Let It Go!

How to address and release emotions without eating.

This week in the meeting room we discussed letting it go and what happens when you don’t.

Do your feelings sometimes lead to food?  Have you ever been so sad (or happy or stresses or angry) that your immediate reaction is to reach for something to eat – whether or not you’re physically hungry?  That’s emotional eating.  But once you can identify what emotion or emotions trigger that response for you, you’ll be better able to let it go!  According to Weight Watchers Weekly emotional eating can come between you and your weight loss goals.  In fact between 24 and 60 percent of people who struggle with their weight say that they frequently turn to food when emotions run high.  AND it can become a habit, if you turn to food every time you feel a specific emotion, the two become paired.  But while eating may provide temporary relief, you miss the opportunity to learn the emotion without eating an that the urge will pass.  The good news, just like any other habit, the food-mood connection can be broken and you can form new healthy habits in its place. 

One of the things we spoke about in the meeting room was stress eating.  I know for me I am not a happy eater.  I won’t go on a binge if I’m happy.  I’m not really an anger eater either.  I am a terrible stress eater.  I have two levels – not eating when it’s severe and then eating all of my feelings until I feel sick.  In the meeting room I shared about how when James had his accident I traveled through both scenarios.  At first I stopped eating and lost 10 pounds in just a few days.  I only drank water.  Once I knew that James’ was back to himself the eating began.  Any food that was offered to me I took and promptly ate.  A dozen cupcakes, lasagna, you name it, this girl ate it.  It didn’t make the guilt and worry go away but I stuffed those feelings so deep with the food that I couldn’t hear them.  The other part of what I shared was that when James went back for his reconstruction surgery, I planned my meals.  I knew that I would be in a world of worry and stress.  I knew that if I was given the opportunity I would have eaten all of my feelings.  But what I did instead was plan.  I packed all of my meals that week.  I made sure that I stayed with what I packed.  Did I eat the donuts and drink the hot chocolate that was brought for me….sure did, but all of my other meals were thoughtfully planned so that Friendly’s didn’t get all my money that week while I ate like I had no cares in the world.

In a less severe and more everyday relatable scenario, my oldest son, Nathan has an IEP at his school and for the first few years any time I would start talking about his IEP or even his diagnosis of Autism I would grab junk food and eat it.  It hit me one night while I was actively eating and working on an upcoming IEP meeting that this was happening.  Here I was sitting in my dining room in my workout gear eating a whole thing of cookies.  The stress of his IEP meetings and food became one thing for me.  There was no separation until I took a step back and looked at what I was doing.   Since that night, 5 years ago, I made a rule for myself that I stick to even now.  There is no food while prepping for an IEP meeting or while discussing any issues that arise at the school in regards to the IEP.  It took a while for me to see the connection and I’m happy I did.

This meeting room topic also pushed me to finally post about the roller-coaster of emotions that I’ve been dealing with since November.  The emotions that haven’t lessened, they’ve either grown or intensified over time.  I have this post scheduled to follow this one.

Below is an exercise from the WW Weekly for ways to help you from getting swept up in your emotions or pushing them away.  They suggest that you try these techniques to help you step back, observe and let feelings pass.  This can make it easier to disconnect your emotions from an urge to eat.  NOW…these wont work in every situation.  These steps wouldn’t have necessarily worked for me during the time of James’ accident, but maybe a little later during the week it might have. 

1. Sit Comfortably with feet on the floor and back straight but not rigid.  Let your gaze fall onto a spot that wont distract you or gently close your eyes.

2. Settle yourself and focus your breath moving in and out of your body.

3. Imagine a blue sky with fluffy clouds lightly drifting across it.  Notice thoughts, images and feelings and imagine that each is a cloud passing by.

4. Mentally step back to observe and label each cloud.  Maybe its a thought about work, a feeling of frustration, or an urge to eat.  You’re not trying to change or stop the clouds, just watching, describing and letting feelings and thoughts pass by.

5. Continue for two minutes, gently bring your attention back to your breath, slowly inhaling and exhaling three times, then back to the present.

Practice these steps when an emotional trigger forces you to feel like you want to eat. Over time you’ll naturally turn to this technique to let the urge pass.

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