I used to work for a bank doing corporate communications and media relations. I basically got paid to sit in a cubicle all day and write about mortgage rates and new credit cards so the bank could make more money.
I worked with great people, but I hated that job.
It went against everything I believe in as a human and left me feeling unfulfilled and completely at odds with my personal values and the impact I wanted to have in the world.
To cope with the resulting soul-sickness, I would spend most of the day thinking about the treats I would have that night, “because I deserved it.”
I would get through meetings or stressful deadlines by promising myself ice cream and reality TV on the couch later that night. It gave me something happy to look forward to. It got me through the day.
For so many of us, when we feel unhappy, stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, tired or bored, we gravitate towards food to make ourselves feel better. You may do it consciously, or you may do it unconsciously, but if you find yourself eating when you’re not physically hungry – you’re doing it.
We gravitate towards food because, over the years, our brains have learned that food (especially sugar or processed carbs which enter the bloodstream quickly and have an intense chemical impact on the brain) give us an immediate high – or, at the very least, some relief from the uncomfortable feelings.
We feel bad, we eat the food, we feel a little better (neuroscientists describe this as: trigger, behaviour, reward). And every time we do it, we reinforce the habit of: bad feeling, eat junk food, good feeling.
Over time this habit becomes deeply ingrained and leads to overeating, poor nutrition, weight gain, health problems, guilt and shame. Not good.
So, the question becomes: how do we get to a place in our relationship with food where we are able to use food simply as a way to nourish and fuel our bodies, rather than as a way to cope with our feelings?
We want to enjoy food, but not be a slave to it.
We want to pick and choose when we’re going to mindfully indulge, and not feel like our cravings are in charge.
Now, the way we do this may seem counterintuitive at first.
It may, in fact, be the exact opposite of what you’ve been told to do in the past (but I’ve coached hundreds of women all over the world who struggle with emotional eating, and I can tell you that this approach works).
We do this, not by running away from our cravings or the unpleasant feelings or trying to distract ourselves. Rather we do this by turning towards them.
We stop running and struggling and instead we shine a bright light on what’s really going on inside our hearts and our brains in a very gentle and specific way. And it’s through this open and honest investigation that we finally find the freedom, peace and ease with food that we’ve been searching for.
The monster under the bed is only scary until you turn on the light.