Just a year and a half ago, I had a major realization. I was in the middle of blogging about my struggles with emotional eating when I realized that that wasn’t exactly the problem. Here’s an excerpt from a previously password protected post:
“I don’t have a problem with emotional eating.
I have a problem with being present in my life.
Every solution I’ve come across that’s worked for any period of time has called for my presence in life. When I’m spending as much time as possible in a centered conscious state, I don’t have to work so hard when it comes time to eat. When I’m actually in my body and not in my head it’s (approximately) a hundred billion times easier to notice when I actually need nourishment from food. When I’m present I’m intensely nourished by just being. I don’t need distractions. Sometimes I feel that need to distract myself and shove food in my face and I realize that I’m not feeling my body, I’m completely disconnected from it.
What if, instead of constantly making rules around how much and when I should be able to eat, I made my focus becoming more and more “here” and feeling more and more alive. I’m getting the feeling that that’s when this emotional eating stuff starts to fall away naturally…”
It hit me hard. Especially because I continued to struggle. There was no moment when I was finally done unnecessarily gorging myself, just little shifts over time. That’s not to say that I’m perfect, I just recognize when I’ve shut out the world in favor of a jar of almond butter and I take a step back. No beating myself up. No going “well, that’s it, might as well eat the rest of the cupboard too!”. I just take it as a sign that something’s off. Maybe I’m being too restrictive and not listening to my body. Maybe I’m not making space for myself to be creative. Maybe there is something inside me that needs to be expressed. Maybe I’m just bored and ungrounded and let myself slip into an uncomfortable old habit.
Something I find myself saying to people that I work with is this: eat to tune in, not to tune out. If you struggle with overeating or distracting yourself with food, create a new ritual around meal time. Let food be a chance to wake up, to ground yourself, to experience pleasure, to FEEL. So often we use food to shut out, avoid what we don’t want to look at, or numb ourselves. Instead, take the time to slow down. Breathe deeply. Feel your whole body. Notice how you feel at the beginning of the meal. Chew. Savor. Listen. Smell. Stop when you’re thoroughly satisfied on all levels. End a meal more aware and more present rather than wondering how you ate through the whole block of cheese and still feel like something is lacking (oh, is that just me who’s done that?). I realize that sometimes you just need a snack on the run or that things are crazy, but do your best with it. The body doesn’t register satisfaction if we’re in a stressed state. Let eating be a meditation. Don’t worry about perfection, everything takes practice. Have patience as you get used to a new way of nourishing yourself.