A Simple Solution To Overcome Emotional Eating
If you struggle with stress and emotional eating, you can’t afford to ignore the importance of how meditation can help you.
Are you like many of my clients?
You’re struggling because you find yourself stuck in a pattern of daily emotional eating.
- You’re constantly eating when you’re not even hungry.
- Mindless eating is taking away your appetite for actual meals.
- You’re starting to feel physically drained.
You want to stop emotional eating but your immediate reaction is a strict meal plan – and you know that’s just a sneaky euphemism for a diet.
Plus, a diet is the opposite of what you really want to do when you’ve started to experience the benefits of Intuitive Eating.
You keep meaning to start meditation but something always gets in the way.
You might know about some of the benefits of meditation,
- Decreased anxiety,
- Ability to lower blood pressure,
- Better sleep,
- Better emotion regulation,
but it just never seems worthy enough of your time.
Can you relate?
If you feel increased stress and anxiety in your life right now, you are certainly not alone. There’s lots to be worried about.
In times of increased stress, we often fall back on our usual coping mechanisms that distract us from difficult feelings. If you struggle with food, body image, and have a long dieting history, eating mindlessly when you’re under increased stress is a logical and natural action.
You see, you may have a history of restricting foods, banishing certain ‘bad’ foods from your diet, or you may be trying to shrink your body more.
Food is a natural coping mechanism, and for many of us, it has served us as a suitable solution for times in our life when we couldn’t meet our actual needs. If we grew up in a home without the level of affection or attention we needed, food may have been what we turned to. Food is there for you: it’s never too busy to talk, it doesn’t consider you a burden.
Show yourself some compassion for why you might turn to food. Perhaps you still need to turn to food and that’s ok.
But, if you are at a point in your life where you find yourself turning to food to cope too often and you want and need to stop using food as your coping mechanism, there is one thing you NEED to do.
Stay with me! 🙂
Even if you want to run away when you hear that word.
When I say ‘meditate’ I’m referring to any practice in which you sit and do nothing for a period of time.
Yes, it is HARD in the beginning.
If you’re used to pushing down your feelings of stress and anxiety by working harder, snacking mindlessly and checking your phone, doing nothing can feel awkward.
But, meditation, or quiet sitting, is the key to learning to feel your emotions and what your body needs.
What Avoiding Our Emotions Does For Our Eating
Right now, you might experience something stressful: our body, the news, a work deadline, illness, finances.
For so many of us, these emotions are just plain scary.
Most of us don’t like to feel these emotions. They might cause some pain. So, what we typically do is choose to avoid the feelings and distract ourselves.
But, here’s what you need to know: our emotions aren’t dangerous.
They’re not going to hurt us, but, when we continually distract ourselves, we reinforce the idea that they will.
So we keep avoiding.
If we actually allowed ourselves to feel those emotions, we’d find something amazing:
That our emotions would build in intensity and then, just like a wave, they would start to dissipate.
Unfortunately, so many of us move to distract ourselves so quickly that we don’t ride the wave of our emotions. And we get that positive feeling by avoiding, in which we temporarily take away the pain, that we start to create a habit of avoidance.
All that avoidance ultimately takes us further and further from our bodies.
That disconnection with our bodies makes it so much harder to know what our bodies need, including our ability to know when you are hungry and when we are full.
That’s where the benefits of meditation when it comes to food become apparent:
- allows you to learn to sit with difficult feelings, including the difficult feelings that come up as we live in our bodies;
- helps you understand and feel your emotions; and
- helps you learn to understand and practice non-reactivity.
What is non-reactivity?
Non-reactivity is the ability to hit the pause button between a triggering event (like stress or anxiety) and the actions we take afterwards.
Non-reactivity can be a key part of dealing with emotional eating.
Is The Point To Use Non-Reactivity Help Me Avoid Eating? No!
The point of using non-reactivity is to bring your rational part of your brain online, rather than just your flight or fight response.
And through this you can figure out what you are feeling: hunger, anger, frustration, fatigue, sadness…
And what you need: a meal or snack, a hug, a sympathetic ear, a nap…
Can you remember your last emotional eating episode?
Take a minute to recall how it started:
- Where were you?
- What happened a minute before you began eating?
- Did you respond to a particular food craving, or did you just want something?
Now, let’s see what having the non-reactivity muscle would do for you in in an emotional eating situation:
You would still have that emotion triggered by an event, but instead of immediately and reflexively reaching for that food, you’d have the luxury of time and your thinking brain to assess the situation.
- You could choose to eat in a planned way, sitting down, with your food on a plate.
- Or you could discover that you really need something entirely different!
Did you know that you can learn from emotional eating experiences if you reflect on them with a curious mind?
Download my worksheet, Curious Reflection After Overeating or Bingeing to help you learn from emotional eating experiences.
How Do I Start Meditating?
Meditating can seem quite threatening in the beginning. Perhaps you picture people sitting on cushions on the floor for hours on end.
You don’t need to do prolonged meditation sessions to reap the benefits of meditation, especially in the beginning.
At its most simple state, mediation is taking one minute, once a day to sit quietly while focusing on your breath. When thoughts arise – and they will frequently in the beginning – just let them go.
Here are some simple ways to get started with meditation to help you conquer unhelpful, emotional eating:
- Set an alarm on your phone for one minute and sit quietly while breathing in and out and focusing on your breath.
- If you need something more visual, use the free Calm bubble for 1-2 minutes. https://www.calm.com/breathe
- Use one of the many meditation apps available: Calm, Ten Percent Happier, Headspace, Insight Timer. There is often a trial or free version so you can experiment.
- Adjust your meditation to what works for you; don’t force yourself into a style of practice that doesn’t serve you!
You see, meditation is a secret weapon when it comes to emotional eating. Through meditation, you can learn to hit ‘pause’ when difficult emotions arise, instead of mindlessly sticking your hand in the cookie jar.
If you are struggling with emotional eating and need to break the cycle now, I have a free resource just for you.
Download my e-book, 7 Steps to Overcome Stress Eating today. This guide gives you simple, actionable steps you can take to help you reduce emotional and stress eating.
Kelly Abramson MS, RD is a dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor who works with clients in Alexandria, VA and virtually via telehealth. She guides women as they break free from dieting to find joy in food and their bodies. Kelly blogs regularly at NpowerYou.com and has created a free e-book for download, “7 Steps to Overcome Stress Eating.”