What’s behind emotional eating and body negativity?
Stress, pain, anger, resentment, sadness, overwhelm… emotions that are strong and overwhelming!
But why in those moments do we turn to food or altering our bodies to help us cope?
Because we haven’t been taught the importance or the skill to be with and fully experience our thoughts and emotions.
And when we use food and exercise to cope, to feel better, to numb, we’re not able to actually work through the emotions. We simply mask them, cover them up and hide from them.
Which leads to them coming back with a vengeance.
Here’s the cycle that can result…
Feel—> Food—> Temporary Relief —>Feel —> Food... and on and on.
What’s at the very foundation of healing your relationship with food and your body?
Acceptance of your emotions. Acceptance of your body. Acceptance of food.
Acceptance is the best long-term solution there is. You might be thinking, “accepting painful feelings and accepting my body as is will never help me reach my goals!”
But acceptance is the most radical form of self-care and self-kindness there is.
And there’s no better way to reach the ultimate goal of loving yourself *unconditionally* than engaging in self-care and self-kindness.
Acceptance accompanies change because it helps us hold space for our emotions, thoughts, body shape and size without judgement and struggle.
Without acceptance, the struggle is real—> you’ll find yourself constantly fighting food, your body and your emotions.
And when we fight, we narrow our awareness of what is truly important, in turn increasing our struggle.
When we struggle we stagnate.
When we accept we flow.
When you practice accepting your thoughts and feelings just as they are, you may find that your most common thoughts don’t carry as much power as you've always thought.
For example, looking in the mirror. Maybe the thought, “OMG I look awful” typically triggers you to find a new diet because of feelings of shame and sadness.
Acceptance helps you to acknowledge the thought, get curious about the emotion triggering it, and move forward without judgement and without attachment.
Removing judgement and attachment will help you move through impulse to act drastically on the thought... i.e. eating emotionally or engaging in unsustainable measures to change your body.
Next time you find yourself reaching for food out of stress or overwhelm, or criticizing what you see in the mirror, say to yourself "I'm having the thought that..."
By doing this you're calling out the thought. You're not trying to make it go away or engaging in struggle with it, you're opening yourself up to acceptance.
Next, consider if you're willing to allow the thought and the emotion to be there, without engaging in the behaviors that you've always turned to.
Maybe you're willing and you shut the cabinet or you resist starting your diet. Maybe you're unwilling and you reach for the food or you start another Whole30.
Consider which option will help you find a greater sense of peace.
In either instance, you have the opportunity to accept. To move forward without judgement. There's always opportunity to practice acceptance.
Notice. Be aware. Accept the thought and the emotion as they are. Release the struggle. Step into your own power.
I'm a body image, eating disorder and self-love therapist in Horsham, PA.
I help women and teen girls to make peace with their minds, bodies and food and learn how to see, appreciate and love all that they are.
I specialize in binge eating and helping women learn how to stop dieting and really start living.