Can’t seem to stop eating no matter what you do? If you notice that you’re feeding what appears to be your inner child, always looking for a snack or perpetually searching for something to eat, you don’t suffer from lack of self-control and you’re not lazy, stupid or undisciplined. Seriously!
I’ve been an emotional eater since I’ve been about 10 years old, when I was put on my first diet. I finally made the radical decision to stop dieting 11 years ago when my daughter, Cara was about 11 years old. I made that decision The biggest change that occurred from that was a sense of freedom and excitement about being able to eat all the foods I loved. Having no restrictions, I was able to eat what I wanted, when I wanted, and as much as I wanted.
My problem was that I had no other outlet for my stress other than overeating, so I gained about 35 pounds, over a short time.
And here are the lessons I’ve learned, looking back on my 45 year history with food.
Overeating has been your body’s way of keeping you safe. Cutting down on food is not the solution because you’ll only fight harder to get what you feel you need.
The long term answer to managing your emotional eating and balancing your relationship with food is giving your inner child what she needs. Love.
That means learning how to deal with your feelings of overwhelm in a new way. You’ve got to show that more vulnerable part of you that it’s safe to come out and you’re okay now. But that probably feels so scary, let me tell you why.
It’s a matter of survival
Scientists have discovered that there’s a small almond-shaped part of our brain called the amygdala which acts like a smoke alarm. Whenever you’re under pressure and feeling stressed out, your amygdala reads this as you being in danger.
At that point, your survival instinct goes on red alert and your body’s stress response is flipped on. It signals your brain that you’re in trouble and your brain responds by triggering a cascade of chemical hormones that bathe every cell of your body with high flying stress chemicals like cortisol and epinephrine.
Your ability to reason logically goes out the window because all the blood in your head is rushing to your forebrain which makes it nearly impossible to focus. No matter what you do–you can’t think straight. This triggers fears and insecurities that often go back to our childhood. So if you’ve found safety and comfort in food in the past, your natural instinct is to eat when you’re under pressure.
To change the way that you respond to food and the stress in your life you have to spend more time switching off your stress response and that’s a process that takes time.
You can make big strides by choosing to become more mindful and spending more focus on changing what you can and letting go of the rest. Changing habits takes time.
So the next time you find yourself overeating, cut yourself some slack and focus on being gentle with yourself to give your brain the message that you’re no longer under attack. Here are several tips that I use myself and teach my clients that can help you love your body right now!
Start living now: Don’t waste another minute waiting for the day when you’re fully baked and finally perfect. The truth is none of us are! We all have our flaws and accepting them gives us the power to rise above them.
Stop the Put Downs: Sarcasm, criticism and meanness may be the only way that you know to speak to yourself. But it’s time for a change.
Vow to stop hurting yourself. Every time you become aware that you are putting yourself down, or treating your body like trash, stop dead in your tracks!
As you hit your internal pause button, think of what you would need to tell yourself to become your own voice of encouragement. Talk to yourself lovingly in soft tones and with sweetness as you would speak to a good friend or loved one.
Stand up for yourself: Because we teach people how to treat us, your body hating ways may have been sending the wrong messages to others. It’s never too late to start over. Let people know in no uncertain terms that you’re no longer okay with having them make comments about your body or what you eat.
Change is hard. If you’re looking for a hand and want some extra support, I’m here for you.