3 Ways to Stop Emotional Eating

“You are what you eat, so don’t be fast, cheap or fake.”

When we eat out of emotional hunger, we are stuffing, avoiding, escaping–bypassing this present moment. The food is bland, dull, and the true essence and taste of the food is gone. All we do is focus on getting the food down without any thought. That is what makes emotional, mindless eating so addictive. The mind is not engaged, awareness is not needed. There is something monotonous and dulling about the act of mindless eating and it serves as the perfect vehicle for jumping out of the present moment.

In contrast, eating from in accordance with true hunger, with what the body wants, requires awareness. It requires staying in tune with one’s body, with one’s feelings and differentiating the two. It requires tuning and tapping into what is going on in the body. Since it is the body where emotions and feelings are stored, it makes sense that doing anything to escape the body (i.e. one’s feelings) during times of stress, anxiety and sadness becomes the most salient choice.

Food is a metaphor for the present moment.

When we are in touch with our body’s hunger and how it feels, we get in touch with what foods will nourish us the most. When it is true hunger that is honored, the taste of the food is heightened, our ability to enjoy and savor the food is enhanced, and it is near impossible to gain weight when we eat from true hunger.

We are the most connected to the food when the food is nourishing our bodies, when we are present with the food; in essence, being able to enjoy food and be present while we are eating (in contrast to shoving food down or watching tv while we eat) is a practice of learning how to tune into our feelings.

How do we distinguish emotional vs true hunger, and how do we avoid eating emotionally? The key is learning to stay tuned in with our bodies and to be with the feelings, experiences and sensations that arise.

Compulsive eating has less to do with self control and willpower, and more to do with the ability to stick with and experience uncomfortable, painful feelings.

How do we increase our tolerance and ability to withstand and cope with discomfort in our bodies, both physically and emotionally?

Trusting our bodies.

Our bodies can be trusted and it is through dieting that we learned to revolt against our own selves. The more we trust our bodies, the more we learn to trust the feelings and sensations that arise within ourselves. This is integral in developing a healthy relationship with our bodies. Through trusting our bodies, we learn to listen to hunger and satiety signals rather than the voices and rules we have in our heads.

An attitude of neutrality

Not judging uncomfortable/negative feelings. It is only natural that we will feel uncomfortable and negative, but we oftentimes label these experiences as bad. This labeling causes greater resistance and nonacceptance of the present moment. No moment is bad, it is our judging it, labeling it, and effort to escape it that has the greatest negative consequences.

Cultivating compassion.

The more we are loving and compassionate towards ourselves, the less compulsive will be the urge to use food to cope. The more punitive we are with ourselves, the greater that urgency to escape through food. It is a strange paradox, but having compassion towards ourselves has a powerful impact in that it opens up space within ourselves to be with whatever it is we do not want to feel.

Compassion changes the nature of our relationship to ourselves and the world around us. Instead of resisting we accept. Instead of being at war with food and our bodies, we can be at peace. We can know that we are strong and resilient enough to face any circumstance or situation that life throws at us and that the we consume is eaten with the intent of savoring the moment rather than drowning it out.


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