May I just say something? You are probably an emotional eater, especially if you are reading this. I know because I’m an emotional eater. I know because most people I have ever come in to contact with are emotional eaters.
I’m here to tell you a secret…it has almost nothing to do with food.
Eating because we have an emotional craving is SUPER commonplace. A lot of the time, in the beginning, my clients can barely decipher between physical and emotional hunger.
Listen, this whole being a human being thing isn’t for the weak of heart, and oftentimes, eating can take the edge off enough to make the uncomfortable moments feel bearable. Sometimes, your emotional eating can even be a gift in your life, a wake up call to an underlying message that you have been resisting. Don’t believe me? Keep on reading.
A couple years back (while I was actually coaching people through emotional eating), I was finding myself in some situations with food that felt pretty crappy. At the time, I was nannying part-time while I was building my health-coaching practice and I found myself eating A LOT. Now, granted, I had studied nutrition extensively so I was eating a lot of “healthy” food but I knew something felt off. I would feel gross, fat and stuffed afterward. It started to become the norm while I was nannying (good thing they were very cool about my eating their food) and it usually surfaced while the kids were otherwise occupied or doing their homework. At first, I thought I was just bored but then I began to realize there was a deeper issue disguising itself as boredom. I realized, I was uncomfortable in my life and because I wasn’t dealing with it, it was creating discomfort in my body.
I knew something needed to give, so I started to pay attention to my thoughts and feelings when I went for the food. I realized when I was left alone with myself, I would start to feel super anxious, like I needed to move faster, like I needed to do more, like I was being chased. When I paid attention to the thoughts, they would say “What are you doing with your life?”, “Unless you get your ass in gear, you are going to fail just like you did with acting (that’s a doozy),” “Move faster!”, “Be better!”, “Hurry up!”, “You are such a crappy baby-sitter!” The voices were pretty rough and created some seriously stressful feelings. Bring on the almonds and fruit snacks!!!
Instead of listening to the voices (which were pretty damn nasty), I started searching for the underlying message beneath their fervor, and I could start to hear them whispering.
“It’s time to leap.”
“You are capable of SO much in this life.”
“You are such a gifted coach and it’s time to share that gift on a bigger level.”
“The reason you are uncomfortable is because this is no longer aligning.”
The reason they were getting nasty with me was to wake me up, to shock me, because through my emotional eating, I was avoiding listening. It’s not that there was anything wrong with nannying. It was an awesome and humbling experience for many years but part of me knew on a deep level it was no longer fitting. Nannying was taking up time and space that I needed to use to expand my vision for my practice and my impact and that moment was the time to leap. That moment was the time to go full force with my practice, even if it felt scary. I didn’t know exactly how I was going to make it work financially, but I vowed to myself.
“You will find a way to make it work. From now on, you are a full time health coach.”
And from that moment, I’m happy to say I have been a full time health coach. A month after I made that vow, my practice tripled in size, and tripled in impact on other’s lives, and it has only gotten better from there. That was the marker of when things got REALLY interesting in my life.
As animals, we are instinctually wired to run from pain and seek pleasure and traveling in these human skins is tricky. We are part instinctual animal but also a HUGE part human, and our human soul has needs and demands that ask a lot of the animal’s courage. We have to ask the animal to hang out in discomfort so we can hear the deeper whispers.
Having worked with a vast variety of people at this point, I have come to see that this is DEEP work and that it has almost nothing to do with food. It has everything to do with how we USE food to hide from ourselves, from others, from the experience of being human. There are TONS of ways to numb that experience. It could be booze, it could be heroine, it could be sex, it could be porn, it could be the damn iPhone dinging with a new text message. Food is a convenient distraction because it’s easy, it’s everywhere and you can remain a functional human being after consuming it in excess.
Our emotional eating has SO much more to do with what our SOUL is craving. When we aren’t listening to our own internal navigation system and our cravings for purpose, for impact, for adventure, for pleasure, for connection, we may FEEL uncomfortable because we know we aren’t living how we want to live.
The more we distract with food, the less we can hear the underlying message beneath our thoughts and feelings, the less we can hear OURSELVES, resulting in a life pattern that feels stuck and life processes screech to a halt. We start to resign. We start to give up on how we want to feel. We create stories about what is possible for us to feel safe, and live in them, like really melodramatic soap operas.
You want to get real with emotional eating? It’s time to get real with your life. It’s time to get real with how you communicate with yourself. There is nothing wrong with you. You’re not broken. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to look inward instead of outward. Emotions don’t have to be “bad”, even the painful ones, even the uncomfortable ones. They are sign posts. You just need to start to read their language.
On the first meeting of my group program recently, I asked the participants if they had any fears, apprehension or resistance coming up as we got started.
One brave lady raised her hand, “I don’t want to seem like a jerk but a fractured relationship with food seems like such an upper-class, first-world, luxury problem to have.” I TOTALLY agreed that it felt that way.
“Regardless of your judgment, it is indeed real for YOU,”I replied,” So, how can you get past this so you can deal with more important things? What will you do with your life when this isn’t the thing anymore? What kind of impact will you have?”
With the world seemingly falling down on us right now, with suffering at an all time max, more than ever our compassion, our humanity, our voices and our actions are needed. So, how can you get past using food as a distraction and fully embrace your humanity?
Thank you for reading.
Rock On & Be Well,