Eating for Comfort and Relief - Food as Mood Regulator
If you have used food to cope with stress, anxiety, boredom or uncertainty you are not alone. I understand. Riding the emotional rollercoaster can be challenging and daunting. A quick snack, i.e. a chocolate bar or a bag of chips can put a quick bandaid on the emotional pain, however, may provide only short-lived comfort and relief.
It is only human to want to escape a painful reality. Very few of us have learned to be okay with feeling all of our feelings and to navigate the spectrum of emotional states. Eating for relief or comfort is a powerful (and proven) ritual for taking the edge off, to numb and escape a painful reality.
Thankfully there is another way. Eating instead of feeling is an emotional survival strategy, which deserves our thorough exploration and compassionate understanding. If someone has relied on food as a good friend during tough times, one can't simply stop this behavior before having a new self-soothing and comforting ritual in place.
Here, the inner child work comes in. When we compassionately embrace our inner child and offer them emotional comfort, protection and unconditional love - the relationship with food can change over time. "Re-parenting" means supporting the young part of one's psyche (the inner child) by honoring our needs, desires, hopes and dreams - as well as providing unconditional emotional support during times of distress.
Yes, giving a child an ice cream when they hurt their knee is a sweet gesture. But we wouldn't give a child ice cream every time they are in need of emotional comfort. Imagine soothing a kid in distress... what gestures would you use, what tone of voice? What simple and encouraging messages would you offer? Would you hold the child and make him/her feel safe? I invite you to extend this form of loving-kindness and support to yourself now that you are an adult. This will create a shift from "eating in order to numb" to feeling and accepting difficult emotions.
Feelings are messengers. We all feel upset, stressed, scared and anxious at times. That's part of being human. The emotional eater can learn to "lean into" their feelings without the need to numb them by eating. This is a longer therapeutic process, which will lead to having a relaxed, healthy and peaceful relationship with food - over time.
I will be teaching a half-day workshop on May 20th in Santa Barbara at the Family Therapy Institute: "Self-Care for the Heart & Soul". Click here to learn more and reserve your space.
I am here to support you.
You can be at peace with food and your body! Please reach out to me to schedule your pre-workshop phone call, or to schedule your initial complimentary consultation for working with me one-on-one. I look forward to speaking with you soon.