Hello Castaway Family!
I’m honored to have my friend Stephanie Dodier write this amazing, insightful and honest post on emotional eating for you all.
Stephanie is a clinical nutritionist, honors graduate from Institute of Holistic Nutrition, podcaster, blogger, self-love and self-care advocate and over all amazing woman.
She is also you, and me and all of us who can relate to using food to cope. Her own personal struggles combined with her insight are a pretty magical combination. I can’t wait for you to devour this great article she let me share with you all!
The Other Reason Why We Eat by Stephanie Dodier
We have to eat to fuel and survive, but you and I know that’s not the only reason we eat. We eat even when we’re not hungry. Sometimes, we eat more than we should.
Why is that? Why do we eat when we aren’t hungry? That the questions I have been asking myself for the last 3 years… and there is no one answer for all of us. There is root cause reason for eating when not hungry: stress, gut dysbiosis, superwoman syndrome, posture, movement, hormones, body image, self-love, diet mindset, etc… we will touch on all of them at the end of this article but for now let’s look at the most common reason why we eat when not hungry: Emotions.
We eat when we’re happy. We usually celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with a lavish feast. A birthday party isn’t complete without a birthday cake and some party food.
We also eat when we’re sad or stressed out. Some people have their favorite comfort food which they use as an antidote for sadness or heartbreak. Some people find relief from stress when they’re chewing on something.
It seems that our eating habits are somehow influenced by our emotions, whether they are positive or negative, which brings me to my next point…
We Are All Emotional Eaters!
Ever thought of yourself as an emotional eater and worried about it? Well, here’s a news flash for you: We are all emotional eaters in one way or another.
Our emotions affect our decision and choices. It’s an inconvertible fact. Over time and experience, we begin to establish deeper associative pathways in our minds/ brains that will link certain emotions with food (sometimes a specific food for a specific emotion).
In my case, some of the neural pathways associated with my eating habits originated from my early childhood. As a rule, I don’t eat sugar, but I have a special liking for sugar pie. I associate this particular food item with family gatherings and happy childhood memories. And yes, once a year, I consciously allow myself to eat sugar pie whenever we go to the sugar shack as a family.
(A sugar shack is a place where maple syrup is made. Holding a yearly feast in the shack is a tradition that has been in our family for generations. I’m French-Canadian, by the way.)
Celebrating with food is fine as long as you don’t make it an excuse to overeat. Also, if you can serve healthy dishes at special dinners and parties, that’s even better!
But emotional eating has a sinister side that we all are familiar with, which is why we all need to recognize the signs of emotional eating and take charge of our eating habits.
Eating as a Coping Mechanism
Sometimes, life can be overwhelming. A loved one dies. A lover leaves. A job proves to be too demanding. We sometimes find ourselves awash in emotions that make it difficult for us to function.
We also experience everyday “pinpricks”—unpleasant situations that are trivial compared to major disasters, but are nevertheless painful and/or uncomfortable.
Some of us have inner demons to fight—traumas, unpleasant memories, insecurities, fears, etc.
At some point in our lives, we’ve all had to face some emotional difficulties (who hasn’t?), and many of us have used food to cope. I’m not any different. I began self-soothing with food at 11 years old and continued to do so for 25 years. I had no idea what I was doing.
At the end of a long and stressful day, I’d reach out for a bag of chips, plop on the couch, and watch TV. That was the only way I knew how to relax. Every time I faced failure and felt sad, I’d look for something to eat even when I wasn’t hungry. I’d feel like eating a whole mountain of food! Whenever I was successful in something and could barely contain my joy, I’d always celebrate with food.
I used food as a coping mechanism for my overwhelming emotions, whether they were good or bad. Whenever I felt that I couldn’t manage my emotions, I’d turn to food.
The result wasn’t pretty. I was 300 lbs+ overweight. I suffered from hypertension, pre-diabetes, and other conditions associated with obesity.
The problem with using eating as a coping mechanism is that it leads to over eating because we never really solve the reason why we eat (our emotions) by eating. So the emotions keep coming back, resurfacing and we eat more and more never finding the solution to our unpleasant feelings.
The First Step Towards Healing
Fortunately, I became aware of my emotional eating before it wreaked any further havoc on my health. The first step in healing emotional eating is just that — awareness and acceptance. It’s the first step to healing anything and it’s also the first step of the Dodier protocol which I created and currently use to help my patients overcome emotional eating.
Now that we understand that we eat to avoid feeling emotions, we know that the solution to emotional eating is simple: Learn to feel the emotion.
Emotions are like ocean waves: they come up, roll over, and then simply go away. They always follow the exact same pattern. They come up. We feel a mad onrush of sensations. Then the emotions subside and sensations go away.
But this is what emotional eaters do: Emotions come up and they feel the onrush of sensations. Then they turn to food to numb these sensations because they can’t cope with them. They want them to go away in an instant, so they never let their emotions subside naturally.
Knowing the mechanics of emotional eating is critically important for you to be able to overcome it and be in control of your eating habits.
Ride the Wave and Start Being in Charge!
The way to stop being a victim of emotional eating is to actually learn to ride the wave. Ride the onrush of sensations when you have an overwhelming emotion and know that these sensations will just subside. You’re not going to be stuck with them forever.
You must know that there is no need for you to use food as a means of numbing the sensations that come along with overwhelming emotions. A simple breathing technique like the one I teach in my book, The Crave Cure, will allow you to ride the wave without food. It’s call the Crave Cure Formula.
This concept has changed my life for the better, and I hope it will change yours, too!
The OTHERS reasons why we eat that have nothing to do with FOOD!
As I mentioned earlier there is many reason other than emotions why we eat when not hungry: from hormonal imbalance to lack of motivation, EMF, posture, Self-love, Diet mentality, Food Restriction, Energetic of food, stress, food addiction, trauma, relationship with self, gut health, Superwomen Syndrome (I have this one! You?) Lack of movement and too much exercise, Being unhappy and finally what many of us are afflicted with food obsession.
To help you untangle all of these root causes and find solutions that will work for you I have a free online conference coming up on November 1st-8th 2017 the Going Beyond The Food Project that will host 21 MD’s, ND’s, and other health and wellness experts that will address every one of these issues. We have 3 tracks to follow: Body / Mental & Emotional and lastly Case Study. Cristina will be part of the case study track along with myself and Leanne Vogel (of Healthful Pursuit) and we will all share with you our personal story and journey with food.
To Ditch the Diet Mindset, Transform your relationship to Food and Feel Good for Good I hope to see you in the conference and interact with you during the daily wrap session!