August 2007 - Why You Really Eat
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When was the last time you paid attention to your emotional state or what you are feeling when you eat? Most people do not. Do you eat only when you’re truly hungry? Most do not. Weight loss is the most common reason my clients come in for hypnosis. If you eat only when you’re truly hungry, most likely weight would not be an issue. People typically eat for all kinds of reasons other than hunger and they’re called emotions. You may eat because you’re stressed, lonely, bored, fearful, etc, etc. One reason you may eat when these emotions come up is because you don’t want to feel those emotions.
Somehow, in our society, we’ve come to believe that emotions are dangerous and scary, and that if we allowed ourselves to fully feel them, we might be swallowed up by them, or cease to exist, or some other fear surrounding them. Some emotions can feel rather scary, but the reality is, food can merely be a distraction so we do not have to feel. In addition to the fact that food is only a temporary and unhealthy fix for uncomfortable emotions, if you’ve decided you don’t want to feel your emotions, you may find yourself feeling numb to life, as though you’re emotionally flat-lining. Eventually you discover that you don’t feel much of anything and that’s called depression.
Emotions serve as powerful barometers for what we are feeling or needing to heal. They’re there for important reasons, not to be ignored. There’s also a saying that “what we resist persists”. Hypnosis offers easy effective ways to release the root causes of self-sabotaging emotions, while still honoring and welcoming your emotions as a guide to your healthy inner needs.
I’ve reprinted an excellent article below on this very subject, written by Geneen Roth for Prevention magazine. I hope you enjoy it and find that it opens your emotional awareness. For further reading, I highly recommend the book: Losing Your Pounds of Pain, by Doreen Virtue
Why You Really Eat
By Geneen Roth for Prevention
Blanche, my cat, is my role model. Not only because he swaggers through life as if he deserves treats every 3 minutes, but because he is endlessly curious about every little (and big) thing. He never assumes he knows what's behind the philodendron in the hall just because he's stalked it a thousand times. He never assumes the grocery bag is just a bag--what if it suddenly grows wings and zips through the air like a dragon?
Remember when you used to be curious--when it took half an hour to eat a saltine because you were so fascinated with the prickles of salt on the corner that you forgot to put the whole thing into your mouth? Okay, maybe you don't remember back that far, but look around at any child and see what I mean.
Somewhere along the line, as the stereotypic idea of what we should be and how we should look gets drilled into us, we stop being curious and decide we know all the answers. We know what's wrong with ourselves, and we know how to fix it. All we have to do is summon a little willpower and slap ourselves into place.
As long as I believed that, I struggled with emotional eating. Over 17 years, I gained and lost more than 1,000 pounds--there was nothing I didn't do, try, take, throw up, binge on, or starve on--all because I believed I was too fat. Now when people hear I've been at the same weight for years and that food is no longer a problem, they want me to give them "The Answer."
It Starts with Questions
But to find out why you really eat, you have to ask questions. It's almost impossible to stop emotional eating if you aren't at least curious about the purpose it is serving. You have to assume that no matter how it appears, there are always good reasons why you do what you do.
To find out why you really eat, you have to ask questions. For example, have you ever said to yourself, "I eat because I am sad"? If you honestly examine this statement, you might find you believe that, even though you'd like to lose weight, eating cookies hurts less than feeling sad. But how do you know that? When was the last time you actually let yourself feel sad without turning to a plate of cookies?
Most of us use food for emotional and spiritual sustenance it can't possibly provide. Or we use it to keep ourselves from experiencing the full range of our feelings. But it ends up keeping us from feeling truly alive. What happens if you just let yourself feel sad, or stressed, or angry? You might say that feeling sad will rip you apart, and you can't afford to be ripped apart--you have a job, kids, a life. Or you might say that you learned early on that feeling sad is self-indulgent and that no one likes sad people.
Recently a client told me, "I love my job, love the new city I'm living in, and love the new man I'm with, but I've gained ten pounds in the past few months, and it's driving me crazy. You'd think I'd want to lose weight because I'm so happy, but it's the opposite, and I can't seem to stop." I asked her to write down why being happy seemed to be connected with eating.
Afterward she said, "I realized that I believe everyone has a happiness quotient, and I've maxed out on mine. So rather than tempting fate by having so much of what I want--and have something awful happen to my job or my new partner--I figure I'll make the decision about what to give up. I'd rather be overweight than lose my relationship or my job."
Through being curious instead of judgmental, she began to understand the motives underlying her eating. She was able to ask herself if the equation in her head was actually true--are people only allowed a certain amount of happiness before tragedies start befalling them? Who told her that? Once she saw the whole picture, she realized she didn't really believe what she was telling herself. And her emotional eating began to shift because the unconscious reason for it fell away.
Get It in Writing
The next time you tell yourself that you eat because you are sad or frustrated or angry, stop. Instead, start writing an ongoing "Curiosity Dialogue." Open with simple, declarative statements. What do you believe will happen if you let yourself feel these feelings? Where did you learn that?
Emotional eating is not about lack of willpower, and it won't be solved by dieting. While overeating (as well as undereating) can become a life-threatening health concern, the roots of the problem are rarely physical. We eat when we are lonely. We eat when we are sad. We eat when we are bored, angry, grieving, frustrated, frightened. We eat because we don't know that our feelings won't destroy us--and because food is everywhere, as is the message that it will fix whatever's wrong.
Your job is to ask questions, not manufacture answers. The answers are already there, but since you haven't looked, you don't know that yet. Assume that you are extraordinarily wise and incredibly sane. Because you are.
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