Conquering Emotional Eating – Part 2

Emotions & Eating – Perhaps a New Perspective Will Help

“Would you like one?” L. asked, opening a bag of chocolate for me.  Calling these chocolate is a stretch.  They were white confectionary candy – with Christmas decorations – like the kind one can purchase at the Bulk Barn.

M. reached into the bag and gobbled one up.  “Spaced,” I heard her say.  

“Wow, what a strategy!” I thought.  “I can eat just one every so often, space them out over time and avoid the binge resulting from total denial.”  “Sure,” I said, reaching and eating it.  It did not taste good in all honesty and Dr. Marie gave me a funny look. “Well, M. said that she spaced them out to avoid bingeing, which I think is a good strategy, so I’m trying it!”

“No, that is not what I meant,” said M.  “I said that I am feeling spaced out and need a sugar fix.”

As I swallowed my confectionary candy, I decided to stick to my story and hopefully the calories wouldn’t count so much…

Odds are that if you are reading this blog post, you have also read my previous post on Emotional Eating.  How is it going so far?  With all of that information and wisdom that I shared, surely you were able to reform your ways, to turn away from food as an emotional crutch and begin to eat like the 100 % perfect person you expect yourself to be!  No?  What’s wrong with you?  There must be something wrong with you!  I get it – your rational mind is no match for your emotional brain!  Well, join the club.  Wow, could I use some ice cream right now!

I’m back.  And no, I did not go eat some ice-cream. Instead, I followed my plan for these situations – I went to go eat some frozen fruit. I feel better, no harm done, now I can move on.  The key there was not to deny the emotions but to honour them and to care for them like a parent does for their children.It is up to my more evolved mind to learn how to deal with emotions.  Our culture mistakenly preaches the maxim of “Mind Over Matter.”  The way I see it is “Mind Working With Matter.”  Let’s explore emotional eating in more depth.

The Oh-My-God-I-just-ate-all-my-kids’-candies phenomenon
Notice how this whole story (two emails so far) of emotional eating came from just one episode of eating ice-cream that affected me so deeply, causing me to ruminate and write about it.  In fact, I have actually gained a lot of pleasure and joy from this “negative” event and there is the trap.  Our culture loves to talk about how bad we have been, how undisciplined we are, how lazy we have become, almost as a badge of honour.  If I wrote about how disciplined I was at eating & exercising, I would be judged as egotistical & conceited.  No one would really care to read about it and I would probably feel embarrassment & shame.  In a weird way, if we want to feel love, acceptance, importance and cared for, a very easy way is to “be bad” and tell everyone about it!How many parents, since Hallowe’en, have posted on facebook “Oh my God!  I can’t believe that I ate all of my kids’ candy today!”  To which their friends respond, “That’s OK.  For all you’re going through, you deserve (here is that word again!) it.  Plus, it’s not that bad – you’ve been good for such a long time. In fact, it is quite healthy to eat junk food.  We need to do these things in moderation every so often.  It is good for your soul and who cares what Dr. Nick says.  I heard on Dr. Oz that it is actually healthy to eat candy every now and then, which means that if we don’t eat it at least every two days, we can stockpile it all and have a binge fest every so often.  And your kids didn’t need it, so your act of selflessness was actually an act of love!”

Self -Sabotage
Many people will inevitably sabotage their own success.  And they will do so in a predictable manner.  A pattern results where they will lose the same 20 lbs, then put it back on; live healthily from January to May, then let it go over the summer; do their 30-day challenges, then do nothing for the next 30 days. What gives?  Why do we do this?

The Big Leap is a very worthwhile read and explains these self-sabotaging behaviours quite nicely,

Gay Hendricks calls it the “Upper Limit Problem,” that virtually all of us face:
Parts of us are programmed to stay safe – not shine or stand out from the crowd.

In this way, we each create our own internal glass ceiling. We limit our fullest expression for fear of the consequences. We hold ourselves back because of a core set of beliefs that we will fail, we will be alone, or success will be burdensome.

And this paralyzes us from making the “big leap” into our greatness and our genius.

In order to avoid a future of failure and loneliness, we sabotage ourselves. More correctly it is our brains that do this to us.  In the logic of the subconscious mind, it is better to be overweight than alone.  It is better to make myself fail than for failure to occur to me.  I don’t want to be successful and have to feel the pressure to always having to be good and to maintain that new standard.

What is behind this “Upper Limit Problem?”  We all have parts of our brain whose job is to give us advice. As we go through life, experience teaches us what to value and we create these mental beliefs and short-cuts to help us assess situations quickly and influence our behaviours.  These parts are calledThe 6 Advisors which I do talk about and explore during our coaching sessions (in case you want to learn more). Sometimes these advisors can give us the wrong advice; for example they can create unrealistic expectations of how perfect we need to be and how perfect life will be when reach our goals. Of course we always fall short of these perfect situations and well, we eat because we’re stressed!

Which leads us to shame.   The feeling of shame is one way we learn how to behave in our culture.  The 2-year-old picks his nose and eats it, at the grocery store, when the line is long and a dozen people are remarking at how cute he is.  The parent feels shame, since this is not healthy or appropriate behaviour and now they are being judged for their parenting skills, so they scold the child. The child feels horrified that their parent’s face has turned from smiles to deep discontent and feels guilty because they made it happen! The child now too feels shame, which hurts deep, but this hurt helps to imprint the lesson of don’t-pick-your-nose-and-eat-it!  Shame works really well and it is a valuable method to teach and instruct, however it can leave scars and wounds so deep that even a thought of having a cookie can trigger a shame reaction (Dr. Nick will be disappointed in me) and then, game over and the entire box is rapidly consumed.  In truth, having only 1 cookie at this point would have been a major victory!

All Is Not Hopeless!
I am an eternal optimist and a great re-framer of situations and perspectives, so here we go.  The key is not to fight it, but to turn to it, to let it overtake you, to allow it to inform you, to shape you and to advance you.  Yes, to advance you.  We need to take the perspective of interpreting the failure as the gift which shines light on our shadow – those elements of our being that we push down and hide.  These shadow elements can become steps to a higher understanding of ourselves, humanity and life in general. The Saints & the Mystics came to realize God, not only as a concept but as a direct experience, by going into the depths of suffering.  The lotus does not grow without the mud and the sculpture does not become polished without the sandpaper.  The urge to eat, the craziness of self-sabotage, and the commonalities of failure – these are all invitations to go within and to emerge as the person that we wish to become.  Isn’t that why we want to eat better in the first place?  To be healthier?  To be better?  The mistake we make is not recognizing how we get better.  We focus on whether or not we achieve the goals and miss all of the important aspects of the journey and the failures along the way.

Any questions?  Please ask and enjoy your new freedom!  Yes, it will be hard but every choice we make seems to lead to hardship.  At least with this choice, we will emerge a more aware and awakened human being.  I think that this is well worth it!

Join me on the journey?

Dr. Nick