The Many Opportunities from Emotional Eating
Updated: Sep 11, 2019
In the last post I shared three things I wish I had known about emotional eating years ago.
1. You are not alone.
2. You might actually be hungry.
3. You are free to feel whatever you feel.
This whole post is devoted to the fourth thing I wish I had known. It's ended up being one of the most important for me.
4. You have needs.
This is a big one for me. A lot of the time we eat emotionally because we’ve got some unmet needs we don’t feel like could be met any other way. And in the moment food seems to help with that a bit.
"Too many of us have come to view food as a blanket for our emotions, numbing them as we turn to food to provide the love and comfort we crave. Food is reward, friend, love, and support. We eat not because we’re hungry, but because we’re sad, guilty, bored, frustrated, lonely, or angry. In doing so, we’re ignoring those internal hard-wired hunger and fullness signals. And because there’s no way that food can really address our emotions, we eat and eat and eat, but never feel satisfied.” - Health At Every Size; the Surprising Truth About Your Weight
Having needs in and of themselves can feel selfish and shameful. But… that’s not how God feels about them. Having needs and feelings are key to being human. It’s the design. His design. My hunch is that He designed it like that because these are two of His favorite ways to meet us where we're at and care for us.
It’s been revolutionary for me to learn that emotional eating offers numerous opportunities. Here's the first one I learned.
It's an opportunity for us to connect with ourselves and our feelings.
I used to think I had to shut down my feelings. I thought paying attention to my feelings was focusing too much on myself. I thought God was honored by my “thinking less of myself.” Basically, by my denying those feelings and needs. “Less of me, more of God”, right? Now I think that’s a misunderstanding of what it means to “die to ourselves” or “submit ourselves to God.”
Now I see these as opportunities for me to be honest with myself. To be present with myself in the moment. To recognize the feeling and need with compassion, not judgement. And so we come to another opportunity.
It’s a chance to practice comforting and nurturing ourselves.
A chance to rebuild trust with ourselves. That's how we build trust with our mom as babies. We have a need. She notices. She meets it. We're nurtured and nourished and we begin to trust mom. We can build this relationship with adult selves now too. We can start to practice this by asking ourselves two simple questions…
“What am I feeling?” and “What do I need?”
This is something we practice in Intuitive Eating Coaching. It sounds simple (and technically it is... thankfully! Whew! Because in practice it’s a lot harder. At least at first. But oh man! It’s so worth it! It’s so empowering and beautiful. It’s a powerful realignment with our true selves as God designed us.
As we start to discern our emotional needs (and meet them) we have yet another opportunity. We can learn to discern emotional hunger from physical hunger.
We can reconnect with our authentic hunger cues.
It might seem impossible, but take heart. It’s our natural design (it’s still inside you) and God loves to heal and empower that connection. We’re not doing this on our own.
As a surprise bonus... when we begin to loosen up on the self-judgement, we have an opportunity to know God better. He cares about our feelings and needs. He doesn't judge them. He pays attention to them. He knows them. He remembers them. He does something about it. He comforts and nurtures us.
The more we step out in faith and practice this self-nurturing, we get a better picture of God's nurturing nature. We can experience (in real time) how God doesn't want us to run from our feelings and suffer through unmet emotional needs. Rather...
We bond with our God as our ultimate nurturer.
If you've always felt shame around emotional eating, hopefully this gives you a new perspective. In a way, it's a gift. A gift from God and from ourselves.