Noticing and acknowledging your emotions empowers change

After eating naturally for 20 years, I now know that I used to use food to control my emotions. I was completely unable to cope with many things that had happened in my life. So instead of acknowledging them and allowing myself to feel loss, sadness, and hurt, I ate.

This meant that he didn’t have to feel because that was too hard and completely overwhelming. I was able to control my feelings using food. To be honest, I probably lived 20 years of my life in a fog, doing what I needed to get through the day, but not living or feeling.

When I was diagnosed with depression and bulimia in 1996, I was completely blown away. I more or less realized that I was suffering from depression since most days I didn’t want to get out of bed. But the fact that I had bulimia opened my eyes. That’s because I never got sick, what I did was exercise excessively. I eventually learned that this was just another form of purging. It was also another form of control. I would eat very little and only “healthy” foods, exercise at least once or twice a day, and then binge at night. It was a very negative cycle of diet, exercise and binge eating.

It allowed me to cope, but I was living a very unhappy and unsatisfied life.

When I learned to eat naturally, I also learned to love and trust myself again. This was the way back to normal. However, to do that, I had to become aware of the feelings I was having, acknowledge them, and then choose a positive action to take.

I hadn’t cried in 20 years. After working with a counselor every week for a year, I finally cried on her shoulder in the last session and probably for most of the hour! But what a relief that was. I no longer had to hide anything, I was able to let go, grieve my losses and move forward in a positive way. That’s when I knew I was well on my way to recovery because I was starting to face things, feel them, and get them out of my body by crying, laughing, yelling, or singing.

These are all positive and empowering actions that make us feel better and then allow us to make a positive decision about what to do next.

Eating for emotional reasons keeps you stuck, because your body doesn’t want food. You want some kind of comfort like a good cry, love, kindness, a hug, a walk outside, or a chat with a trusted friend. These are all positive, empowering, and comforting, but food for many of us has been our natural default in times of stress.

To break this habit of negative control, I encourage you to try the following:

Notice that you want to eat when you are obviously not hungry.

Acknowledge the emotion you are having. Are you sad, angry, disappointed, depressed, lonely or even bored?

Feel the feelings and allow yourself to cry, scream, talk about it with someone, exercise, or write in your journal to get it out of your system.

Then do something that you love and brings you joy, instead of punishing yourself by overeating.

Sitting with our feelings can hurt a lot, but then you can make positive changes. Remember that our body only wants food to nourish itself, if you find that you are eating to feel comfortable, it is time to start looking for the cause so that you can solve it instead of just controlling it.

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