Emotional eaters often reach for food to temporarily numb themselves of their feelings. The problem with this is that when feelings are avoided and ignored, they haven't been dealt with and as a result, will continue to keep coming back with strong intensity. This leads to a vicious cycle of emotional eating and negative or strong feelings.
While avoiding strong feelings may temporarily make you feel better, we can't break free of the emotional eating cycle until we learn to sit with our feelings. This means identifying and acknowledging our feelings and like many things, this is a skill that can be developed with practice. So to successfully manage emotional eating, we need to start feeling our feelings. So, how exactly is this done?
Here are 5 Ways to Start Feeling your Feelings:
1. Slow Down
You won’t be able to notice or pay attention to your feelings if you’re always on the go and distracting yourself. Taking a few moments each day to check in with yourself is a good first step. Ask yourself what's good or bad, if there is anything unsettling or uncomfortable that you are feeling. If you can be specific about what’s bothering you, you can process it with more clarity.
Focusing on your breath is a great way to slow down and bring you back into the present moment, particularly if you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. By taking a few moments to focusing on your breathing, you may realize how your emotions are controlling you.
3. Notice what your feelings feel like in your body
The next step is learning to be aware of how you feel during an emotional experience. Intense feelings may come with physical sensations such as perspiration, a tightening in your chest, nausea, a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, a pounding heart or muscle tension. When you become aware of these physical sensations, you can watch out for them and use them as signals of awareness for intense feelings. As an emotional eater, this is a great way to become aware of strong emotions and ideally deal with those feelings in a health way instead of resorting to emotional eating.
4. Journal your feelings
By writing down your feelings, you may become aware of the reason why you are feeling a certain way and as a result, that emotion lessens in intensity. In my last blog, I gave several reasons for why writing in a journal can help manage emotional eating. If you don’t want to journal, verbalizing your feelings works the same way! Find someone you can talk to about your emotions whether it’s a friend, family member, counselor or psychotherapist.
5. Mindful Eating
This is going to be the biggest challenge for most of us. If you remember to slow down and breathe throughout the day, you can practice doing the same thing when you sit down to eat. Learn to feed your body slowly, mindfully and in a relaxed state. If you can do this, you will learn to nourish your body without overeating. Try taking a minute before your meal – just breathe. If you’re feeling worried or anxious, tell yourself you can deal with that after you eat. Take 10, 15 or 20 minutes to eat your meal slowly and mindfully. Pay attention to the smell, taste and texture of your food. The end result will be a sense of physical satisfaction from your meal, without the need to overeat.
Are you willing to try these steps? If you're ready to break free from the cycle of emotional eating and avoiding your emotions, then give them a chance! If you practice these steps, soon enough you'll be FEELING your feelings instead of feeding them!