Updated: Mar 3, 2022
This principle used to be called “Cope with your feelings without using food” and it was changed because you can use food to cope with big feelings.
You decide. You are a grown ass woman who can decide how to eat and when to use food to make you feel better.
There are 2 camps most people fall in: escapers or numbers. Either you use food to escape your life, feelings, or to procrastinate or you use food to numb yourself so you don't have to feel anything.
Perhaps you are a mix of both?
The moms I work with often are tired of only using food to cope or they don’t even realize they are using food to cope with stress. Busy morning? Forgot to eat breakfast? Chasing kids? Making lunch? Cleaning lunch? Teaching kids table manners?
Before you know it you are hungry, tired, and emotionally drained (partly because you are hungry) from the stress of family life. You eat your lunch while standing, as fast as you can, frantically chewing each bite, nearly choking from eating too fast.
There are many strategies to be employed with moms at this point. Identifying emotions, why they aren’t prioritizing eating, or how skipping meals is causing them to eat too fast are all good places to start.
Other moms binge eat at the end of the day as a way to numb anxiety, stress, loneliness, unhappiness, or other big emotions.
Often I find moms who do this learned to do it when they were kids. As children when we feel stressed or have a traumatic event happen (from big trauma to little trauma) kids don’t have many coping skills available to them. Food is one of the only things kids can control and use to make themselves feel better.*
Each client is different and my job is to help you understand your relationship to food and your emotions; then help you create a plan for how you want to use food in the future. You might be using food to cope after you yell at your kids. Or to self-soothe when you are angry so you don't explode.
You might reach for chips after scrolling through social media and you see your friends gathering without you for drinks.
Maybe you tell yourself you will fold the laundry after you eat as a way to procrastinate.
Or maybe you reward yourself with a huge glass of wine after putting the kids to bed which leads to another. Then another.
Perhaps you use food to celebrate life...got a good grade? Let’s eat cake! Completed a hard job? cake! Meet up with friends? cake!
Another common form I see is moms who are trying so hard to do things the ‘right way,’ but this level of perfectionism in one area makes them feel crazy, food then becomes a way to safely lose control, to let off steam, a safe place to say “fu*k it” and let yourself feel out of control.
There are so many ways we all use food to cope with our lives. You aren’t alone and we can find ways for you to cope instead of feeling guilty, ashamed, disappointed, or stressed all the time about food. That’s draining you and stealing all your mental energy.
To end emotional eating you have to have the skill of holding space for negative emotions. To identify them. Acknowledge them. Name them.
Until you can do that, not will change.
The simple process for learning this skills is:
Re-connect body and brain: Dieting has caused you to numb your body sensations out. Years of ignoring hunger/fullness cues has blunted your ability to feel ANY sensations beyond the BIG explosive kind. Learning to feel your hunger/fullness cues is about reconnect your body and brain so you can feel smaller sensations so you can respond with more appropriate tool. This means you have to put yourself first. And that is hard for moms.
Name your emotion(s): Gaining the language to express how you truly feel by using exact language is the only way you can identify your sensations.
Identify where the emotion(s) are coming from: After naming the emotion, you have to identify what is causing you to feel that way. Is it coming from the current situation or something that happened earlier? Are the acute or chronic? How long have you been feeling this way?
Sooth or Sit? Once you understand what and where the emotions are coming from you can then mindfully choose what to from a place of calm. You can sooth without using food or increase your tolerance to negative emotions with a variety of techniques I teach clients. Learning to be non-reactive takes practice and you can learn how to do it.
Evaluate, change, repeat: After you return to baseline, you need to decide if what is bothering you was acute or chronic? Was it just a bad day? Or are you burned out and need more help. If something in yourself is causing you to emotionally eat, until you fix that stressor, you probably won't be able to stop your emotional eating behavior. This is where self-care comes into play.
Everything is always on your own terms with gentle accountability and support. I help you find the tools you need to be successful and to meet your goals.
You can learn to control food, versus food controlling you. You can learn to use food to your advantage. Eating can become your new super hero skill that makes you feel strong, empowered, and nourished. When you're ready to start your journey and learn to cope with emotions in a way that works for you, book a consult and let's talk.
*Note on Eating Disorders: Because children don’t have many coping skills, sometimes when kids start using food to comfort themselves or use it as a way to feel in control in a traumatic situation or family life, this can lead to eating disorders. If you were diagnosed previously with an eating disorder and have “recovered,” your relationship might still be fraught with anxiety and stress. Intuitive Eating is a beautiful companion to your healing journey with food. It might be the final piece of the puzzle.
If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder please know you aren’t alone, you are not broken, and there many people here to help. Start here for many resources or reach out directly on Instagram and I can point you in the right direction.