Something really hit home for me this week, a bright, white light began to shine and reflect upon on the reality of my emotional eating… not an interrogation style spotlight – which would be just too cruel – more of a “search light”… This is not something I’ve been in the dark about though, having recognized and acknowledged the truth for some time now that, yes (sigh)… I am indeed an emotional eater.
In fact, realizing and understanding this was one of the main – if not THE main – reasons for deciding that something had to change and the IQS Program is now the foundation upon which I’m building a game plan to help me through the process to try and resolve things.
The “search light” that’s come on is helping me find my way through those dark, hidden corners of a room, like in the game “hide and seek”… one where I’m seeking out the reasons for hiding a personal responsibility, that ended up with me avoiding, minimizing or blaming something or somebody else for my “problem” – read emotional eating..
Sounds scary right! but with my foundation of the IQS Program in place, a burst of competitive energy (that I was using SO inefficiently before) has come to life within me and I’m bringing this to my game of hide and seek… the goal is to win this game once and for all!
There’s no doubt that turning my attention to food has always been a “treat”, particularly when my mood changes – when it’s comforting! But things have become so much more evident now, since quitting sugar on the IQS Program, all that “white noise” of physical hunger has gone, with “emotional hunger” all that now remains. It’s as bold as brass, running around… naked! Not a pretty sight either, requiring a towel to cover up and a strong verbal warning – “Streak again and you’ll get arrested for indecent exposure!”
But, seriously, how do we recognize the signs without needing to get naked? – “mind dump”. (Hmmm, I’m not sure “naked” and “mind dump” should really be in the same sentence but hey…).
Over the last few weeks, my “Mind Dumps” have helped me realize that if that demanding, overwhelming feeling of hunger comes upon me suddenly, in an instant even, without the stomach rumblings and ache of a physical hunger – then this is emotional hunger! I have to say, honestly, that this has been SO much easier since beginning to follow the dietary plan – not diet – laid out by the IQS Program as nowadays I rarely – if ever – actually feel physically hungry.
This is in sharp contrast to just a few weeks ago, when I would have happily and mindlessly eaten my way through a box of cereal – think big spoon here too – with hubby just stood there, staring, disbelief on his face, whilst I concentrated entirely on eating!
This was happening regularly… a wanting for more and more, unable to switch off or even register when I was (totally…) full, eating to the point that I would feel physically uncomfortable. A real “food craving” reared its head too… I’d be sat, watching TV but transfixed on trying to think of any excuse to get back to the kitchen, day-dreaming of specific textures and tastes, craving the smell of food even. None of this was being driven by any feeling of physical hunger – those “get me food, NOW!” stomach growls were completely silent. Afterwards, whilst I would feel the regret of my actions, these would usually be softened by some sort of “self-justification” that would allow me to avoid the guilt and shame – although still recognizing deep down, that my eating was NOT about being hungry.
As you can see, my “emotional eating” can conjure up a lot of deep feelings but right now and even more importantly, I need to understand what feelings are actually CAUSING my emotional eating? – Maybe, thinking about chicken and egg will help here…
Using the “search light” to reflect upon the recesses (excuses…) in my mind and having faced up to what really initiates my NEED for “comfort food”, I’ve uncovered just how extraordinary and inspired the justifications I’ve used can get… it’s actually quite incredible how many “out of this world” reasons someone can dream up with a furtive and driven imagination, simply to validate food… as a REWARD!
So… with my emotional eating habit now in the light – it’s time to seek alternatives!
Finally – and this is the “biggie” – it becomes an engrained “habit” and to be fair, why wouldn’t it? As a child, links are created and nurtured in us between food and our emotions. Think about it, who amongst us wasn’t rewarded or consoled as a child in the form of ice cream or sweets for doing well or when you were sad…
The fact is, we’ve been programed this way from a very early age… remember baking cakes with mum? the BEST Sunday Dinners! – full of fun and laugher and what about play fights with food? I used to love stealing trifle from the fridge and watch my dad’s disappointment when he couldn’t find it for breakfast… this one still makes me laugh to this day! All these childhood memories are engrained within us, associating food, comfort and fun. So, can or should we therefore blame the cause of emotional eating on our upbringing?
Our adult life only reinforces this… how many times when we are out socially with family or friends are we encouraged to over indulge, almost like a drinking game – but with food! Face it, food can be and is, so easily associated with affection! “Cupboard-love” has and will always be a favorite way for people to show how much they appreciate and care for someone. Although, I admit, continually trying to feed hubby does drive him mad at times!
My eyes have certainly been opened and it’s provided me with much food for thought…
Right!! My competitive streak is at the ready and as I’m beginning to see things very clearly for the first time in a very long time, so let’s get back to the “game” I mentioned earlier.
I need to WIN and to do that, there needs to be a change to the rules… a new game plan!
That’s the Game Plan in place but what about the relationship with food? It needs to be made SO much more than a just a comfort or treat. The IQSP can help us recognize emotional eating for what it is, as well as supporting us change WHAT we eat but we can also change HOW we eat! This is important because emotional eating can and does become an automatic process, just like I described earlier with the box of cereal – virtually mindless.
Practicing MINDFUL EATING makes sense here… Taking a moment to pause, to reflect when that craving hits us provides an opportunity to do something different. A great technique to help with this is stop-think! Put off heading to the kitchen for five minutes, a minute even and try NOT to tell yourself that you can’t give into the craving – forbidden fruit is oh so tempting?! Just STOP and THINK how you’re feeling, what’s going on emotionally, good or bad, then choose to DO something different! (See the game plan…)
Remember, we hold the power over food and emotional eating is just a reaction to a feeling of being powerless to certain circumstances and emotions which, at times, it seems easier – and let’s face it – more satisfying to avoid by eating, than actually have to deal with them…
We just need to become more mindful… rather than mindless!
It will feel uncomfortable as the emotions we’ve been avoiding or burying begin to surface from those recesses in that dark room but you know what, “familiarity does breed contempt”. Disregard certain emotions and feelings, let them pass quickly by… try not to obsess over or suppress them, even painful and difficult feelings subside quite quickly.
I’m slowly starting to win my own game – “slowly, slowly catch the monkey” as they say – and yes, the game plan will and does change, which is not always easy to deal with but with practice, I’m getting stronger, and I’m sure it will get easier too, right?!
Emotional eating does gradually loosen its hold over us – letting go very slowly. We need to allow ourselves time to adjust, use new techniques but most of all be kind to ourselves.
As for the childhood memories, they will get even better because understanding and removing their association with emotional eating just allows them to SHINE that little bit brighter!