Do you ever eat (or restrict) to avoid, numb out, sooth, or distract from uncomfortable emotions? Read this.

I’m back to chat about another one of the core intuitive eating principles and one that can be a bit controversial: honoring your feelings without using food (aka emotional eating).

Emotional eating is eating to avoid, numb out, sooth, or distract from emotions.

Emotional eating can also be when we restrict food for one of those reasons, too.

Do you ever eat (or restrict) to avoid, numb out, sooth, or distract from uncomfortable emotions?

In her book Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything, Geneen Roth says,

‘Imagine not being frightened by any feeling. Imagine knowing that nothing will destroy you. That you are beyond any feeling, any state. Bigger than. Vaster than. That there is no reason to use drugs because anything a drug could do would pale in comparison to knowing who you are. To what you can understand, live, be, just by being with what presents itself to you in the form of the feelings you have…’

I sat with this quote on many occasions when I was learning to honor my feelings without using food.

If you’re up for it, I’d love to invite you to sit with that quote for a moment today, too, as you imagine not being frightened by your feelings, trusting that they won’t destroy you, and understanding that they are a gateway to knowing yourself on a deeper level.

It’s such a simple, powerful truth, right?

You’re safe to feel your feelings.

But man, sometimes feelings feel so scary.

We will keep coming back to the important truth that you’re safe to feel your feelings as we dig into today’s intuitive eating topic.

There can be a lot of shame and guilt wrapped up in emotional eating.

If you take nothing else away from today’s chat, I hope you’ll take this with you: some level of emotional eating is part of a normal, natural, and intuitive relationship with food.

Yes, you heard me!

It’s OK for food to bring you pleasure.

It’s OK for it to bring you comfort.

It’s OK for it to help you celebrate.

It’s OK for it to soothe you.

It’s OK.

You’re OK. 

You’re not a terrible un-intuitive monster if you eat a bowl of mac n’ cheese at the end of a tough day because it reminds you of being a kid and feels cozy.

Intuitive eating is in part about releasing food rules.

So, that last thing I want you to do is create a rule that you’re never allowed to eat emotionally.

In addition to dispelling the guilt and shame surrounding the totally unrealistic idea that you ‘should never emotionally eat,’ I also want to empower you with other, non-food, ways to cope with your emotions, too.

There is really cool opportunity for you to take care of yourself emotionally in ways that have nothing to do with food.

Today we’re going to talk about two ways to do this:

  1. proactive self care
  2. emotional response

Proactive self care:

These are the ways we care for ourselves day in and day out. They help us to feel cared for, not only physically but also mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. They help us to manage stress, build meaningful and fulfilling lives, and experience overall wellness.

Some of my favorite proactive practices include:

  • Eating intuitively – listening to your body’s needs and honoring those on a regular basis
  • Moving your body for fun
  • Prioritizing relationships with people you care about
  • Unplugging from social media on a regular basis
  • Rest, including quality sleep and relaxation
  • Incorporating play and adventure in daily life
  • Engaging in a regular spiritual practice
  • Creating boundaries that allow you to minimize overwhelm
  • Curate a supportive environment and space (home, work, car, etc)
  • Regular emotional processing and support – with a friend, partner, therapist, coach, etc.

This is not an exhaustive list, but rather food for thought as you reflect on the following questions:

How do you proactively care for yourself on a regular basis?

Where is there room to grow for you in this area?

Once you’ve reflected on your proactive self care practices, you can take a look at your emotional response aka how you typically respond to your emotions.

Emotional response:

When you feel something uncomfortable, it can be easy to want to un-feel it as quickly as possible.

But, it’s so important to remember that our feelings aren’t going anywhere – no matter how many brownies we do or don’t eat.

A brownie might give you a momentary break from the feeling but it will be there when you finish waiting to be felt.

This is a great time to remind yourself that you’re safe to feel your feelings.

Some of my favorite emotional responses include:

  • asking yourself, ‘what is this uncomfortable feeling I’m having right now?’ and ‘what feels scary about this feeling?’
  • create a safe space to feel it (maybe a shower, walk outside, bathroom stall, or under the covers in your bed)
  • get it out (cry, breathe, scream, whatever you need to do)
  • once you’ve taken the time to emote, process it (journal, pray, talk to a friend, share with a professional you’re working with for emotional support)
  • separate feeling from facts — your feelings are valid but they are not necessarily rooted in facts (i.e. you might feel like all your friends hate you when that is not actually the truth)

This is not an exhaustive list, but rather food for thought as you reflect on the following questions:

How do you respond to emotions and care for yourself emotionally in the moment when a difficult or uncomfortable emotion comes up?

Where is there room to grow in this area?

Like Geneen Roth says, your emotions are a way for you to know yourself more deeply, which is pretty dang cool.

After all, you’re worth knowing!

xo, Sim

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