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How to break through emotional eating and toxic hunger

When I was about five years old, I can remember my mother and father having a huge fight.  The details aren't important about what happened afterwards. What is important, I think, is that it subconsciously taught me how I should cope emotionally by watching my mother in this very sad time in her life.   I think this was compounded by me seeing her in distress and asking what was wrong, and her saying it's nothing, I'm fine, I just feel like crying today.  Because seriously, how many adults would burden their 5 year old child with marital issues?  I think this one of several instance where I learned, that you hide your true feelings and you eat your emotions.

My mother had a go to treat.  When she was a child, her mother would make her saltine crackers with butter and jam when she came home from school.  This was her comfort food.  It wasn't just the good feelings that this food held for her, I think it was also a way for her to reconnect with her own mother who had died only a few months before I was born.  I think when things go south, a lot of women probably pick up the phone and call their mom.  She didn't have that anymore and they had been really close.  At least as close, if not even more so than my own relationship with my mom.  

Through the years, this is how I handled my own emotions.  It's only been in the past six years that I started to really figure this shit out.  It all was because I started taking hypnosis certification.  The great thing about learning about this amazing therapy is that you are the guinea pig for your classmates to practice on (with the guidance of a teacher).  So you clear your own baggage before you start helping your clients clear their own baggage.  Although hypnosis is probably the quickest way to shift emotional eating, it isn't the only way.  The commonality is shifting your mindset.  They way I'm going to tell you about today is doing it on a conscious level rather than a subconscious level.

Emotional eating can come from a variety of feelings: boredom, sadness, anxiety, frustration, anger, and even love and happiness.  Anytime I was about to eat, I would ask myself.  Am I hungry?  If yes, I ate.  If no, I didn’t.  Second, regardless of whether I ate or not, I wrote down the time that I ate. I also wrote down what I was thinking about and how I was feeling before or during the time I went for food.  Third, if I wasn’t hungry, I would pour myself a glass of water and sip on it.  I did this for two reasons, it was a distraction technique and dehydration sometimes acts like hunger.

I purposely did not write down what I ate because I thought I might start focusing on the fact that I was eating “bad” food or too much volume.   For me, the “why” for eating was more important than the “what” I was eating. 

This is also a time to realize that you hunger may be toxic hunger.  Toxic hunger is when you feel hungry recently eating.  Maybe 30 minutes or so.  This can happen if you are eating a lot of high calorie low nutrition food.  As we eat, we have an anabolic state and a catabolic state.  When you chew, swallow, and begin digestion, it is the anabolic state, catabolic state follows through absorption.  Your body can have detox symptoms that a lot of people mistake for hunger.  You start eating again and the hunger goes away because you are back in the anabolic state.  This cycle can be interrupted by eating nutrient dense food.  What I mean by nutrient dense are foods that are whole and not processed, and don't have processed sugar. In other words, leafy greans, legumes and lentils, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds.  This satiates the body and also decreases your body's detox symptoms while the body detoxes from processed foods.

After a week's time, I had a really good list of what triggers and emotional issues I was avoiding.  So, I began to focus on those emotions and triggers.  I came up with a way to process what I was feeling.  I decided to use the journal I started to identify the emotions to help me to start processing them when the feelings came up.    I started using four areas to focus on to help me process the emotion I was feeling so that I could let it go.  Those four areas are: acknowledge, feel, express, and take action

Acknowledge the emotion

The first part is to acknowledge that you are feeling the emotion.  I ask myself the following questions:

Where does that emotion sit in my body?

If it had a color, what color would it be?

If it had a sensation, what would it feel like?

If it had a texture, what would the texture be?

What one word would I use to describe it.

Feel the emotion

The second part is to sit, examine and feel the emotion.  I ask myself the following questions:

Why am I feeling this way?

Where does it come from?

Where does it stem from?

Then, you feel that emotion, you may need to allow yourself to cry, or yell.  The one thing you should avoid is blaming other people for the emotions you are feeling.  People may set up a situation so you feel a certain way, but it is you choosing to have that emotion rather than a person making you.  No one has the power to make you feel a certain way.  You are making the choice to feel it.  Lastly, you may need some additional support.  Perhaps its just talking to a non-judgmental friend, or making an appointment to see a therapist to work through the tough emotions.

Expression of the feeling

Although expression can be doing the crying or yelling, its also about saying what you are feeling.  Stating your emotion gives you an active opportunity to release that emotion out of your body.  Even if it’s just out loud to no one.  It’s ok to say I’m angry; I’m sad; I’m lost; I’m lonely; I’m bored; I’m in love.

Take action

After you state the emotion you also should try to say “I let it go”.  Although this is helpful with releasing the emotion, you are more than likely going to do some additional work by taking action.  You need to react differently than you used to.  If you are lonely, connect with your friends.  Bored? Find a new hobby or restart one you used to do when you are younger.  Sad?  Find a friend to talk to or journal about your emotions. The point is to take action to make the changes in processing your emotion.

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