Emotional eating is caused by fear and stress.
Filling ourselves to the point of discomfort is a method of protection and comfort because we know what it feels like—it’s familiar.
The unknown is scary. Life is scary. Sometimes even our bodies scare us; if we start to feel sensations in our bodies that feel scary (including fear itself), it is very easy to want to escape the fear.
Food is an extremely convenient method of escape, and we’ve been largely programmed by the media to have emotional associations with food, expecting it to make us feel better. But emotional eating just make us feel full, stuffed—and the fullness is familiar. Safe.
Indeed, sometimes the process of eating can be pleasurable, but mainly because it’s a sense of relief from breaking a rule we’ve held against ourselves that we’re not allowed to eat.
It’s time to take responsibility for our relationship with food and eat with empowerment. The way to do that is through self-kindness. It’s through trusting the body. It’s through having the bravery to relax into the unknown and allow life to move through you—fear, pain, joy, pleasure—whatever is present.
We reclaim our power by waking up to the reality of our lives, realizing there is nothing to fear, and deciding how we’d like to feel.
For me, it took years to unravel my relationship to food and learn to love my body. My associations between food and safety were deeply embedded in my subconscious, as was a desire to be stick-thin.
Plus, I was running on the belief that self-care was overindulgent and feeling good was shameful, selfish. In combination with a baseline level of fear and stress, it makes perfect sense my body would go to food as a method to experience safety, much-needed nourishment, and forbidden pleasure and sensuality.
Here are some tips to heal your own relationship with food and your body:
Find out what you’re scared of. Many of us are actually scared of living in our bodies, especially if we have a disease or condition that makes us feel helpless. Or maybe you’re scared of not having enough money, of getting your heart broken, of being judged, or just having emotions at all. Maybe you’re afraid of death. Get to know your fears so you know what you’re working with.
Practice having compassion for yourself. Approach your fears with kindness and tenderness, appreciating them for trying to keep you safe. Accepting your fear with love instantly releases its hold on you.
Find out what feels good in your body. Get curious with the way you like to be touched, what kinds of movement you like, the flavors of food you enjoy, what it feels like to finish a meal and feel light, comfortable, nourished and energized.
Decide to trust your body and yourself. Practice listening to your hunger and your fullness. Stock your fridge with favorite foods and eat what you want to eat—don’t be scared anymore. Don’t deprive yourself. Trust yourself. It’s only when we don’t trust ourselves that we break our own rules.
Open and accept the feelings that move through you. Every feeling that passes through you just wants to be felt. Welcome it all with kindness, and there will be no reason to want to escape from whatever it is you’re feeling.
Life can be scary at times, but we can always choose how to respond. It is especially easy in our culture to use food as a way out—as a way to hide our bodies and play small. To use our weight as an excuse not to date, to go out, to wear a sexy dress. But it’s time to summon the courage to face your fear, to accept it, to let it flow through you, to breathe it all in. It’s time to relax into your body, into the unknown.
It’s time to realize that there’s nothing to fear.
Author: Allison Dryja
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Wagner Cesar Munhoz