Is feeling our feelings the only path to weight loss?
Because emotional eaters use food to numb and/or ignore unpleasant emotions it is often suggested that we need to learn to ‘feel our feelings’ and work through and with them in order to change our responses and build up our resilience.
The latest neuroscience certainly supports this approach and tells us that “repeated mental states, responses, and behaviors become neural traits” and that it is possible to literally rewire our brain and create new pathways down a better road. Numbing our feelings with food is nothing but a bad neural trait that we have carved deeply into our brains, often over decades. And even though it is suggested that we can create new grooves to replace these old ones I wonder:
Is the only way to reroute our emotional eating habit to learn to feel our feelings? What if instead we worked on the triggers of some of these emotions?
Now I am not talking about emotions like grief, where a loved one has died for instance, there are situations that are truly out of our control and where we can do nothing to change the trigger. I am more talking about feelings like anxiety, stress and overwhelm which are my most common triggers for emotional eating.
Last week is a good example: I was feeling very stressed at work and even though I am the only one who puts the pressure on me it’s very real because I run a successful business and that comes with a lot of effort and responsibility. In this case I had set myself a deadline to complete a project and it ended up taking much longer than anticipated, meaning that I could not meet other deadlines and obligations. Despite my best intentions it didn’t take long for me to fall into my old habit of reaching for the peanut butter cups to calm me down. 24 in total! Ok, it could have been worse. It could have affected all of my meals that week and triggered a complete derailing. It didn’t. I even lost two pounds. But I was reminded how closely I sail alongside the well worn grooves in my brain.
So what if, instead of feeling the stress and NOT reaching for the peanut butter cups, I looked at the situation that caused it in the first place and removed the trigger?
Sure, stress is part of life, right? And yes, there is stress caused by situations we cannot control (politics, natural disasters, other people’s craziness, to name a few) but that doesn’t mean that everything is out of our control, there are things that we do influence ourselves, like our attitude, or the food we put into our mouths (I know, I know, it often feels like we have no control here but actually, we do), or the way we run our businesses.
I am constantly evaluating what I am doing in my business but now I do so with an even deeper purpose: inner peace and mental and physical wellbeing. What can I do, within the parameters of my own workstyle, business acumen and the needs of my business, to limit the high stress sprints and achieve a consistent calmer pace? One that allows my business to continue to thrive while leaving me more space for nuture and self-care?
When I am not stressed this healthier lifestyle is much easier and I even enjoy it!
Well, one thing I am changing is to prioritize more time off! As of today I am officially on vacation for just over two weeks! My first proper holiday in five years. For the first week I am staying put and plan to enjoy all that summer in our beautiful Pacific Northwest has to offer. And then at the beginning of September my husband and I are going on that cruise to Alaska! I have never been on a cruise but I know what everyone says about the food! So it will be interesting for sure. I plan to have a great time and to keep doing what I am doing. But before all of that I am just looking forward to unplugging more over the next couple of weeks and to going for lots of lovely bike rides in the summer sun ☀️
See you Sunday for Sunday Scales.