The most difficult part of having an unhealthy relationship with food is that we need food to survive. You can’t just stop eating. Like an addiction, you can’t give it up to get sober. Our external world will never exist without food.
Therefore, weight loss can be a huge challenge for some women. Those addicted to food use food to address what needs attention. The biggest trigger for overeating is known to be an emotional imbalance. You have learned, possibly over a time span of years, that addressing emotional needs with food “till you get that fuzzy full feeling” is normal. What did not feel normal to you was the excess weight. There has been an internal disconnect within you for a lifetime, a habit you were not even aware of. An unhealthy relationship with food, and being emotionally out of synch, put together resulted in obesity.
Sprezzatura talks a lot about Physical Hunger vs. Emotional Hunger. It is time we unpack the emotional side of food triggers and bad eating habits.
Understanding and even recognising emotional hunger is a challenge. Overeating is a learned behaviour, not a natural or life-enhancing one. Whenever you eat and the response that follows shortly after the initial ‘fuzzy full feeling’ is self-loathing, then you can know without a doubt that you have just gone on an emotional binge. When you think of binge eating you might think of a woman eating an entire ‘forbidden food’ Checkers aisle. Inevitably you will now reason with yourself that you do not have an emotional relationship with food because you don’t consume truckloads of it. It’s not the volume of food that constitutes an emotional binge. It is giving in to an overwhelming craving that is out of control when you are not physically hungry, that is emotional eating. And that is the unhealthy relationship I’m talking about. Without addressing this problem you will always feel like you are on a diet and battling unwanted weight.
In order to feed what is asking for attention, we must first identify that need. For many of us, this might feel like a brand new skill because we have lost sensitivity to our emotional needs. It is even more difficult to identify what is asking attention while being engulfed by an overwhelming craving. We need to find an answer to at least one of these questions:
- Is there any emotion, person, or task that I am avoiding, delaying, or dreading?
- Am I indulging in black or white thinking and not considering all the possible options?
- Am I blowing the potential consequences of my current challenges out of proportion?
- Which of my needs should I attend to and nurture?
Most people are unaware of their emotions and eat to suppress the discomfort that these feelings develop within them. Nurturing your emotions means dealing with the feelings, to feel and debrief them. Eating is an unconscious automatic response, acknowledging emotions and giving them a voice takes extreme mental focus and energy. We naturally opt for the easy way out that takes less effort and focus. So we eat the chocolate croissant, and the result is the fuzzy full feeling so the void is temporarily filled.
Let’s examine a handful of emotions that are typically stuffed with food:
Eating when you are bored
Only boring people get bored…yes take that in. Tell me what do you have planned tonight that is life-enhancing, contributes to your goals, and is aligned with your dreams? Our relationship with food is our relationship with our inner self. Food substitutes for loving connections, engaging activities, spiritual meaning, even our search for purpose. Part of the process that eradicates food addiction is changing the responses that our brain generates when we think about food. It is the ability to acknowledge when our activity is not engaging instead of calling it boredom. Once we acknowledge we are bored, we have to muster the courage to recognise that boredom is in fact an act of self-rejection. Food is our attempt to satisfy emotional needs when we are not living a life or a moment that we find fulfilling.
Eating when we are lonely
Loneliness is rooted in the belief that we are not worth loving. “I am flawed” “I have issues” or “no one could ever truly love the real me”. It is not about being alone, it is about feeling undesirable. Identifying the difference between feeling unlovable and feeling deserted, like no one is there for you is very important. Feeling unlovable is a matter of self-worth. There is a difference between wanting to share your day, concerns, sorrows, and joy with someone and that person being out of reach or being intrinsically unlovable. Distinguishing helps identify why we feel a void. Instead of stuffing this void with food, we can express our need for connection in other healthier ways. The cure for loneliness is never food. Food might be warm but it does not provide warmth; it may be comforting but it does not soothe. When we eat because we tell ourselves we are lonely, we end up feeling ashamed. This is never the answer to feeling lonely.
Eating because of the blues
When you feel depressed or at odds, it is an emotional state when you have lost perspective about your options. Whether it is options to solve a problem or options to make your life more fulfilling or more/different ways to get what you want or need. When we reach a wall we feel trapped and overwhelmed. In this state, we generally shut down and stop looking for answers or other solutions. Contrary to popular belief, action precedes motivation. Instead of waiting until we feel motivated to try again, we need to get up and do something… anything! It could be the smallest act of kindness, or doing something good for yourself. The best is to do something small that is easily doable, do the laundry. Then you will feel like you have achieved something and things will start to shift. When you eat because you have the blues, it will not make you feel better. It does the exact opposite. Remember that the addiction is not just to the food but to the cycle of shame.
Eating because we are tired
Feeling tired has two sources: our activity level is too low, or the quality of our sleep is poor. The less activity we have, the more lethargic we become and feel. In turn, we are constantly tired. The second cause of chronic tiredness is poor sleeping patterns. This is typically caused by a mind that has difficulty becoming quiet, possibly rooted in chronic stress. Sleep deprivation leaves us feeling drained and understandably craving sweets or anything else that has a chance to restore our energy. A single night with little sleep lowers the amount of blood in the prefrontal cortex; in fact, researchers call it “mild prefrontal dysfunction”. The body actually gets stuck in a physiological fight-or-flight mode, and there are measurably higher levels of stress hormones, which increases your already high levels of stress. The comprehensive solution is to address the root cause of the stress. You are not Super Woman, no matter how much you want to think or prove it. When you feel your plate is always full, you don’t have time for exercise or to eat healthily, and you have an obligation to maintain relationships that you don’t find nurturing, stop and find balance. Plan better and set boundaries. A stressful lifestyle causes sleep deprivation, which leads to overeating.
Eating when we are disappointed
Sadness and surprise are the key components of disappointment. It seems to arise out of our own expectations or demands about how we think the world should be or how we imagined something to happen and then don’t or not the way we wanted. In other words, disappointment is a misaligned view of reality. Looking at it this way could help us accept that we didn’t really understand things as well as we thought or that our expectations were perhaps unrealistic. It is easier for a person to take responsibility for their overestimated expectations and thus reduce it’s intensity when viewed from this perspective. To avoid laden guilt trips try using the word “dissatisfied” instead of “disappointed”, which will remind you that what you are responding to is your own interpretation of external events. Our nature tends to avoid disappointment at all costs, it creates a trace of bitterness within. A deep-rooted pain that you feel was caused by someone else, you blame another for the hurt. Someone else at work got the promotion you were working so hard for, your pregnancy test came back negative, or your fiancé did not show up for the wedding. What is causing the uncomfortable emotion is not what the “other” thing or person did, it’s your thoughts about the situation which is painful.
Overeaters use food as their key avoidance strategy. Disappointment stems from wanting to control every decision, outcome, and situation, the way you planned or intended it to be. You can’t control your external world. What is in your control is how you manage your expectations. To resolve disappointment we need to learn a skill that uses non-threatening, non-blaming communication. Self-awareness and the ability to understand someone else’s perspective is the key. If your boss did not give you that raise or promotion, try to facilitate a non-threatening conversation. There might be a very real good reason behind the decision that you are not aware of. Ask open-ended questions to gather all the information, then measure it up to what you expected.
Ours brains high jack our thoughts to think the negative and then our emotional brain immediately responds with the worst feeling it can muster in a split second. More than likely it will be a familiar emotion rooted in a trauma you have that you never truly dealt with. Stop! Get all the information and facts first, you will be surprised to find that your disappointment will dissolve and give way to dissatisfaction, but all is okay.
Learning to deal with your “stuff” is not easy. It’s uncomfortable and messy. There is a reason why Sprezzatura’s slogan is OWN YOUR CONFIDENCE
A Woman’s Confidence is steadfast and embedded in her worth. It is not something that sways or wavers when the storms rage against you. It’s resolute to great potential and your true value. For you to get to this place you need to work with the messy stuff that is sabotaging your success. I had to learn the hard way that what we put into our mind, we eat into our body, and ultimately is the way we look on the outside. The way you treat your body is a direct reflection of what worth you think you have. If you feed it rubbish then you believe you are rubbish. This is why Weight Loss is SO much more to Sprezzatura than just getting fixed on the outside. Trust me in this one last thing, if you do not work with the triggers and bad habits you have with food then Weight Loss will be futile. You will pick all that weight up again. Sprezzatura wants you to lose weight! But what we want even more, is that you keep the weight off, and in doing so you have to do the work on the inside. Doing the work is the best investment you will ever make.