We are in it. The full swing of the holidays. The parties, the shopping, the wrapping, the cooking, the baking, the traveling. The list can seem endless. But under the agendas and to-do’s, it’s what simmering below that tells you if you are in tidings of good cheer or if you feel like your heart is an empty hole, like Mr. Grinch.
The holidays bring so many mixed emotions. From excitement and happiness, to anxiety and sadness. Sometimes feeling all of these in just one day. There can be a “heaviness” that is felt carrying these emotions around. When you feel a lot of emotion and don’t know what do with them, they latch onto you. You will feel like your body has jumped 3 sizes in a matter of a day because the emotions you’re carrying aren’t being dealt with.
The story you tell yourself, will likely have you focused only on your body, not the fact that you aren’t dealing with your emotions. This is very common, especially when you’re an emotional eater and/or dieter. You convince yourself, that your body is in fact, getting bigger. You feel it! You try to remedy this by eating less, following rules or tail-spinning into “what the hell, I’ll be better next year.” This time of year carries so many emotions with it, and then, there is this illusion of the magical restart of life in the New Year. So, you pitch self-care out the window through the rest of these weeks, achieving the self-fulfilling prophecy of becoming bigger. But you never look at what set you up in the fist place. You keep the guilt and shame on how you ate leading the story.
In my last article, “Hungry For Some Self-Care?,” I talked about how important physical self-care is when you are an emotional eater. During this time of year, with the emotions, the craziness of schedules and specialty foods around, many people tend to eat emotionally. But it’s being aware of how well you’re taking care of your physical needs during this time. When that’s not there, then the emotions just amplify, and a viscous storm is created.
The awareness of your emotions is often an overlooked, important step of emotional self-care. It can feel almost minimal, like ‘what’s the point.’ You tend to go into judgment or the “screw it” mentality without ever giving yourself the space to be aware of what it is you’re actually feeling. This results in stuffing down the uncomfortable feelings with the plate full of cookies. You keep the heaviness of the emotions and feel even heavier with the guilt from eating.
When it comes to emotional eating, one of the most honoring things you can do for yourself is to not take this eating off the table. Yes, that means eating emotionally stays an option. This may sound crazy, but when you try to eat all day to not eat later, you actually set yourself up. Psychologist, Carl Jung put it perfectly when he said, “What you resist, not only will persist, but grow in size.”
This is what will happen. If you are an emotional eater, you are likely a dieter. You have all these rules you will follow during the day, in attempt to “self-correct” and fix it with eating less. You may even be following subconscious dieting rules, if you are not on a formal diet plan. This could look like skipping meals, having a shake for a meal, cutting out carbohydrates or sugar. All of these are done in the attempt to get “back on track” and you will feel so good you won’t want to mess it up. Sound familiar? Well then, you know how this story ends. Feeling like you can’t stop eating everything in sight. Just “throwing in the towel,” vowing to be better tomorrow. This is the eating I’m talking about. It’s the punishment, but also feeling out of control and just drowning yourself in the food. And you sink lower and lower as you feel so guilty that you broke the promise you made with yourself to not do it, again.
The emotional awareness allows you to connect to the fact that you’re using the food to soothe. It’s truly connecting the emotion to the food behavior, versus “just eating.” As you’re becoming aware of this, you may recognize it more as an afterthought. That is all a part of the process of connecting into yourself. The key is staying kind and compassionate, so you can learn and grow from the data that you are observing. All too often, you can stay in the dark place of judgment that only brings self-criticism and shame. You can’t change when you stay in this place. You stay in the heaviness of it versus letting curiosity bring the light.
When you are more curious and observant, you are open to see if you’re eating out of reward, out of boredom, out of anger or frustration, sadness or loneliness. You can start to see what space or use the food is serving. You start to understand what it is you are trying to numb, comfort, distract or to fill the void of. The holidays can amplify any loss or grief or missing relationships in life. Awareness of this, having empathy and respect for yourself, is all a part of the healing that needs to happen.
The difference with awareness, is you’re staying in a kinder and less rebellious place when you’re eating. When you’re more aware that you are using the food to soothe your emotions, you have a much higher likelihood of being open to trying other coping tools first before you result to eating. Over time, the emotional eating becomes less and more isolated. You notice more space in between when it occurs, and you start to catch it sooner. This is of course a process, but it happens. With curiosity and compassion for yourself, anything is possible. When you take the time to understand yourself and your emotions, you start unwrap all these layers of yourself you never knew were there. Discovering that the best gift, has been there, all along.