When we take a look at how and when emotional eating began (for all of us), we can start to realize how ridiculous it is to fight emotional eating with “willpower,” and instead embrace our emotions and give them a place at our dinner table. -McKenna Gordon
It started the day we were born. Mom hears baby crying and picks her up to feed her. Mom is so comfy and cuddly and she smells good and makes us feel so secure, PLUS we’re eating, which is also filling us up and calming us. This whole experience of security and love instantly and permanently becomes intertwined with our eating experience.
We grow to become toddlers and we are rewarded with treats, sometimes downright bribed with snacks, and we also begin to learn that family togetherness and celebration equals sugar! Birthdays, BBQs, Halloween, Christmas, graduations, weddings, funerals – every get together, happy or sad, comes with comfort food. This is the pattern that plays itself out for the rest of our lives. It’s no wonder that all of us are emotional eaters. Even the healthiest of eaters are emotional eaters.
But is it such a bad thing that eating is inherently emotional? Why try to take the emotion out of it? Why have we been told by health experts to fight this with willpower? We try to relegate food to JUST FUEL and tell ourselves we just need to be stronger and take all emotion out of it?
I believe that if we allow the emotions to come back to the dinner table, we can create a healthier relationship with food that doesn’t involve self-deprivation, torture, or punishment after the fact.
If we take the time to sit with our emotions rather than eating them, we can often process them healthfully and then the craving for bad foods is cleared. It’s easier said than done, but with practice and patience, we can free ourselves from eating our feelings all the time!
The next time you feel a craving coming on, STOP and take yourself through this thought process:
- Ask yourself what feelings you are avoiding processing. It could be anger, sadness, jealousy, stress, fear, doubt, loss, and it could even be happiness or excitement!
- Sit with that emotion. Become aware of it. Become inquisitive of it. Remember that even negative emotions are there to serve us and/or teach us something. By acknowledging our feelings and exploring them, we don’t necessarily empower them–instead we can often set them free from us.
- Identify if there’s anything we can do to feel “full” in life. Sometimes when we crave sugar, it’s because we aren’t experiencing enough sweetness in life. Ask yourself what you are truly hungry for and commit to adding more of that to your life. It may not clear the craving immediately, but as you are living a more present life and experiencing more emotional fulfillment, your cravings will decrease or disappear.
- Once you’ve sat with and explored your emotions, ask your body what it is hungry for. Ask it what it actually needs, and then eat it! As you do this continually, you’ll find you’re automatically making healthier food choices, or at least “needing” less of the junk!