You are an energetic being made of the same stuff of the stars. You are nature, personified.
Each one of us is born with an infinite amount of potential. We trust our instincts long before we trust anything or anyone else. We rely on the intrinsic nature of our intuition before we develop our senses. We know what we need. We know when we need it and we demand that we get it. Simple, no?
As we grow we develop relationships, branch out into our communities, experience sensory contact with our many environments and bend to fit the shape of society. This overload of external influences brings us further from our innate power.
We’re more interested in what’s going on out there in the big, wide world rather than in our own vast internal galaxy. We embark on quests to find ourselves. We compromise ourselves and then staunchly declare we ‘won’t take shit’. We clutch at the wheel because we barely recognise who is steering our ship.
We allow who we are to get blurred and our needs take a backseat.
[Tweet “”Nourishment is essentially the quickest route to a greater understanding of ourselves, which leads to greater understanding of all other things. Remember that we are essentially nature. We are not separate from the pulse and wisdom of the natural world as our bodies are always in direct connection with the energies of this planet. Every one of us mimics the earth with our daily and seasonal cycles, and we’re comprised of the very same elements.” ~ Victoria Erikson “]
Feeding Fulfilment gently shed light on what stops us from tapping into our the crux of our cravings. Our emotional, mental and environmental states which act as signposts, showing us what we’re really hungry for.
Deeper connection. Personal Fulfilment. Recognition. Acceptance.
When you’re feeling out of sync, your body brings you back into balance. That’s her main gig. We sleep more when we’re exhausted. Seek out a particular nutrient when we need to replenish our stores. Drink more water when we need to rehydrate.
Our emotions have the power to disrupt our inner harmony, giving rise to physical symptoms which we assign titles to: stress, anxiety, burn out.
Here’s why you crave what you crave: on a physical level
Cravings definitely have a physical basis; nutrient deficiencies, malabsorption and increased energy demands. The origins for many cravings that we experience are often found in the emotional stash we keep locked away.
Emotional changes alter which hormones in our bodies are released, which in turn mask themselves as physical symptoms that we treat.
Consider this scientific little scenario:
+ A shitty day at the office causes resentment toward your boss. You spend the day seething at a snide comment, envision marching into their office and lashing out.
+ That emotion gives rise to an increase of cortisol in your body as part of your automatic fight-or-flee response to perceived fear or stress.
Take-Away: Even the mere thought of fear or stress can change the way hormones travel through your body, giving backbone to the adage ”what you think about you bring about”.
+ The flight-or-flee response is your body in protective mode. Catering to your heightened perception of fear and stress, she jeopardises all other functions by funnelling her energy into the flight-or-flee response you’ve created.
+ Physical replenishment is what the body signals for after it ‘thinks’ it’s been in a stressful flight-or-flee situation. In terms of everyday stress, this gives rise to a false sense of hunger which we fulfil in order to restore relaxation and calm.
Rather than diving into our emotional waters, fine tuning our inner dial so we can surf waves on our frequency, we sabotage ourselves.
Addictions begin. Hardwired mental patterns are reinforced. We hinge feeling good, relieved even, on something tangible. Read: edible.
[Tweet “Addictions begin. Hardwired mental patterns are reinforced. We hinge feeling good, relieved even, on something tangible. Read: edible.”]
To get a glimpse of just how easily an addiction to consumption of food or drink (or both) can begin, consider the fact that diet coke travels the same neural pathways as cocaine.
We choose whatever delivers the instant pep-up we need instead of working through the blocks we’ve built around those feelings. The next time we want to feel that euphoric, carbonated rush we’ll reach for another bottle. Easy.
If the alarm bells of dependencies and cravings aren’t quite loud enough, cast your eye over your social media feed. Large coffees paraded on a Monday morning, often alongside a grumbling hashtag about the work week. Oversized glasses of red are dubbed ‘well-earned’ after a stressful day at the office. A larger intake of food when dining with that person. Getting trashed on a night-out with a particular group of friends.
We internalize perceived stress and convince ourselves that our reactions are out of our control.
”I always eat when I’m stressed”.
”I drink when I have to deal with my in-laws”.
”I always eat so much junk when I’m working with Jessie”.
”I always wake up hungover after a night out with Alison”.
Here’s why you crave what you crave: on an emotional level.
[Tweet “The intensity of your food cravings are in direct proportion to how intensely you are need to address an issue.”]
The intensity of your food cravings are in direct proportion to how intensely you need to address an issue. Take a look at your environment, including the people you choose to spend your time with.
Are they serving you?
Are you your self in this setting?
Are you consuming to stifle an issue that is trying to resurface?
Are you eating to feed a feeling?
The kinds of foods you crave also have a lot to say about how you want to feel.
Smooth. Crunchy. Spicy. Creamy.
They all play a big role, not just on your plate but in their perceived powers to provide a solution.
There are a myriad reasons why we eat the way we do and many styles of eating we can dive into (which we’ll do in another post). Emotional eating has inextricable links to many lifestyle diseases and mental patterns which are reinforced the more we give in, so let’s start here:
[Tweet “10 simple steps for identifying emotional eating”]
1. It’s all in your head.
Emotional hunger has a mental basis. Usually stemming from a thought, your reaction to a comment or situation, mental image, comparison, your inner dialogue and self-esteem.
It exists mostly on a subconscious level and has no credible physical basis, meaning you don’t experience any real symptoms of hunger.
2. What you crave doesn’t fulfil a need for real nourishment.
Your body isn’t signalling you to eat because it needs to replenish its stores of a particular vitamin or mineral. It isn’t lacking any nutrient. Truthfully, your body isn’t signalling for anything…you think it is. (see point 1).
3. The food you’re reaching for is non-nutritious.
Emotional eating doesn’t have your best interest at heart. The food or drink you’ll reach for will be easily accessible, pre-prepared, usually processed and nutritionally deplete. These cravings are intense and almost all-consuming until you cave.
4. There is no stop button.
As you’re not eating to fulfil a physical need, there are no physical signs signalling you to stop. It doesn’t register on a physiological level. It becomes an unconscious act which sees us plough through more food than we think possible. In that moment of ‘how much have I eaten!’ and ‘what have I done?’ guilt sets in and the mood shifts.
5. It comes with a side serve of shame.
We eat in secret. Stashing food wrappers where people won’t see the evidence. Replacing food so that no clues are left. The guilt and shame experienced lead to another emotional cycle which, when not met head on, gives rise to another emotional eating episode.
6. Food acts as a comfort.
When we deny ourselves the opportunity to work through emotions and talk our issues out. When we cling to stale situations out of fear of change we also deny ourselves the opportunity to progress past what is keeping us in these cycles.
Food acts as an emotional support when we take all other options away.
7. Textures of the foods you crave can have a specific correlation to how you’re feeling.
Crunchy, spicy and crispy foods can signify anger, irritability and jealousy. The mouth-feel of the foods is an indicator of how we want to react. We want to scream, make noise and seek revenge and we won’t cool down until we do.
Smooth, creamy foods such as peanut butter, chocolate and ice-cream are foods that soften us. We often reach for these when we want to comfort and reassure ourselves.
8. They’re easily accessible.
Knowing that these foods act as a support system, we ensure we’re well stocked. We make sure there’s a bottle of wine in the fridge ahead of arriving home. We keep our work fridge filled with Red Bull declaring it gets us through the workday.
9. If they’re not easily accessible, you’ll move mountains to get them.
The more intense the craving, the further lengths you will be inclined to go to fulfil them. Heading to the shops to buy bread, milk and a bag of chips. Buying petrol and purchasing chocolate bars for the day ahead. Using the drive-thru at all hours because it’s only minutes from home.
10. We give in to these cycles in secrecy.
People often don’t know about these sneaky food rendezvous. The subsequent shame is so heavy and so these eating cycles occur when you’re alone, allowing you to keep those feelings stuffed down and clear all evidence to keep the pattern a secret from those who may want to help.
Emotional eating affects us all at different stages. If you have a little nugget of wisdom, piece of advice or another tip to add please fire away.
Awareness is power.x
Great tips! Definitely find that #8 becomes a few bottles of wine when I’ve got the rest under control – but ultimately if it’s still a glass here and there it’s still better for me and my heart! Pinned this and the teepee/tent – so awesome!
Thank Sarah! I hear you on the wine. Thanks for pinning.x
Really liked this article. i think it was well thought out, well written and covered a number of points which should help people. Thanks for sharing this post.
Thanks so much Edward! I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂
Love these tips to curbing emotional eating. It’s something I sometimes have a problem with when I have stressful times in life. It’s difficult to handle but it’s all about regulating your emotional well-being for sure. Awesome post!
Thanks Taylor, I’m so glad to be of help.xx
As a social worker and someone who writes about gluten free living I want to thank you for this post! So many people ignored the connection between food and mood! Thank you! (Georgianna)
You’re welcome Georgianna 🙂 Food is so beautifully powerful, I’m glad you enjoyed it.x
This is great. Thanks for sharing Cyn 🙂
You’re welcome lovely Michelle.x
Thanks for sharing this Cynthia, it’s a very interesting and relevant read. I’ll admit I’ve been an emotional eater for years, usually as my way to cope with stress. Much of this post rang true for me. Like you say in point 6, ensuring we feel and work through our emotions is the best way to overcome (or move through) emotional eating xx
Thank you lovely. I think we can all admit to falling prey to emotional eating at one point or another. Here’s to more conscious, intuitive eating.xx
Many clients I’ve worked with have mentioned all these things, when talking about emotional eating. So relevant and helpful and really gets to the heart of it too. xx
It is so prevalent and takes a bit of digging to really get people to open up about. Glad you do the work you do.xx
Such a fantastic article Cynthia, explains emotional eating so well. Beautiful blog xx
Thank you gorgeous Kris. Adored your ‘spiritual hacks’ piece this week <3 xx
It’s like you’re in my head!!! Love this breakdown and so interesting to think about the texture of cravings! Thank you for sharing xx
Ha ha! The textures and meanings is an idea I’ll be exploring more. Glad to be ‘in your head’ honey.x