11 Dec The Neuroscience Behind Emotional Eating – 7 Steps to End it Forever
What if I told you that your inability to say no to some foods in some circumstances had nothing to do with “you” and that it is totally something you can shift?
Some of the reasons we eat what we eat are deeply (DEEPLY) personal. That’s for another post. However, there could be another, different reason that your behaviors are being hijacked, and it’s totally not your fault.
That’s right, so after you eat something that’s not ‘on your plan’ and the feelings that follow, i.e. you are “broken” or you “can’t be helped” or you are just “too damaged” that lead to all that sadness and shame.. are actually not necessary. You’re not broken. Let me say it again. You. Are. Not. Broken. I know it can feel like you’re all alone in this. You’re not alone.
Side note: Shame has been shown to lead to future poor decisions. Let that sink in. Self-punishment makes things worse for you in the long run. Self-compassion has been shown to reduce cortisol and lead to better choices. Choose your feelings wisely! Brendan Burchard says that emotions are not our choice, they come from within our bodies and it’s our job to notice them and feel them. THEN, we have the option to CHOOSE how we feel afterward. I will go deeper into this on another day, but WOW, I mean that’s a game changer right there in every way because as we know, thoughts and feelings become things.
Ok, back to not being broken. Our brains are powerful! Thankfully, they are wired and designed to keep us alive. You know what is required for us to stay alive? FOOD – including sugar, salt, and fat. As well as SAFETY. Here’s where the neuroscience comes in.
- If you have been restricting food, the brain is going to try to make you crave and eat foods as if your life depends on it.. because it thinks that it does. Restricting food does not work, it backfires. There is a method to natural eating that will not lead you to overcompensate.
- If you have experienced trauma or a traumatic event in your life (like 70% of the population), there may have been a time when you felt extreme emotional or physical pain, and/or particularly unsafe or unloved. At that time or shortly thereafter, the brain may have found something to turn to for an increase in serotonin (natural pleasure chemical), to help you cope with the pain. Sugar might be one, but a combo of sugar, salt an fat would really do the trick. That lights up all the pleasure sensors in the brain like a pinball machine.
Here’s the great news. The brain might still be really into (see: obsessed with) those types of sugary-salty foods, although you’re no longer experiencing the traumatic event, BUT, you can slowly start to wean yourself off of them and the brain will change what it wants! It’s amazing. You are in charge of the re-wiring. Here’s what you need to know:
- Probably the most important thing to know is that this is not black and white. So for all of you who love to keep things sectioned off so you can feel safe, you can’t with this. There will be a grey area, and it will be messy. You will live there for a little bit. This is where you explore your ability to be uncomfortable, where you realize that the discomfort is not going to kill you. If you ate something that you “shouldn’t” have, then it’s time to flex the self-compassion muscle, get back on the horse – and remember, the brain is super powerful. You are working WITH IT. Not against it.
- What does that experience look like for you? Notice what comes up after you eat or overeat something “forbidden.” What do you feel? Write it down.
- It’s your job to be present enough to realize what choices you are making at the time. Just notice what is happening, and ask yourself why. What did you want to get out of that? Notice – was it just a high you wanted because you’re tired? Or are you just used to doing it every day at 3:00? Or are you avoiding something much deeper? (Don’t let that third one scare you, it gets smaller when you face it.)
- If there’s a real, deep, emotional reason for the pain you’re avoiding, gently turn toward it. And I recommend seeking support. You have to uncover what’s there and learn how to truly meet your needs, not just stuff it with food. Which is a beautiful and important process! I’m here to help.
- Are you feeling like you can’t say no to the high? Time to kick off the weaning process with GRADUAL REPLACEMENT THERAPY. (Trademark!) Gradually start to replace the foods that light up your brain like the Las Vegas casino with similar foods that have lower “getting high” activity. (Examples below.)
- Prepare to feel major resistance to these ideas –> that’s the desire to get high talking. But this DOES actually work. Remember – gradual! Not black and white. But guess what? YOUR TASTE BUDS WILL CHANGE! There’s so much power in that. So what are you trigger foods? If it’s cheese, replace cow’s cheeses with goat cheese, sheep cheese or almond cheese. Commit to it. If it’s chocolate. Commit to dark chocolate, 70% or higher. Anytime you’re having a craving, that’s what you have.
- Get to know the RESISTANCE that shows every time you want to pass on the high. It may sound like “I could never..” or “Just this once, you deserve it.” Know how to recognize it, it’s NOT YOU. Make a conscious choice regardless of it. It wants you to avoid pain, but what will happen is that without the high, you’re just going to feel how that day was meant to feel.
Depending on what choice you make, return to step 2 and repeat if necessary.
Looking for support? I would love to gift you a complimentary consultation for reading this whole post. Schedule yours here: https://my.timetrade.com/book/JJYNC.
If you find yourself struggling and you’re truly ready for change, you could be the perfect candidate for my 90-Day program. You can find more info here: https://vanessacrogers.com/program/
I’m here for you. You can do this!