage therapy. This collected body of knowledge shines through in her offerings of Reiki to pregnant and postpartum mothers; teaching Mama Movement classes; and Love Your Body Love Yourself. In all of her work, Marla is devoted to empowering women to feel good about themselves and to live the life they desire.

Marla is a graduate of Kent State University and was the leading body image expert at Journey Malibu, a Drug/Alcohol rehabilitation center. As a professional speaker Marla has been featured at TEDx Salinas. Her on camera career has also led to acting and hosting engagements including the holistic healing talk shows “Pathways to Health” and “Voice America’s Radio Show: Live! Love! Thrive!” and her own program, “Transformational Travel.” She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son where she works full-time as a professional coach, speaker, facilitator and Living Light Reiki Master and Teacher.

For more information on how to find peace, compassion and freedom with food, Check out:
THE Body Compassion Collectve

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January 21, 2021