Emotional Eating and the Holidays
Holidays can be intense. This year has a whole other layer of intensity with corona virus and everything being on pause. If you’re lucky, maybe you have an easy breezy time with it. If that's the case, this blog post is not for you. But if you’re challenged by family triggers, feeling isolated, and/or lots of food mixed with overeating, binge eating, emotional eating, and/or purging, this blog is for you.
Before discovering Ayurveda, I struggled for MANY years with emotional eating and binge eating. And in my struggles and research, I’ve learned that it’s a symptom of something else. Of something deeper. Of a deeper hunger that’s not being fed, or a discomfort that’s trying to be avoided.
As humans, we want to be in pleasure and joy all the time, so if we aren't, we’re going to try our hardest to get ourselves to a pleasurable state. The act of eating is very pleasurable. The tastes and textures can be so incredible. But eating in excess for reasons other than hunger can lead to serious digestive imbalances. I know this, because I did this, and it led me to serious digestive imbalances. It takes a lot of time, effort, care, and money to unwind yourself from the damage that can be caused from this pattern.
I used to use food as my one and only go-to pleasure, no matter what I was feeling, I used food to get me out of it. I learned this when I was young. It was the most accessible and acceptable substance. Everyone eats. Everyone needs to eat. Food is everywhere. And so it became the substance that was the fixer of all things. But I was just trading one discomfort for another. One pain for a different pain. And eventually I realized that I'm just perpetuating a pain loop. Digging the hole deeper and deeper of pain and discomfort. To the point that I caused my digestive tract severe harm and with that came IBS, leaky gut, SIBO, and a laundry list of food allergies.
In Ayurveda, digestion is the number one cause of good health or dis-ease. Everything starts with digestion. So mending your digestion by mending your relationship to food, and to pleasure is essential.
Unlike other providers that tell you to “just do this, or don’t eat that” and expect it to fix everything, focus on recommendations and insights to actually break the loop and start liberating yourself from the pattern in order to create healthier new ones.
Recommendations for getting out of the loop of emotional eating, digestive pain, and discomfort:
First, I recommend setting yourself up to FEEL. Instead of avoiding discomfort through the use of food, try being with your discomfort in small ways--in curious attentive ways, the way you would sit and listen to a friend that was having a hard time. I also recommend journaling. Because journals are not dependent on time or availability, the way calling a friend, or having a counselling session is.
What triggers me to emotionally eat?
Where is the pain/discomfort/emotion located in my body?
What does it feel like? What are the sensations?
(Is it hot? Tight? Aching? Sharp? Empty? Etc.)
What happened that triggered this sensation?
What do I need right now? (connection, space, movement, rest, etc)
What do I actually want to feel right now? What can I do so I can feel more of that?
Do I need to set a boundary with someone? Do I need to have a challenging conversation? Is there something I need to express?
What could I do to create more ease for myself right now?
Give yourself spaciousness, to feel, to think, to breathe.
Sometimes I go through my phone and call the people I think can help. But lately I feel like I don't want to call people. Covid is a weird time...it feels like everyone has too much on their plate.
It feels like it's time to turn inward. To stop reaching outside myself.
And so I call my pen and my journal, and I write. I write out what's going on. Why I’m frustrated. Why I’m in pain. Why I want to eat to numb my feelings. I don't censor myself. I let myself be fucking angry. Or intensely sad. And I write about it. Or thrash around about it. Or go running as fast as I can to catch up with my anxiety, so I can then slow it down.
Once I’ve given my feelings ground to land on, I engage my other senses .
I ask…”How can I bring more pleasure to my uncomfortable experience right now?”
Then I reach for music I love. For soft magical clothing, for mood lighting, for beautiful smells like vetiver or sandalwood or oud oil. Sometimes I take a bath, or just let myself fall into a blanket pile and cry. I try to FEEL the thing instead of numb the thing. THIS IS AYURVEDA IN REAL-TIME. Engaging your 5 senses (taste, touch, sound, smell, sight), instead of dulling out one, and choosing to care for your body and mind, as emotions and discomfort arise (because no one lives in joy all the time).
Give yourself the opposite quality of the emotion or sensation that’s challenging or painful
Anxiety ----> calming
Anger ----> soothing
Lonely ----> connective
Empty ----> nourishing
Changing my view of food to one of nourishment, and not a coping mechanism is the slow but steady game changer of healing my relationship to food and my emotions. Finally removing “emotional” from eating so that I can be emotional, without eating, and I can eat, without the emotional charge. There’s a book called “When Food is Food, and Love is Love”... You can understand the whole book just in that title. Separating food, from other needs, and letting food be nutrition for your body and mind, but not the fixer of all things.
If you’d like one-on-one support through the holidays to stay aligned with your health and to stay in sync with your health goals, schedule a 20 minute complimentary call with me.
Or find the packages listed above here: https://www.wildveda.com/services