What if I told you that the way you feel about how you look is all in your mind? And the way we have been conditioned is stopping us from achieving that body we feel we deserve?
“It’s not my fault”
“I have a medical condition”
“It’s in my genes”
“I am not one of those lucky ones that can eat what they want!”
These are all the stories that I’ve heard, not only from my clients but also from friends and family throughout my life. So why do I believe otherwise, and how did I get to tell myself a different story and retrain my mind to work in my favour to get me the body I love?
The truth is everyone at some point in their lives will dislike the skin they are in and pick fault with the way they look. Whether that be in their teenage years, their twenties, thirties, forties or fifties. And if you’ve been brought up by those around you always dieting or commenting on their weight, or shape and size of their body, this can be a pretty hard mindset to break.
It then becomes ‘our story’ too. More often than not we then find ourselves being serial dieters, looking for the next ‘fix’ to feed our emotions or facing an eating disorder. Unfortunately for me, I fell into the eating disorder category when I was 17, and sadly it lasted until I was well into my twenties.
The saddest thing about it all was that no one recognised this or stepped in to intervene. In fact I got compliments on how ‘well’ I looked because I had shifted that teenage ‘puppy fat’! I guess you could say back then (late 1990s/early 2000s) talking about feelings, bodies and anything that could bring up a deep conversation was classed as a taboo subject ,so I was just left to get on with my functioning eating disorder like it was the norm.
Now, the clever thing about us humans is we learn things pretty quick so what we did yesterday to survive, our brains quickly learn to repeat and make the same decisions, so then it starts to become a new habit. This is great for when you are wanting to learn a healthy new habit, behaviour or skill, but not so great when it has a detrimental impact on your health or relationships.
When the brain has completed any sort of task or instruction once, those clever neuropathways will spark up and it starts to become a learnt behaviour. When you factor in doing this every day for several years, you find yourself within the unconscious-competence stage.
For the record, this is not just associated with having an eating disorder, this is anything in life!
Have you ever found yourself reaching uncontrollably for those biscuits when you’re stressed or had an argument with someone, when you’re not even hungry and wondered why? This is what we call emotional eating!
So what is emotional eating and how can we stop it?
Emotional eating is triggered by stress, boredom, sadness, anger, guilt, frustration or some other uncomfortable strong emotion where you’re using food to deal with the situation in order to make you feel better – to satisfy your emotional needs.
There are both physical and psychological causes for emotional eating and you may find yourself doing this consciously or unconsciously.
Emotional eating cannot be fulfilled with food. It may feel good in the moment, but those thoughts and emotions that triggered the emotional eating are still there. It is more than likely that you will feel worse than you did before you started, because of the guilt of the unnecessary calories you’ve just consumed. The guilt then kicks in and you beat yourself up for not having the willpower to beat the emotion, making you feel powerless over both your emotions and food. This results in you being stressed and finding yourself in the same situation, again and again and again…
No matter how many times you’ve done this or how weak you feel over food and your emotions, it is possible to make positive changes and put a stop to emotional eating. The first step is to recognise the triggers and situations that cause you to eat. For example: recognising if you are eating because you are physically hungry or whether you are dealing with an emotion or feeling. Below are some key steps to follow to help break this cycle.
Understand the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger
This can be pretty difficult to master at first but with practice and being honest with yourself you can retrain your brain to recognise which feeling is hunger and which is emotion.
Signs of hunger to look out for
- Emotional hunger comes on suddenly and feels overwhelming and urgent. Physical hunger on the other hand comes on more gradually – you usually get that tummy rumbling / hunger feeling in your stomach when it is physical hunger.
- Emotional hunger is usually mindless. Before you know it you’ve eaten a whole tub of ice cream, a bag of crisps and a bar of chocolate etc., without even paying attention to what is going in your mouth or even paying attention. If you’re eating to fulfil physical hunger then usually you are more aware of what you are putting into your mouth.
- When eating for emotional needs, your brain is looking for a ‘fix’ or reward. This is typically down to the reward chemical Dopamine which is easily received from sugar, so you will find you crave specific foods that are very sugary and provide an instant rush, such as pizza, cakes or chocolate, and nothing less will do. However, if you were really physically hungry then any food will satisfy your needs, yes… even those brussel sprouts!
- You will find that you will NEVER feel full when meeting an emotional hunger urge. You will find yourself going past that full feeling and getting to a stage where you are uncomfortably stuffed and may even feel disgustingly sick. Physical hunger can easily be stopped when you feel full.
- Emotional hunger will more than likely lead to that feeling of guilt, shame or pure regret!
Learn to identify what triggers your emotional eating and learn new ways to address those emotional needs. Identifying those personal triggers that drive us to emotionally eat can be difficult at first but getting in tune with ourselves can help us to see what’s triggering us to grab those foods that we don’t really want or need.
Common Causes of Emotional Eating
Looking through the following list, do any stand out to you?
- Bottling up emotions
- Childhood/learnt behaviours
- Outside influences
- Positive emotions such as a reward or treat
Understanding what situations, feelings, places or people drive you to reach for that comfort food is a good starting place to start. Once we identify this, we can find and learn other ways to feed those feelings. A simple way to do this is to learn to attune into your body and ask yourself “why am I feeling like this?” or “why do I feel the need to eat through my emotions?”
You’ll be surprised at how powerful this approach is. This can quite easily get us out of our unconscious mind and become more aware of what we’re doing (which helps don’t you think?). Once you recognise the emotion or feeling you’re experiencing and the reason why, you’ve found the trigger and you can do alternative things.
Some Alternative Things You Could Try
If you’re feeling down or depressed – Call someone who you know will make you feel better, put on a good comedy, have a pamper evening, play with a pet or spend five minutes meditating, doing yoga, or even thinking of those times you have had a real good laugh
If you’re bored – Reconnect with yourself and do something that makes you feel alive. Going for a walk is always good for the soul (this works for everything, not just boredom); look through some favourite photographs, read a good book, or learn a new skill – YouTube has endless videos you could watch to learn almost anything!
If you’re feeling anxious or worried – Reconnecting with yourself and being out in nature is a great way to calm those overactive thoughts. You could put on a song that makes you feel great and gets that energy flowing or even do something that makes you laugh and put your worries into perspective. Something I have tried in the past is to write my worries down, screw them up and throw them at the wall. This is quite powerful!
If you’re feeling tired or exhausted – Pampering yourself with love rather than food is a much healthier way to overcome those emotions. My favourite thing to do when I am absolutely shattered is to put my favourite blanket in the tumble dryer, on the radiator, or out in the sunshine so it gets really warm, then I wrap it around me and allow myself a lie down just feeling that warmth, comforting my aching body.
We’re conditioned to keep going and going, so even recognising that you’re feeling tired or burnt out and allowing yourself to relax and do nothing should be seen as an achievement. Learning to accept our feelings (both good and bad) is the real key when we are wanting to break through that emotional eating habit.
When I work with clients on weight loss, one of the things we look at is emotions. Most people don’t realise they are using food as a coping mechanism to avoid facing their feelings head-on, so they tend to avoid them with food – this can be a real jaw-dropping moment for some!
Allowing ourselves to feel those uncomfortable emotions can be scary at first but when we start to face them head-on, we realise they are actually just showing up to help us understands ourselves better.
It’s not just emotions that can cause us to dislike the skin we’re in. There are a number of other factors such as childhood learnt behaviour and cravings for certain types of food or sugar. Childhood learnt behaviour is where we have been conditioned not to leave food so we find ourselves eating everything on our plates even when we feel uncomfortably full. Or rewarding ourselves with food when we’ve done well – think back to being a child yourself where you’re parents or a loved one would treat you to sweets or chocolate because of your ‘good’ behaviour.
One way to teach ourselves how to overcome this behaviour is by being more aware of our portion controls. If we know we struggle to leave unwanted food then cook and serve smaller portions, that way we won’t be tempted to overindulge.
Cravings on the other hand… one way to tackle them is to ensure you are fully present and aware of what you are tempted to grab and eat. If you can take a moment to stop and reflect when you notice you’re craving certain foods, this will give you the opportunity to make a different decision and understand why you are craving that particular food. If it is something like pizza or chocolate, then more than likely you are craving Dopamine, known as the feel-good or ‘reward’ chemical.
Having the right amount of Dopamine is important both for the body and brain, but when those levels drop our brains naturally will try to find other ways to get it – and we know eating can trigger the release of Dopamine, especially foods containing high fat or sugar!
When you feel those cravings coming on, try to overcome that sudden urge to succumb to the cravings instantly and tell yourself you’re going to wait five minutes before you give in to temptation – this is giving an instant instruction to the brain to hold fire! Whilst you’re waiting, ask yourself, how are you feeling? What’s going on emotionally? And give yourself a new focus and way to release those feel-good chemicals.
This can be something as simple as listening to a good song that makes you feel good, meditating, exercising or just spending a couple of minutes in the sunshine. Even smelling sweet food like a cookie can instantly release these chemicals, so try smelling food before rushing in to eat it and you may find that you actually feel satisfied and don’t need to take a bite!
Sometimes eating ourselves into oblivion can be a way of self-sabotage. If we don’t feel worthy or good about ourselves then we can unconsciously destroy our own ability to achieve our weight loss goals and we can become our biggest enemy.
If this resonates with you then sign up for my free guide on how to stop self-sabotage, for tips on how to help recognise and these feelings and recover from them. https://www.subscribepage.com/o5f1u6
We all know how we feel about ourselves and our bodies can, and often does, impact our health and wellbeing. For anyone who is experiencing negative emotions around their eating habits, or finding their day-to-day life is impacted due to emotions around food and how they feel, I’d always recommend visiting their doctor or a therapist to discuss their issues. Visiting a nutritionist or therapist is beneficial as they can provide a number of mechanisms and tools to help with the journey to weight management and self-love.
A tool that is very beneficial is hypnotherapy as this not only helps with overall mental wellbeing but also helps people change their relationship with food and works on changing those unhelpful patterns of behaviour that prevent people from reaching their ideal weight.
As a solution-focussed clinical hypnotherapist, life coach and professional bikini champion, I have vast amounts of knowledge and experience of working with clients to help them achieve their body and weight goals, helping them learn to love the skin they are in.
Clients like the one below, have seen amazing benefits in their bodies and minds… now that is power!
If you’d like to understand how you can achieve those body goals by using the power of your mind then get in touch today by emailing the words ‘love the skin you’re in’ to email@example.com