The Truth About Emotional Eating  

Candy FairI am speaking with a young 30-something mother of very young children who tells me she wants to lose weight.

I suggest what I know to be obvious. Reduce the portions, or better yet, eliminate the hard cheese that she devours in large quantities daily and switch to something lower in fat content, like ricotta or cottage cheese. 

On the same day, I tell another client that she might consider letting go of the sugar and refined products, the white stuff. She begins to cry and my heart breaks for her. 

I forget, after years of a much cleaned-up food plan of my own, how emotional it can be to give up those comforting foods. Especially sugar.

And yet, early that same day, as my body begins to feel the 2 p.m. droop that occurs regularly at that time, I too begin to feel that a sugar hit would feel wonderful. Years of training tell me that my blood sugar is actually alerting me to the need for protein.

My brain, little rascal, is asking for sweets.

Strong Ego Required

What I mean by a strong ego is not how we generally speak about ego, when we say, “she has a big ego” – as false pride or conceit.

A strong ego has clarity, consciousness, self-awareness, a self-image that is not inflated or puffed up, and a good sense of who she is.

When you begin to pay attention and be present to what triggers emotional eating, some of what you see may be hard to deal with.

I was in a difficult marriage that ended over 6 years ago. Early on in the relationship – young, naïve, not knowing any better, and with a weak ego or sense of myself, I gave my power away. At that time, I was unaware and I didn’t know what I was doing.

I was uncomfortable, but I couldn’t understand that I needed to pay attention to the discomfort because it meant something and had a message for me.

Later, I began to admit to myself that I was miserable, and still wasn’t sure I had a choice. 

Finally, it got so bad that I made a choice, difficult as it was. My ego was strong enough by then to know that I deserved better, and that no matter what it took, I would save myself from further misery.

If your ego is not strong enough, you may have given your power away to someone else. You may be pleasing people because your younger inner self has always done so, and thinks this is safer than saying “no” when you mean “no”.

To be afraid to disagree with your partner, parent, boss, religion – and to comply – may drive you to emotional eating.

And if your ego is not strong enough to take a position and stand by it, if indeed you do act as if you don’t matter, emotional eating may be what you do to keep a lid on expressing yourself.

Until your core is strong enough, until you see that you do indeed survive when you take your power back, even if others don’t like it, emotional eating might just be the best you can do.

And in this case, deep self-compassion is necessary.

Because of course you are doing the best you can do.

Sometimes, we keep ourselves from knowing what we need to know because to know would be too painful.

Sometimes, denial is the kindest way that nature has for us to deal with tough stuff.

SWIMMERBaby Steps

It’s a great concept and true that if you take small, consistent steps, you can build new habits, new neural pathways, and develop a stronger, more confident self.

You don’t have to terrorize yourself by jumping off a cliff into the water below if you don’t know how to swim.

Maybe you start with swimming lessons in the local community centre.

Though you may never have called yourself a swimmer, soon you are a really decent swimmer, capable of quick lengths up and down the pool.

Now, you finally believe and know that you are a powerful swimmer with excellent stamina. Because you are.

New habits, over time, create changes and inner strength.

Build Your Inner Strength

You have some of your own tools. Maybe you write about what’s going on, or you journal. You talk with people, you sit in meditation. You run, you do hot yoga, you cry, you change your focus. Whatever works for you – use it.

Many of those things work for me.

Avoiding and distracting do not.

Evading makes everything worse.

Thoughts and emotions will literally pile up and eventually boil over. However, I don’t need my weight to pile up too, and it will, if I don’t deal with what’s going on. 

Here’s how to use your imagination and get your thoughts and feelings down on paper. Set your timer for 15 minutes. Very simply:

1. Begin writing.

  • Use a colour pen or font, for your voice.

  • Write whatever’s there in your heart and head.

2. Listen for your Inner Wise Woman, Guide or Inner Captain

  • Use a different colour for her or him. Ask her a question about your dilemma. She may just start talking.

  •  Listen and take down what she says.

  • You may hear the words, see the words or know physically what’s being said to you.

3. Then change the colour again, when you tell her your part.

  • Respond to her, add something, ask another question.

Now, keep going back and forth until you are done. If the timer is goes off and you want to go on, do.

 In the privacy of your writing, find out what’s going on for you and get that inner wisdom going. See what happens.

All answers are within, whether you know that now or not. And if you want some one-to-one coaching, click here for a complimentary Clarity Session.

Over To You

Do you have 15 minutes to try this new writing exercise? Of course you do.

Try it out a few times and write to me.

Do you have questions? Send them my way.

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Copyright © 2014 Miriam Linderman                             

Top Photo credit: The Wandering Faun / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
 Bottom Photo credit: gabriel.jorby / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0

 

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12 Comments

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  1. Miriam, a lovely, compassionate article. I loved your definition of strong ego.

  2. OMG this speaks to my journey towards a strong ego and once when it was weak… Wonderful advice thank YOU!!

  3. Thanks Lisa. Building a strong ego is an ongoing journey as is speaking to ourselves in kind and loving ways. All connected, isn’t it?

  4. Thank you Rosalie. We sensitive creatures need to inspire and love ourselves every single day.That’s been true for me.xo

  5. Lovely post Miriam. I especially loved this: “Sometimes, we keep ourselves from knowing what we need to know because to know would be too painful.”

    It is SO true. So many times in life I have kept myself from knowing things (and usually by hiding them under sweets and cheesy stuff).

    Looking forward to what else you have to teach us in this powerful and important area of life. Here’s to strong egos!

    xo,
    -P

  6. Thanks Patricia, fellow highly-sensitive and creative introvert. Yes, and sometimes not knowing before we can handle things is such a necessary mechanism, isn’t it? Love your work. Keep going and so glad that we can inspire each other. Miriam xo

  7. Thanks for this Miriam. I appreciated the call for “deep self compassion” and how sometimes we keep ourselves from knowing what we need to know because it’s just too darn painful to face. Gives me much to ponder over as someone who plants her face in the food to deny the pain all too often still. Growth is slow but an amazing journey of discovery. Thank you for your gifts of wisdom in these blogs.

  8. Thanks Pennie. Today, those things that were painful yesterday, are easier to look at. Know that this will be so tomorrow too. As you grow stronger, you will be able to change more. In the meantime, your pace is exactly what is needed. Mostly, love is needed and respect for your process. I love you. Know that. xo

  9. Suzanne Van Elslande September 5, 2014 — 2:21 am

    Wow. I loved this! Thank you for sharing.

  10. Hi Suzanne, I’m so glad you enjoyed this post and it’s great to see you here.xo

  11. WOW – “To be afraid to disagree with your … parent … may drive you to emotional eating.” Light bulb moment. I need to go and sit with that for a while.

  12. Lisa, to say yes when we mean no, if we are not used to doing that, will often send us to the food or whatever else we use to numb, because we don’t love the strong emotions that show up when we break away from what’s “expected” of us. And the journey to Individuation, or wholeness, has many choice points like that. Will we be true to ourselves, or to the lie? The lie is not necessarily a lie for others, but for those of us who are sensitive, when our values are being stepped on, we feel the need to numb. It’s as if the body will not be betrayed without a revolt and we head for the food that will make it bearable. Thanks for writing. I know that it’s important for others to recognize that they are not alone. xo

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