I am a dietitian who specializes in assisting women who suffer from eating disorders. Little did I know, I fall into that category as well. The other day, I bolted from my office in a panic, bough a large bag of chocolate from the store and ate the entire thing on the way home.
Did I torture myself because this happened? No. (Side not: the guilt is often much more stressful on our bodies than the fat content in food)
Did I appreciate that chocolate? A little……but not really.
I felt it was high time to examined this tendency of mine and why it was happening.
Having scheduled a larger than normal amount of appointments that day and during my coffee break, I snatched my lunch and perused my unread emails rather than go for my normal mid-day walk.
I have always been enthralled with the opportunity to work with women finally ready to fix their unhealthy relationships with food. By the end of that day, I had come across so many unique and often intense stories about eating body image.
Though I adore working with people, as an introvert, my energy was drained.Leaving work, I was exhausted and I decided to stop by the store to pick up a few groceries. There, I was overcome with a desire to scarf down as many chocolate covered almonds as possible. Ignoring this impulse was impossible for me at that time, so I meandered my way to the candy aisle, found exactly was I was looking for and bought them. By the time I got home, the whole bag was empty.
Once I was finished indulging myself, I began to calm down and breathe a little. At last, I processed all that just transpired. Chocolate was one of my all-time favorite foods (isn’t it everyone’s), so at first I thought this was what caused this binge session. Working the whole day, I noticed the only time I took for myself was during lunch, and even that time I spent on my emails. Then it hit me, and I realized something. I hadn’t been craving chocolate covered almonds that afternoon; I craved actual pleasure. I wanted time alone to process all that had happened that day with all the conversations I had at work. I wanted a breath of fresh air.
So after inhaling those delicious almonds, I checked in with my body: Alright, I’m sorry. It’s been a long day. How did I neglect you? What should we do to energize and feel good?
What I imagined in response was: A yoga session outside, alone. Jumping into bed earlier than normal to cuddle with my man and our dog.
Just kidding. Skipping my normal yoga class in the studio, I instead opted for some feel-good me-time on my home mat. Flowing in my own way, slow and intentional, I relaxed all my muscles according to my needs, making sure to bring pleasure and relaxation to every part of my body. Then, it was time for a delicious home cooked meal, an early bed time and a binge watch session of Man Men on Netflix with my guy and my awesome dog.
Scheduling time for daily pleasure of any type of relaxing pleasure in our lives is so effortless if you think about it, yet many of us simply neglect this need in our lives. You can’t plan joy, love or emotional connection. It happens when you allow space for it to organically enter into your normal, everyday routine, on those unplanned nights or those spontaneous adventures some music festival you read about. If you want to understand why that diet or “healthy eating plan” always fails the next day, you need to ditch your to-do list every now and again.
So why does emotional eating rear its ugly head into our lives?
It’s a response to something missing in them. You eat, often to excess, because you’re bored, lonely, sad, guilty, shameful or even happy. When you don’t allow yourself enough pleasure or cognizant connection to your needs in your everyday life, you body tends to react. It instinctively knows something’s missing, and craving food, often unhealthy food with instant sugar or carbohydrate rushes, is its response. Or a need to shop. Or a nice stiff drink. It’s not always food; we all have our own way to dealing with things and fulfill our need for pleasure when we don’t get enough of it.
Next time you feel this urge, don’t get down on yourself, examine this impulse. Get curious about what needs or desire you’re trying to fulfill. Address them directly. If you”re seeking some kind of attention, plan a girls’ night out. If your craving some or any kind of pleasure, take a luxurious bubble bath, curl into bed early with a good book. You can even enjoy a small bowl of your favorite flavor of ice cream (mindfully, of course).
To be sure, this isn’t the easy solution some look for complete with “Five easy steps to control your sugar cravings”, but it IS a way to connect with your body and understand the signals it sending your brain about what you truly need. Believe me, I’ve tried self-restraint and sheer willpower myself, but the only path I’ve grown interested in these days is exploring ways to effectively connect to my neglected desires in order to best fulfill these emotional needs.