Emotional eating is not about food. Emotional eating is an attempt to feed the spirit with the wrong kind of food.
Although my mental health and well-being had been improving, I noticed that I felt more out of control than ever before when it came to my eating. The self-hatred was overwhelming as I began to feel powerless over my eating habits. I engaged in a healing meditation with the intention to coat myself in an energy of self compassion. I asked myself: What is happening to me?
Eating: Trying to Feel Control in Chaos
When my life felt out of control, I suddenly had intense and calculated control over my eating. My long-term relationship had blown up and shattered my self-esteem, I was unemployed and seeking an income, I was living at home after years on my own, and I was deeply depressed.
It felt like nothing was in my control so I made sure one thing was; my body. My new ritual became the gym, I worshipped at the feet of my personal trainer, and studied the verses of ingredient lists. I was working out religiously and fasting like it was sacred. My body began to shrink at the same pace as my happiness; fast and furiously.
If you look at photos of me, my hair was radiant from a fresh blonde dye job I probably spent my last pay cheque on, my face was painted to perfection with a glamorous set of lashes, my abs were peeking through, and my face was slim, sporting a hollow smile. From the outside, I look beautiful. I was by no means underweight, but at the smallest I had been all my life. I was in control. Right?
Eating: Trying to Feel Less Pain
Fast forward years later, to the person writing this. The years since this time I have worked to heal these past wounds. I have made mediation my new ritual, I have journalled my transformation, I have allowed myself the freedom to indulge, and I have smiled authentically. Unfortunately, my problems with food have not ended, but turned a new page.
Lately, I have felt a deep sense of self-loathing. I feel bad, disgusting, and weak because I can’t stop eating. I think about food when I’m bored and even when I’m sickeningly full. The feeling of weakness came from a false belief that I simply have no self control. This was not a matter of will power, it was a matter of spiritual starvation.
Trying to Feed the Spirit with Food
I feel good when I eat. Food is a mood elevator that can grant me a temporary distraction or a high. When I feel an unpleasant emotion, I can eat food to dim it. This was my new attempt at feeding my spirit.
Burying emotions with calories is a close parallel to the classic coke addict. Sugar triggers the brain to release feel-good hormones like opioids and dopamine that light up pleasure centers just like cocaine. Eating tons of sugar and trying to stop can even send the body into a state of withdrawal, craving these highs until they are met.
Coke addicts don’t tell themselves to go on a diet, they explore the wounds that have given rise to this addiction. What are they trying to feel, or what feelings are they trying desperately not to feel? I decided to explore my fixation with food and my wounds.
Taking Back Your Power
I was trying to feel pleasure in the face of discontentment. I could interrupt boredom or depression with a snack. I could look forward to a greasy dinner. I could instantly feel good, even if just for a moment. I am not bad, disgusting, or weak. I have power over the food I put in my body. I can feel my feelings, even the bad ones, and I can take back control over food. These are the steps I began to take:
1. Release shame
The first step to overcoming emotional eating is releasing shame. Self-hatred does not promote motivation or self-love. Use self-compassion to nurture yourself. Harness your power through love instead of hate.
2. Enhance awareness
The second step is becoming in tune with your urges to eat. An enhanced awareness of the intention behind your hunger will reveal whether the drive is physical or emotional. Are you hungry for food, or are you hungry for an escape? Be aware of the difference between these urges.
3. Mindful eating
When you eat your meals, enjoy every bite. Recognize that you’re putting food into your body for energy and nourishment. Taste the flavours of every meal and be present with your meals.
4. Ignore the marketing
Companies profit off of people’s cravings. The line of chocolate bars at cash registers are not there by accident. Commercials about burgers, posters about cupcakes, and notifications about uber eats are not meant to guide you to better health. Recognize that although society may convince you to eat garbage foods, you can feel the positive impact of real food on your body.
5. Feel your emotions
Don’t eat your emotions, feel them. Sitting quietly with your feelings can allow them to be released instead of buried under pizza boxes. Next time you want to eat your way out of a problem, simply experience the pain.
6. Get to the root of it
Why do you eat emotionally? Is it because of rejection, abandonment, or shame? Do you eat or not eat to feel a sense of control? Getting to the bottom of emotional eating begins the real healing process. I always believed I wasn’t enough. I would seek something outside of myself to feel better. Food was accessible and made me feel good. Once I found the root of the problem I could start to pull it from the dirt.
Until Next Time…
Although I have a better understanding of my eating habits and the patterns of emotional eating, the next step is always putting these concepts into action. I will work every moment to be more mindful and allow this awareness to help me with my unhealthy habits. I will also strive for self-compassion and acknowledge that I will not eat perfectly every time and that’s okay.
For more food-related articles check out: 10 Sources of Plant-Based Protein for Vegans and Vegetarians