Stress eating, emotional eating, overeating whatever you want to call it, is actually a messenger that will lead you to shift your life if you listen to it. People don’t become out of balance in their eating when everything within their life is balanced. How we eat is a reflection of whats going on in other areas of life. By taking the time to learn from the wisdom what your eating habits are telling you, can lead you to become more satisfied with life.
Part of becoming stable in healthy and fulfilling ways of eating requires deep-diving into the subconscious and shifting your approach to creating new habits. Emotional eating can feel difficult to heal for many reasons but an important one is the layers of shame packed on top of it. This is from not only our own personal experiences but society’s story as well. This makes the easiest route internalization and often self-disgust.
Actually shifting your eating habits when frustration, self-disgust, and shame are involved requires a completely different approach than what may be natural. Your motivation then comes from negativity and a lack of self-worth. It is completely unstable because then your sense of self-worth is constantly shifting. It is hard to create a foundation on that when it is based on a lack of self-worth which then starts to change as your eating habits do.
Naming what you want to change can help you step into the next process of healing the bigger picture. Some of the most valuable wisdom I have ever heard was from a friend of mine, Antoni Bumba, he told me how you do one thing is how you do everything. Through healing this one aspect of your life you will then shift and heal the core of it which ripples into the rest of your life as well. I found that I had not ever named that I struggled with binge eating and overeating. It wasn’t extreme but that didn’t mean that there wasn’t something huge hidden within there that would eventually lead me to live a more satisfying life.
One of the most prevalent aspects of emotional eating is control. When we do not feel in control in one area of life we can control what we eat, the sensations we feel when we eat, and also our body through eating. This can be eating to avoid something and eating to soothe or distract from an emotion you do not want to feel. But why does someone want control? If you are satisfied I don’t think you will be looking for control.
Often times if we fix the surface level such as our eating habits but do not address our underlying feelings then we will replace what we used to cope with another addiction rather than uniting the deep fragments of our being speaking through our eating habits. Your eating habits are simply where the message is coming through. That message is something needs to change for you to be satisfied and in harmony with your life.
Journal Prompts For Emotional Eating
How Did You Learn About Eating Habits Through Who Raised You? What Did You Learn By Observing As Well?
Sometimes it’s not the completely direct and straightforward instructions that you learned your habits of eating from. And of course, as our relationship with food is one of our longest relationships it is easier for subconscious and habitual patterning to form easily. What kind of relationship did the people who raised you have with food? Do you remember any specific moments with eating/food when you were growing up? How did you watch your parents connect money and food?
I’ll share for me, I uncovered the way I never actually understood as a child what it meant to eat when you were hungry. Of course, I have experienced hunger but I never understood using that as a key point to tell me when to eat. I ate when it seemed like a reasonable time to eat since people “need 3 meals a day”. I very often ate out of boredom and sensation and thought this was normal. Now, maybe it is common, but eating that way did not serve me or truly nourish me, in fact, I found myself more disconnected to how food felt in my body and this disconnection lead me to also overeating and not stopping once I felt full. I am still looking into the part of me that instinctually wants to eat everything on the plate. This leads me to the next journal prompt!
How Does Abundance Tie Into Your Food?
Have you noticed that one of the most common ways abundance is represented is through what we are eating? This can be seen in how health food tends to be more expensive than let’s say a big mac. It can also be seen in the romanticism of going on a date and eating a luxurious steak. On the other end of the spectrum, think about poor families or those living in the great depression. You may see if you spend enough time hungry or worrying about if you’ll have enough food, then eating everything on the plate and eating without checking if your hungry can naturally begin to form. Whether you have reason to feel this or not it is a scarcity approach to food.
So my question to you is, what does abundant eating look like to you? Does it look like eating till you are stuffed full or eating enough to fill you because you trust that there will be enough food when you get hungry again? What are your beliefs around on money and food currently? What about your spending habits on food. Do you buy the cheapest food or the food that would feel best for your body? Even somewhere in the middle.
Now for me, this concept of scarcity in eating was passed down transgenerationally. As a child, I watched my grandma over order, overcook, and overfeed our entire family. It happened in obvious as well as subtle ways. I remember one time where she asked me how many pizzas we needed and the whole family decided around 3 but she came home with 7! 7 PIZZAS! She wanted to make sure everyone had enough although much went actually went to waste. In my household growing up, throwing out food that wasn’t eaten and had gone bad was almost a daily chore.
What Really Nourishes You?
If you find yourself emotionally eating or overeating what thoughts or emotions come up right before you decide to eat more or feel the pull to eat more? Consider the idea that possible you are missing something in your life. Missing some nutrient that is vital to your individual soul. What sort of feeling does eating give you? What sort of feeling does habitual or compulsive eating give you? What does your day look like on a day you don’t overeating or emotionally eat? What sort of activities are you doing? What perspective do you have about yourself that day? What habits/activities make you feel nourished and full? In what ways have you been hungry for more from life?
Naming the feeling compulsive eating gave me was extremely difficult. I found the best word for it was numbing. For me, it was a substitution for what the version of me that is truly fulfilled needed. I needed more from life and from myself. Eating was a coping skill and pain management tool for when the twinge of pain of being unsatisfied, overwhelmed, and stressed about life kicked in. It gave me something to do when I felt trapped and unwilling/ready to make the changes I needed to give my life proper nourishment.
How do you view the benefits of eating?
It does have an effect to the physical and directly impacts your body maybe in more ways than you even know. How does eating affect your energy levels? Have you tried intuitively eating before? This would be picturing what that food would feel like digesting in your body and what effect it will have on you then choosing your food off of what feels best for you intuitively. Do you hold a belief that truly healthy food tastes bad?
My experience with this has blown my mind! I was experiencing feeling chronically tired (also mentally foggy) for many years. I had a couple of moments where life got in the way of my ability to make sure I was eating that day. It finally clicked one moment where I realized my focus was heightened in ways I had been craving. I worked faster, more clearly, and with much less energetic dragging tiredness than I normally had. When I started to realize this I found myself watching a Sadhguru video where he said your stomach and your brain work best only when your stomach is empty. He goes on to say that hunger and an empty stomach are different. This reflected and put words to the exact experience I was having. Now I do want to vocalize, that doesn’t mean food isn’t beneficial as well!
Have you ever felt stability in your eating?
First of all, don’t worry if you haven’t. It is amazing that you are here right now questioning your eating habits. As I was discussing overeating with a woman last night she said something that really stuck with me, disordered eating is seen throughout all of society and almost everyone has some issue with food. By taking the time to learn how to best nourish yourself you are anchoring a shift into the collective. Let’s get to it, the act of eating has much more to it than simply the sensation of filling your body up and giving it proper nutrients.
It has to do with how we digest life. How do we derive nutrients from our surroundings? Do we feel worthy enough to enjoy abundant and nourishing food? What even does abundant eating means to us? It’s an insight into how we give and receive. Are you uncomfortable with receiving or feeling deserving of it if you are restricting yourself from eating? On the other end, if we feel safe enough to say no to food when we aren’t hungry do we then trust that life will continue to support us if we don’t cling to it? How do we comfort ourselves? Is it through numbing or addressing the problem?
On another note, it is easy to bring your identity into how you feed your body. Which first of all is very natural because what we feed our body affects our mood, energy levels, chakras, skin, overall health, even gene expression, and of course the list goes on. But to find stability can you explore these emotions you have around identifying your worth with how you eat and find distance from this identification. A shifting self-worth can reflect in the stability of your eating habits.
Do you have any fears about being at a healthy weight?
Often times excess weight is symbolized as a protective layer, a layer of separation, and carrying more than you should be. When you think of yourself being at a healthy weight are there any negative feelings that come up beneath the top layer of joy that many feel.
I found that by keeping extra weight on me in some ways it was definitely a barrier to the world. I let it give me a reason to wait to embody the fullest expression of myself. I also used it to give myself a reason as to why people could be repelled by in a way that I can control rather than something I can’t. Deeper than was the fear of only being seen for my looks, being shown interest romantically simply because of my body, and possibly unsafe around men. I found it switched back and forth between YES I own the fullest expression of myself and uncomfortable being thinner with an encounter with friends who felt bad about themselves due to my weight loss. This instance simply reflected the feelings of mine surfacing that said who am I to be this?
Practices To Bring Deeper Awareness Into Eating
One of my favorite sayings recently is two things can be true. You can both eat healthily and really f*cking enjoy it. Why should your pleasure be out of your food in order for it to be good for you? There is one more question to ask yourself here which is do you hold a belief that things that are good for you and things that bring you pleasure are separate? Maybe the deepest pleasure you can derive is from that which truly nourishes you as well.
I have tried many practices to stop stress eating. They worked to harshly snap me out of the cravings but brought with them feelings of self-hate. These kept me in a never-ending cyclical cycle because I was motivated out of self-disgust, frustration, and ultimately negativity. But mindful eating breaks this entire cycle by bringing you to motivate yourself positively and moving out of self-bullying and into a self-dialogue where you are on your own side. Do you need any more reasons to bring deep pleasure into eating?
Eat When Your Hungry
Yes, it will get easier. Yes, addressing the reasons why you feel compelled to eat (explore these in the journal prompts above) when your not hungry helps too. The urge you feel to eat when your not hungry can be used signal that you are not getting enough from life and that you need to change something because you are not satisfied Try not planning ahead what you will eat until you are hungry and ready to eat. This can be like hot and spontaneous loving making rather than scheduled sex.
For me, this was the part I struggled with the most. Then I read something about habit formation from Tom Bartow’s research which completely shifted me into a feeling of capability from possibly not being strong enough to overcome this challenge. The key essence is at first it feels easy and what he calls the honeymoon phase. Then you enter the “Fight Thru” phase. This is where you have to commit to the habit you want to form and find habitual tendencies and strong cravings try to pull you the other direction. The key to breaking the pattern that you want to break is in a couple steps.
Recognition is your hidden weapon in winning this “fight thru”. They do say knowledge is power right? According to his research, you will need to win 2 or 3 fights before you can enter the next phase in habit formation. There are more hidden weapons you can use to bring to each of your “fight thrus”. Next is hindsight. Ask yourself how you will feel if you stay committed to embodying the change you have been wishing to see and how you will feel if you don’t.
As I said before, motivate yourself out of pleasure. All the good feelings that come with the change you are shifting into, use that to motivate yourself. Then have one more hidden weapon. How will this impact your future? What will your future be like a year from now or 10 years from now depending on the decision you make today. That’s it the magical ingredient I found. It’s like you have to set course for the new version of you that you have to embody… and you have to keep resetting it until it sticks!
This made me see the top of the mountain when I found myself in the fight thru moments. Just knowing that I have to keep setting the course for it to fully stick and that I will be “tested” made me feel more capable. It actually took out the shame that came when I found myself in the same place I thought I’d never be in again.. again. Especially after the honeymoon phase that made me feel so proud of myself.
The last part of Tom Bartow’s research is also important in maintaining this shift. But first, it becomes easier right? It clicks like autopilot and the cravings become less strong and old habits less tempting. The key here is you can enter the fight thru’s again from the second nature phase. It’s not the same as the first ones. They are less emotionally charged normally. If you do slip back into old patterns, you will need to reset course again with 2-3 of the same intensity fight thrus as the first ones. This is because you are once again resetting your autopilot direction. The reason it’s important to know this is because you can then recognize that the intensity will be stronger rather than be caught off guard by it.
Enjoying Each Bite of Food
One of the most basic mindfulness practices. Sloooowww down. Foreplay with your food there is no reason to just shovel it all in. You can practice holding gratitude for the food before you eat it. Enjoy each bite you take. If you don’t like each bite you take then are you sure you really want to be eating the food your eating? Nourishing food can taste good. Sometimes it does take trying different recipes and exploring different tastes than you are used to. Intuitive eating can help with this! Consider practicing eating sensually and explore what ways feel good to eat. Think of where your food came from. Connect to the freshness of the earth and feel the life going inside you.
Intuitive eating can bring spontaneity and even surprise into your food. Think of this in terms of a partner. Spontaneity can be romantic and well… hot! It’s a way to take your time enjoy and exploring rather than rush to a finish line. Experiment treating eating like a lover you want to savor. Scan the menu at a restaurant and imagine choosing an item. Picture what each item would feel like in your body. How would it affect your mental state? What healing benefits could it bring? Then maybe continue with other options on the menu. When your cooking explore what it feels like to bring your creativity into your cooking. See how it feels if you start cooking when you feel a bit of hunger rather than a set time to cook (if you can). You can also adapt this by making small changes already cooked food before you eat. This gives you time to consider what your body needs, and some time to play with it before eating immediately.