What are your thoughts on this? Have you been successful at kicking emotional eating?
Do you feel shame and guilt when you reach for comfort food, like macaroni and cheese or chocolate chip cookies?
Do you feel like your brain is wired the wrong way, and you are “addicted” to pumpkin pie, candy or just sweet things in general? Do you try to practice mindful eating when you want to eat, aware of the emotions and body signals that are surrounding your thoughts and food choices?
We do it all the time. Have you never been to a wedding and enjoyed the cake?
Unless it’s fruit cake. But maybe you like fruitcake. Maybe you never ate my mom’s.
Maybe you walked in to a room, where fresh coffee was brewing and you were transported to the time when snow was falling, buses were cancelled, and pyjamas were the Outfit of the Day. And don’t tell me you don’t feel glee at the first bite of your birthday cake, if that’s your thing.
Sometimes we also want to experience a memory through food. We attach memories to meals, and food is so much more than fuel. It is parties, gatherings, connecting with friends, or relaxing in the kitchen. It’s generational, handed down, passed on and the building blocks of story.
When the comforting with food reaches a place where your body feels sick after, and your mind talks shame and guilt, well, comfort food turns to just plain uncomfortable. When you can't face how you feel and eat your feelings, comfort food and eating to cope have just crossed paths.
At my highest weight of my life, I had just lost my partner and father of my 18 month old. I wandered the kitchen at night eating anything I could, just to numb out. Insomnia made me hungry, and grief made me hide: in food. Again. I’ve been eating my feelings since I was a little girl, and, you think I would have known, at 37, that this whole dance wasn’t working. It never had.
Eggs benedict and chocolate fudge. French onion soup and chocolate chip cookies. Mashed potatoes, and all kinds of sauces. The cabbage salad, that we can’t find the recipe to anymore. You see, he was an emotional cook, and made things his mother and grandmother made. It made him feel connected. In a good way. Not in an eat-overeat-hate yourself way.
… when we cope with food. When we eat our feelings. When we hug the fridge because we aren’t hugging anyone else or talking about the truth inside of us. The truth being that sometimes we are lonely, and we have been soothing that loneliness for years, with food.
The eating keeps going, but the pleasure has faded. The emotions have turned to guilt, shame and partnered with self disgust. Maybe the dose makes the poison, but the thoughts make the poison when some of us overeat. Emotions drive thoughts. Thoughts drive actions. And the “I’ve blown it, let’s go for it” way of thinking around food, derails us.
However all is not lost. Try this, based on Mindful Eating Awareness Training. Try stopping, and noticing, before you hit the “blown it” zone, if the taste isn’t as prominent as in the beginning. Ask yourself this, “Do I stop eating when I start to notice that I don’t taste the food as much? Do I even notice that?” (MB-EAT, Jean Kristeller, 2010)
Another thing to ask yourself is, “What am I feeling in this moment? Am experiencing hunger?” Maybe you are. Maybe you are not. Maybe you are experiencing sadness, or anger or stress. Maybe you are experiencing joy. Joy on a special occasion, like your son’s wedding day. Maybe you just WANT that piece of cake.
The point is, that you know what you are feeling in that moment, whether you ride the joy, or acknowledge the sad, know it. Acknowledge it. Don’t judge it. Let it go. It’s from here, in this place of awareness and acknowledgement, that you can decide to eat the cake. Or not.
Whatever you choose, savour your decision. You have acknowledged something about yourself, and let the cake be for now. Or you have decided to have a slice.
Life, and cake, were meant for savouring, slowly.
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MB-EAT program, founder Jean Kristeller PhD and author of The Joy of Half a Cookie, Jean Kristeller
Andrea Lieberstein, M.P.H., R.D.N.,author of Well Nourished: Mindful Practices to Heal Your Relationship With Food, Feed Your Whole Self, and End Overeating.