Every once in a while, after someone has achieved success in my program, I will get an email or a frantic Facebook message months later confessing that they have started emotionally eating again, that they are falling “off the wagon” and that they are sure that it must mean they weren’t “fixed.” They are terrified of gaining the weight back, they thought they had figured it all out (the root of their problems) and plucked it out. So, why does the behavior re-surface?
I totally feel their pain. We want so badly to be fixed, to be evolved, to be “over it.” I have been there, even when I have been the expert.
What I always tell them is this, “Your emotional eating is sending you an important message. Something is out of alignment in your life. There is something beautiful to uncover here.” It is not happening TO them, but FOR them.
They may want to punch me upon hearing that (I don’t blame them). They are experiencing feelings that feel too big and it feels like it may swallow them, but the feelings won’t lead to their demise. They may be experiencing BIG pain, grief, discomfort, frustration, isolation, feelings they would MUCH rather walk around than walk through. The thing is, “negative emotion” never fully goes away, it ebbs and flows like the tide coming in and out of our life. Once they can allow themselves to fully experience those emotions and move through them, I know the medicating with food will dissipate and they will return again to healthy behavior. They will return to alignment.
As human beings, that will be a consistent part of our journey; daring to stay open to the messages these feelings bring us is one of the bravest things we can do, and how we can be most in service to our higher purpose and deepest desires. Our feelings are always giving us clues into what isn’t working for us (whether it is our thought process, the story we have about ourselves, or a choice that is no longer fitting the experiences we are craving). They are necessarily to re-align and understand what we DO want to feel.
As I’ve written about in previous posts, disempowering eating patterns have very little to do with food. It has everything to do with what we are resisting being present with, and it could just as easily be another means of escape.
With emotional eating, we try to “ride on top of our suffering” as Geneen Roth writes in Women, Food and God. Instead of welcoming our feelings and meeting them with curiosity, we judge them and try everything NOT to feel them. We eat, we drink, we lash out, we blame others, we make others wrong because that is the only way to distance ourself from it.
I no longer struggle with emotional eating in the same way I used to, but I do have my own ways of coping that can stand in my way. As a coach, I have become very adept at dissecting the thought patterns and perspectives that keep people stuck in their own way. I realized while working with my own coach that I use this dissecting approach to deal with my own feelings. I emotionally “analyze” like others emotionally eat, hoping that it will distance me from feelings that are too big and convince myself to return to a state of calm.
I have had a number of situations in the last few months that felt like they brought me to my knees emotionally. I was experiencing so much anger. So much rage.
I really tried to coach myself out of this, and to be honest, I was judging myself for the darker emotions. I told myself that I should rise above this. I told myself like I was so angry because I was hurt and tried to analyze the hurt below the anger. What would my higher self say? I tried to coach myself out of my own anger, tried to be “evolved.” I tried every tactic to release myself from anger. And I just wound up feeling more and more misunderstood and more stuck. Oh, and the anger didn’t go away.
Finally, while speaking to my own coach, she told me to drop the analyzing. Oh no, I knew where we were going with this, and while I felt apprehensive, I felt so grateful to her for reminding me.
“Go there,” she urged. “What does it feel like? Surrender to it. Help me understand.”
As I started getting closer to those feelings, they became momentarily more intense. They felt like hell fire and puke and blood. I breathed into and wanted to scream and punch and hurt someone. I really felt like I wanted to kill. I wanted to wound deeply. I let myself be fully present with all the rage-filled thoughts. I breathed through it, hot tears streaming down my face, half-demonic growling and once I did, the vulnerability of the situation surfaced so clearly. It was right there underneath for me, the wound that had gone unacknowledged for so long, that wanted so desperately to be healed and that I hadn’t seen. I was immediately transported to another place and time in seconds flat. I had been trying to sail above my wounds instead of welcoming them in. Problem was, they would keep resurfacing at inopportune times and threaten my relationships, my balance and my piece of mind.
I felt unacknowledged.
I felt rejected.
I felt deeply misunderstood.
I felt abandoned.
And that pain had been there for a long time. This was not new but my own acknowledgment of it was. It was okay to feel that way. Feelings aren’t facts but they give us a lot of information about what is going on in our internal life, which directly affects our external actions and behaviors. Once I gave myself permission, I could be with them and comfort the part of myself that felt those things so strongly. I could start to communicate with the vulnerability, but I had to walk through the gate of anger first, almost to earn the gold.
They say the most dangerous animal is a wounded one. I am starting to think the same of human beings, including myself. We lash out to protect our wounds and prevent them from being poked. We have to be willing to walk through the nightmare to get to healing sometimes. The nightmare can never actually hurt us. After all, it is an illusion, a dream, not based in reality. It is pain we have already felt. We fear what we have already experienced.
We heal by fully experiencing, by walking through and out the other side, realizing we are stronger than we think and braver than we know.
Just as emotional eating numbs us out and separates us from how we don’t want to feel, it also separates us from how we long to feel, so does over-analyzing and judging our emotions. You don’t get to experience joy fully if you won’t be with sorrow.
Of course, as I was pondering this, I came across a poem by Rumi that spoke to everything. Synchronicity.
“The Guest House”
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
So, what are you resisting and pretending is okay? How can you give yourself permission to be fully with the wounds without blame or judgment? It is waiting for your presence.
Rock On & Be Well,