Est 5 min read
Confession, I still eat emotionally. I do. And it's so interesting to me because my relationship with that has changed so much.
I just had this happen recently, I was having a conflict with my partner. It was a really heavy week when we first heard that Russia was invading Ukraine and we're having COVID situations, multiple people I knew had COVID. It was a rough time. I remember I actually got in bed with a bag of cookies. There's this little grocery store by me (for those of you who are in Portland, Oregon, it's New Seasons) and they have a cookie bar where you can get bulk cookies and you can choose all the different ones that you want. For some reason, this has been really lighting me up lately to be able to have such a variety because I generally don't want a whole thing of one type of cookie, I get bored with it. I like the variety and I've been trying all kinds of different ones.
I had this bag of cookies, I was feeling down, life was rough. My house is under construction, some of you know that I'm renovating a 1910 craftsman in Portland, so my home isn't feeling very cozy, I don't really have a go-to place to sit at my new house yet. My relaxation time tends to be in bed right now. I don't even have a TV at my place yet, so I got in bed with my little 13-inch screen laptop. I wanted to watch shows and just zone out so I brought the bag of cookies to bed with me.
I ate a cookie and it was sweet and good and I wasn't super full at that point. I started feeling a little more full. As I ate the cookie, I was thinking this is a little sweeter than I wanted but had another cookie. I recognized that it wasn’t feeling very good at this point anymore. I knew if I ate more, I wasn’t going to feel amazing, and my body would likely protest, lol. Still, I decided to eat more anyway. I don't remember at this point how many cookies I ate in total, and really it doesn’t matter. The point is that I ate them in a way that didn't feel great to my body, I needed to soothe and I did that with food.
What's different today? First off, I didn't judge myself about it, I got curious. I accepted that was what I chose at that moment. It’s ok to use food to soothe sometimes but it is no longer my go-to way to soothe. Now I have other tools and other ways of coping with my emotions, soothing my nervous system, and dealing with it when I'm feeling really down. Today this isn't my only way, I have options. I recognize that that doesn't actually address the underlying issue today. It's more of a temporary resting point where I can feel soothed and get through the night until I have more energy to address what's really going on. I worked through it with my partner but we all know that Russia has declared war on Ukraine, my house is still under construction and life is still really stressful. But today I feel more resourced, I'm more able to care for and honor myself. I’m not feeling the need to soothe using food or eat emotionally.
What else is different? Generally speaking, my nervous system is more regulated, and I am more satisfied with my life. I'm not feeling as much of a drive to use food to soothe or use food in that way.
The biggest thing that is different- I have let go of judgment and no longer feel that it defines my value and my worth.
If you're reading this and you're thinking “she's an Intuitive Eating coach and she eats emotionally, this must not work”, I think we have to step back and redefine what “work” means. I don't believe that healing your relationship with food means that you eat perfectly, that you never use food to soothe, or you never eat cookies. It's all very contextual. It's much more about how you feel about your relationship with food, how you interact with it, whether you're spending a ton of mental and emotional energy there, whether you're feeling peace, ease, joy, balance, and satisfaction, and I absolutely do.
Diet culture messaging gives you false notions that controlling and managing food, doing it rigidly, subscribing to these kinds of external rules is the correct way to interact with food. Actually, controlling and managing food and your body keeps you further from being in relationship, having connection, and trust with your body.
I trust myself today. I know that if I choose to get in bed with a bag of cookies, it doesn't mean anything about me as a person. I also trust that I'm going to be able to care for myself in other ways when I have the bandwidth. I know that eating emotionally on occasion doesn't destroy my relationship with food or throw me off. I'm not falling off any wagon. There's no wagon.
A lot has shifted for me, but yes, I absolutely still eat emotionally at times. And that's okay. Having acceptance over that actually brings me closer in relationship to myself. It allows me to nurture myself more deeply, and feel good about the way that I move through the world, the choices that I make for myself.
Download your free hunger scale now!
The first step to healing our relationship with food is reconnecting with the signals our body gives us. One of the ways to do that is by checking in with your hunger before you eat. Here's my spin on the traditional hunger scale.