Emotional Eating P:2
Did you get a chance to do some Emotional Hygiene as we “discussed” in Part I?
Can I just say that I am simply LOVING your responses to this series?! And we’ve only covered 1/3 of it!
“DO WE HAVE ANY CEREAL?”
“I’m STAAAAARVING!” said Marshall, my most honorable husband, around 9:30pm as we were getting ready for bed. Like many times before when he made such pronouncement, I was stunned.
“But … we just had dinner less than 3 hours ago and you ate, like, A LOT! How can you be hungry again?!” I exclaimed. I know … I’m such a tactful conversationalist and loving wife 😏 I’ll blame the Brazilian side of me for that flawesome personality trait.
“ I don’t know. My stomach just hurts! Do we have any cereal?”
“Um, no.” I responded thinking that I couldn’t remember the last time we had bought cereal. “Would you like me to make you some eggs?”
“Nah. I’ll just go to bed.” He said with a disappointed sigh.
After a few times of this happening I decided to talk to him about emotional resonance.
Just like sound resonance, our emotions are made of vibrations. These vibrations are created by hormones in our bodies which are released when we have triggering thoughts. Sometimes these thoughts are clear to us, but often they happen so fast and so often, in an almost automated pattern, that unless we stop and spend some time being introspectively curious we won’t get clarity on what they are.
Let’s use an example to illustrate how this works.
Imagine an empty glass cup. If you were to tap it with a piece of metal, sound would be created and resonate through the air via sound waves. Similarly the body is a vessel or the cup. The sound vibrating would be the emotions we feel.
Now what would happen If we were to fill the cup with water? The sound resonated would then be more dull. What if we add sand instead of water? Or aluminum? Would the different element impact how the sound travels? Yes. The elements in this example represent the foods and liquids we ingest.
As emotion arises we can dull the intensity with which we feel it by “filling our cup” with a variety of elements. And it works, just as it works with the cup resonating sound. The trick is that this approach provides a very temporary solution that leaves a net negative result.
The emotion is still there and vibrating, chances are that it will resurface promptly after the effects of the buffering attempts wear off. Now what? Add more elements to dull it out? See how this behavior can quickly create a vicious cycle not easily broken?
So, was Marshall really hungry? No, he was anxious. This “hunger” pattern happened almost to the dot at the same time and with the same intensity. Craving would be a better word to describe what he was feeling.
CRAVING: SPECIFIC DESIRES
HUNGER: SEEKING GENERAL NOURISHMENT
Emotions such as anxiety, boredom and excitement can produce the same physical sensation - hunger - since both are regulated by hormones. Even other physical sensations such as thirst and fatigue can be mistaken for hunger.
And here is where the rubber hits the road, we can’t satisfy an emotional need by addressing a physical sensation. It ain’t gonna happen.
As I have expanded on the Sugar Series (links below), excess sugar can provide an intense dopamine hit. Dopamine vibrations, when repeatedly triggered and met by a sugar rush, produce a kind of “crazy high” as opposed to a feeling of contentment.
It can then leave a “flat” feeling afterwards which is usually followed by negative emotions such as guilt and shame, as previously discussed in Emotional Eating P:1
“But Nany, what about ‘comfort foods’? Is that such a thing?” you might ask.
The answer is YES, absolutely! We can eat our emotions and it might feel wonderful, at least for a moment.
Look, I get it! One of my most loving ways to serve others is to bring them food - a dinner to a grieving family, a homemade bread for a new neighbor - it can go a long way in helping us connect with our fellowmen. So what I’m talking about here is not the once-in-a-while outreach of love and service from the outside, but the daily attempts to escape ourselves from the inside.
Connection - with others, self, nature, a higher power - is a much more efficient tool for soothing the soul than anything found in your pantry.
The biochemistry cycle of hormones and survival instincts - avoid pain and seek pleasure - will keep us stuck in habits that may feel as if they have a life of their own. The expression “out of control” is what emotional disconnection with self sounds like. Overtime this disconnection can lead to the development of harmful eating patterns such as food addictions and/or restrictions.
Isn’t fun to be a human?
So here is how we begin the road to becoming more emotionally intelligent: we gotta learn how to use the proper tools to meet our needs.
It begins with the willingness to feel our emotions, get to know them, to be curious. It will take the focus away from the desire to avoid them, to meet such emotional needs with less than adequate tools, such as food. It will be like everything else in life, through trial and error.
Let me be very clear here. This is work. It takes time. It takes commitment. It takes energy, you will not want to do it when you are tired, sleep deprived, emotionally drained.
It will be much easier and more energy efficient to revert back to old habits than to learn a new, more uncomfortable way to deal with your emotions.
So, why do it? After all if you just keep living the same way you have thus far no one will be the wiser.
Exactly. Because doing it, trying and failing in your attempts to do it will certainly leave you wiser. Not doing it already comes with a measure of discomfort, it’s a familiar discomfort so you have learned how to live with it and go through the motions. But remember: not learning how to use the proper tools, not facing your emotions does not make them go away. You will still feel the negative emotion, plus the added layer of defeat after the dopamine runs out and the box of cookies is empty.
Stay with me, there is hope. We can learn how to speak emotions just like we learned how to speak English, well, I’m actually still learning but you know what I mean 🤓
Plan for ‘Joy Eating’ - no need to use language such as “cheat day.” Health is like a relationship, you can’t cheat and expect it to work.
Give yourself at least 24 hours of planing for this step. ‘Joy Eating’ isn’t what happens when the kids get home from school and chaos issues so you lock yourself in the laundry room to eat the Cheetos you hid there after your last shopping trip. ‘Joy Eating’ is mindful consumption of celebration foods (not eaten everyday), either by yourself or with loved ones.
Fit meals within a 12hr period (i.e. 6am-6pm or 7am-7pm). If ‘hungry’ before or after assess your emotions.
Use herbal infusions throughout your day and to help calm your nerves system at night, it’s a great addition to a distressing routine.
Self Care: Mind and Body (more tools on this coming up on P:3)
Consume more beneficial fats which helps you stay fuller for longer and crave less sugar.