Hello everyone, welcome to another Wild Workout Wednesday Linkup where Nicole from Fitful Focus, Annmarie from The Fit Foodie Mama and I bring you workout ideas, motivation, inspiration and recipes to try. Join us each week by reading along, grabbing our button and linking up with a healthy living post of your own.
Of all the intuitive eating principles this one may be the most difficult to tackle. I’ve been working on my own intuitive eating journey for a number of years and yet handling emotional eating is still a challenge at times.
We eat for so many different reasons that go far beyond the feelings of hunger. Food has a deep and impenetrable emotional connection. Food is used when we’re happy and want to celebrate. Food is used to cure boredom. Food is used for healing and comfort. Food is used to fill a void when we’re sad. Food is used to pacify us when we’re stressed. You name an emotion and we use food as the answer to it.
When you’ve had a really hard day at work and a terrible commute you might find yourself coming home in an awful mood. You seek the pantry as your solstice. You crush a row of Oreos hoping it will make you feel better and maybe it does…but only for a moment. That high of eating wears off quickly and soon you find yourself back at the pantry looking for something else to fill the void. After eating the Oreos, the chips, the gummy bears, etc. you feel awful; your stomach aches because you’ve overeaten and your inside voice is screaming at you that you’re a failure. And what do we do when we’re feeling like a failure and depressed? We turn to food. The cycle doesn’t end.
So what can we do? Eating for emotions is so deeply ingrained in us. It begins at a young age and it’s one of the hardest habits to kick. But it begins with trying to find other ways to deal with our emotions. Food is fleeting. There is no answer at the bottom of the pail of ice cream and you will still be bored after you finish your bag of chips. Instead here are some tips to honour your feelings – without food.
Allow yourself to feel your feelings
Most times we’re stuffing our face with food it’s because we’re trying to avoid the emotions. It’s not pleasant to feel sad or anxious or depressed. But avoiding the feelings won’t make them go away, so allow yourself to feel them. Take notice of what emotion you’re actually feeling and make an action plan to deal with it.
- Feeling bored – change what you’re doing, make a phone call to a friend, start making weekend plans, dive into a good book
- Feeling sad – allow yourself to cry, journal as a release, seek out others who might understand or be in a similar situation
- Feeling mad – put on loud music and sing or dance, do some jumping jacks to release pent up energy, go into a room and scream
- Feeling stressed – go for a walk, take a bath, write out the top things that are causing you stress and list an actionable step to decrease the strain you feel
Motion Changes Emotion
One of my favourite psychology principles I’ve heard and live by is motion changes emotion.
There’s a reason exercise is a stress reliever, moving your body allows emotions to release. It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do. It can be walking, running, yoga, swimming, etc. But if you’re starting to feel a wave of emotions and you need a way outside of food to deal with it, consider motion. It doesn’t have to be a full workout either, just a quick walk down the hall when you’re feeling overwhelmed at work can make a huge difference in your emotional status.
I’ve noticed for myself that a regular exercise routine hugely helps me manage my emotions and therefore I have way less instances where I might turn to food as emotional support.
The only caveat here is that exercise, like food, can be used as a way to avoid emotions. You still need to feel your emotions and recognise them, exercise is a way to manage not avoid emotion.
Reflect on Intuitive Eating
Anytime that you’re using food as a cure for emotions, you’re not intuitively eating. You are no longer honouring your hunger and fullness, you are not listening to your satisfaction, you are simply eating.
So when you feel that moment where you want to reach for the pantry, stop and ask yourself just a few questions. Am I hungry? Will this satisfy me? How will I feel 5 minutes after I’ve finished eating? You are not denying yourself the food, those Oreos are not off limits. But if you reflect on these questions you might realize that actually you are eating out of emotion and not physical hunger. That quick pause might be all it takes to stop yourself before heading into the emotional eating cycle.
There are ways to manage negative feelings without reaching for food. But like every step in intuitive eating, it’s a process. You might find this particular principle takes you longer than others and that’s okay. Be patient and be kind to yourself. Missteps are completely okay. As always, progress not perfection is the goal.
Do you have any ways you deal with emotional eating?
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