If you have read enough of my posts already, you know I don’t believe in diets, I don’t believe in letting food choices stress you out, and I don’t think cravings are demons within that we need to destroy – but instead cravings are wonderful little messages/guides that can lead us to eating what we need.
I also don’t believe that its helpful to hold ourselves to impossibly high health standards.
I argue in defense of sugar, fat, dairy, midnight snacks and more to come, in order to help people stop fearing food and start eating it.
Stop restricting and start nourishing.
So what about this little thing called Emotional Eating?
I argue that the majority of disordered eating is rooted in restriction, but sometimes, people just eat to numb out and stop feeling.
And here we get into the emotional and the spiritual side of eating.
The way we eat can reveal to us what we believe about Life. Are we afraid there is not enough? Are we constantly afraid to eat too much? Constantly restricting? Constantly guilty. Constantly hungry?
If you find yourself eating in response to sad or stressful situations instead of pure hunger, as many people do, you are afraid of your pain.
We are afraid that the anger we have will consume us. We are afraid that the fear we have will destroy us. We are afraid that the sadness we squelch will debilitate us. Yes it is scary, but we are wrong. It cannot destroy us. Pain is just pain. Our avoidance and resistance to the pain is far worse than actually just feeling it.
And the solution is simple, transformative, and not nearly as difficult as it seems: Feel.
“Whatever you accept fully, will complete itself, and disappear” – Working on Yourself Doesn’t Work.
You can always still eat after – or during. But make a contract with yourself to start feeling.
Simply feel the sensation of your pain. Label it. Accept it, welcome it, and be curious about it.
And when you feel it, accept it and welcome it non-judgmentally, it really does lose it’s power. It becomes just a thing- not a horror.
Then you can go eat whatever you want, not because you are avoiding your life and your feelings, but because you are damn hungry.
I used to think that I emotionally ate because I binged so often when I was lonely, stressed or angry. Whatever the diet was I’d find something to binge on, be it dried fruit and nuts, oatmeal, honey, smoothies crammed with nutbutter, bread, whatever and blamed it on my feelings or anxiety every time.
Currently, I’m saying fuck it and eating whatever I want in whatever portion, but I’m loosely keeping track of calories (without restriction) just so I get an idea of what a “normal” day of eating is. With all of the ridiculous diet and detox plans I’ve been on, I’ve never actually counted calories! I can’t believe how many calories a person can eat, it’s awesome! Over the last week or so I’ve had big cups of lentils. Big bowls of yogurt or cereal. Yams. Cookies. Chocolate. Monster salads. Muffins. Fruit. Goat cheese. Big hunks of BREAD!!! Like REAL bread with whole wheat and seeds and shit in it, not some fake gluten free cardboard or weird bread substitute… I even made a grilled cheese! I haven’t had one of those in a hundred years (take that, food combing!)…ate it with a balsamic salad and it was like heaven 🙂 Next I’m going to do a PBJ! You can eat all this and still be in a “normal” range…who knew!
Well, now that I’m thinking more clearly and I’m actually nourished, I don’t think I was emotionally eating at all. I think I was fucking starving. I think I was walking around in a constant state of caloric craving and when I became frustrated or bored or whatever I just lost the “control” and finally ate, and because my body was so deprived, I crammed into my mouth whatever quick sources of calories I could get, i.e. sugar and peanut butter in whatever vehicle could get it into my body the fastest, be it dumped on cereal, bread, oatmeal or yogurt or be it entire boxes of muffins and cookies crammed in until I was ill. I thought if I could only get over this “carb/sugar craving problem” or this “emotional eating problem” I would be fine. Such BS.
I agree, I really think that most disordered eating is a response to serious denial/guilt/malnourishment. Bingeing is a response to denying your normal eating function. However, I have definitely had times where I was just eating to numb myself… so forcing myself to feel first and foremost almost immediately eradicated that! Glad to hear you are feeding yourself so well! 🙂
You are so right….eating a bag of cookies is way easier than feeling anxiety and frustration, I will remember this, thanks!
PS, I’m over the calorie counting experiment, it’s way more thought than I want to put into eating. Fuck it! 🙂
Sometimes our feelings are just too big. That happens a lot for children, but it also happens to adults. No need to feel self-critical for using food as a tool for self-soothing. This is an act of self-love.
If you are feeling down, and you think about eating something to cope, go ahead and try it. Take a bite, and see how it feels. Maybe burying those feelings with food is exactly the right thing for you, right now. Or maybe you’re ready to face the pain, and eating would stop you from healing. Only you can know. Trust your desire.
How beautifully compassionate. This is what I have been realising lately too.
Thank you so much for this blog. I’ve recently “discovered” intuitive eating while recovering from bulimia. It’s frustrating that I have to teach myself how to eat normally again, even though I did for most of my life. I didn’t gain weight until I started with the bulimia the completely stupid paleo diet. Anyways, I really identified with this post because I’m very guilty of emotional eating. Learning my triggers has helped a ton with this. Thank you again!