Food & Emotions
A thought to consider before getting into how your emotions relate to your eating: ask yourself, are you eating enough, and are you maximising nutrition?
Food and mood are closely linked.
Adequate calorie intake and good nutrition is the first step to balancing your emotions. Remind yourself of the Dangers of Restriction and the Minnesota Starvation Experiment; inadequate intake can cause severe depression, anxiety, and mood swings.
Often unhelpful eating habits and patterns are maintained because we are using food and eating behaviours to alter regulate emotional states we prefer not to deal with, or to block those emotions out completely – often people lose touch with their emotions completely.
Eating problems can sometimes simplify lifes problems. It can seem simpler and easier to focus on food and eating or dieting, than deal with the huge debt problem or the difficult relationship or whatever your particular problems might be. But once this becomes a habit, we can lose emotional resilience.
We want to build up emotional resilience by getting back in touch with our feelings and emotions and learning to face and solve problems rather than focus on the food.
Emotions are healthy!
We all experience emotions. Emotions are necessary to motivate behaviour thats appropriate for our own well – being. Our feelings confirm wether our needs are being met or violated.
Here are a few suggestions to help you deal with emotional eating behaviours:
We need to recognise and name our feelings. Sometimes we have been brought up to believe that its not good to feel or to express emotion. Or sometimes people feel that if they have a bad feeling it means they must have done something wrong. However, we need feelings and emotions to help us make the right responses. Our bodies are designed as emotional beings!
When emotions get intense or chaotic, you may be tempted to escape from them or prevent them from occurring in the first place. Feelings are necessary, even all the unpleasant ones. Anger doesn’t mean you are a bad person, its OK to be angry. Give yourself permission to feel, and treat yourself with kindness and compassion as you feel and express emotion, just as you would a close friend. Try to step away from judging yourself for having feelings!
3. Develop your own Skills for Emotional Resilience
Different things work for different people. Find something that works for you!
Gratitude writing – believed to be as good as traditional psychotherapy in its effect on depression. Make a list of 3 things in detail that you are thankful for each day.
Mindfulness – Practise observing the bodily sensations that accompany the emotions rather than respond to the emotion. For example, with anger you would focus on noticing how your breathing changes, how your temperature changes, how your thoughts are changing. This can help you respond to your emotions in a different and more compassionate way.
Art Therapy – a way of self soothing and expressing difficult emotion.
Prayer – can bring a release of stress and burdens and a sense of peace
Talking – Talking the situation through with someone you trust using a problem solving approach; weigh up and discuss the pros and cons of each option you face
Imagery – If you are worried about a difficult situation that is coming up, you can take some time to imagine the situation going the way you would like it to and how you will feel at the time.
Relaxation – learning to relax your mind and body can help greatly with stress and anxiety, and slow your mind and body down. Many relaxation and meditation techniques can be found online. 2 techniques that are very worthwhile are progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery meditations.
Practise self compassion – do something loving for yourself every day, especially when you are processing difficult emotions.
4. Social Interaction
There can be a lot of loneliness among those who struggle with food issues. People who meet the needs of other people and consistently ignore their own for a host of reasons are often lonely. As social beings, we need interaction with others.
What does solitude mean for you? Is it a trigger for eating behaviours? Or are you substituting food for relationships? Or perhaps for you being alone is a place of reflection, recovery and peace.
One of the marks of maturing emotionally is learning to bear with and even thrive when alone. And your successful ability to be alone is what allows you to have the best relationships of your life.
The successful ability to be alone can mean the ability to feel alone and lonely without the need to seek someone out to fill the void. It can also mean being alone but not lonely, with the void filled with creativity or self -expression, or passion for pursuit of something that matters to you – Rinetta Paries
If you feel you would benefit from extra help with managing emotions please do seek professional help.