The deep, primal, connection between human emotion and food has be known to tug at a few nerves, so before reading this one I’d like you to relax, and continue with an open mind, embracing honesty and kindness as best you can. I hope that my words can evoke a positive transformation and alleviate self-criticism, if not abolish it completely.
Emotional eating goes hand in hand with binge eating and/or periods of restriction.
When we feel particularly out of control we tend to seek control, filling the hole with ice-cream, take-away pizza, chocolate, and wine – cue major Bridget Jones moment. This feasting is often done in secret and sadly comes with overwhelming feelings of shame, guilt, and vulnerability.
On the other hand, when we lose control we may cease eating altogether. This within its own right becomes a form of emotional (non)eating. We may lose control over all aspects of our lives and the only thing we can thus control is the amount of food we eat, or don’t eat.
Therefore, when we are most in need of self-love, in the form of nourishing foods and body confidence, we hit the self-destruct button and go in the complete opposite direction; often because we do not truly believe we are worthy of self-love.
Sounds like you? Don’t judge yourself so harshly babe, you’re not the only one, and you’re only human! Remember the honesty and kindness I asked you to hone in on at the beginning of this article? Go back to that for a moment.
Interestingly, it is often stress which makes us reach for emotional eating. This is because when we are stressed we feel at our most vulnerable. We seek comfort from food in order to numb our emotions.
We try to numb our vulnerability, hence the term ‘comfort food’.
However, in the words of leading psychologist Brené Brown, as much as we try to numb our vulnerability we cannot selectively numb certain emotions.
What we’d all love to say is: “Here’s the bad stuff. Here’s grief. Here’s vulnerability. Here’s shame. Here’s fear. Here’s disappointment; I don’t want to feel these, I’m gonna have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin”. But, this negative thought pattern can cause more damage than you might first think.
Whilst a banana muffin may help you numb the painful emotions temporarily, emotional eating works against you to numb ALL your emotions at once. When we numb those bad vibes, “we numb joy, we numb gratitude, and we numb happiness. We are miserable, and then we feel vulnerable, so we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin”. You can see how the cycle becomes dangerously engrossing. And do you know what? It’s okay to be stuck sometimes! If you’ve come to acknowledge that you’re stuck on this rollercoaster, then you’re already on your way to escaping it.
After years of research, collecting the stories of 1000’s of people, Brené Brown came to a very beautiful conclusion. One which I think can really help us to understand emotional eating. She found that the only difference between people with a strong sense of worthiness, and those more vulnerable souls with low self-worth, is that the people with a strong sense of worthiness BELIEVE that they are worthy of love and belonging. That’s it! They believe. And so should you!
Next time you feel vulnerable to emotional eating, I’d like you to think about which emotions your brain is trying to numb. Don’t be critical, just be curious. I’d like you to use your beautiful powers to put that muffin down, and tell yourself you are worthy of more, you are worthy of love and belonging. Perhaps step away from the kitchen and go run yourself a nice bath, practice yoga, or write down three things you’re grateful for. Then, when you’re impulsive self-destruct moment is over, return to the kitchen and treat yourself to a gorgeous meal. It doesn’t have to be particularly healthy, just a meal that you have created mindfully to nourish your mind and soul.
You are worthy of self-love! You are stronger than your mind.
If you’d like to pursue Brené’s thesis on the Power of Vulnerability, you can find her TED Talk here.
Lots of love,