What is emotional eating and how do we stop?
Whenever we feel uncomfortable feelings, and we hate feeling them, the process of addiction actually works.
We feel very upset because of some contact with reality, with people, with difficult situations. We FEEL triggered, upset, troubled, and we want to calm down.
So, we eat, drink, spend, escape. We change the channel. We don’t feel bad anymore, we don’t feel guilty anymore. For about five minutes. Or a few hours.
Then, the medicine of numbing offered by our behavior wears off, and we feel then feel horrible about ourselves and our eating (or other behavior we dislike). We think we deserve punishment!
When we feel awful about ourselves, we think violence, control and punishment will create change. It can force something to happen (but it never works in a permanent, abiding way of course).
Here are the steps to enter a more compassionate state, vs the mean ruler voice that often steals our peace:
1) Notice you are experiencing emotions. I am filled with feeling. It’s uncomfortable. I may even begin to panic about these feelings.
2) Interrupt the cycle. Instead of reaching for something to eat, let’s pause and slow down. Just for 60 seconds. Can you wait for 60 seconds? Can you handle these feelings, without doing anything? Can you relax, even though emotions are running?
3) If you actually eat or do something to help you cope with your feelings, you’ve spun into step 2 on the Sin-Guilt-Punishment Cycle. You feel horribly guilty and like you are a terrible person. But it’s not too late to once again interrupt the cycle and question your thinking.
You’re a bad person, you are wrong…is it true? Are you sure that’s true? Who would you be without this belief?
4) If you still feel bad, and you believe punishment will indeed resolve your discomfort with experiencing feelings like anxiety, depression, or anger which led to escaping those feelings….pause and interrupt at this phase if you can.
Notice the meanness of that voice, and what a dictator it is. “You deserve to be punished, now that you’ve gone and done it again.” Is that actually true? Could something else be going on? Could you be reaching for love, peace, calm, understanding?
Self-Compassion can interrupt the cycle in any place on the merry-go-round. Self-compassion is kindness to yourself.
Self-Compassion reminds us that we can handle feelings, and they won’t kill us.
You can handle this moment. You can handle this discomfort. You can pause, breathe, slow down, and notice feelings are a part of you, not all of you.
Can you imagine someone or something that is very compassionate, kind, loving, unconditionally accepting?
This could be your guide. Your Compassionate Advisor. Maybe it’s God, the Force, Love, Life, a tree somewhere, a Guide, an Angel, A Fairy Godmother.
If you find that you absolutely cannot seem to stop the merry-go-round cycle of addiction: a) Believing your feelings are a sin or crime, b) suppressing or escaping from your horror or discomfort, from your feelings (by eating or whatever else), c) punishing yourself for being a bad person….
….then find people you feel safe with to connect with who can help support you in your feelings, and not want to crush them with an addictive process.
Twelve step groups, therapy groups, spiritual groups, retreats, support groups offer immense value for helping us connect honestly, and breaking this cycle.
You can end eating your emotions, and discover eating peace.
“Addictions are always the effect of an unquestioned mind. The only true addiction to work with is the addiction to your thoughts. As you question those thoughts, that addiction ceases because you no longer believe those thoughts. And as those thoughts cease, as you cease to believe them, then the addictions in your life cease to be. It is a process. And there’s no choice; you believe what you think, or you question it.” ~ Byron Katie