In a recent post, Shari asked us how we stave off emotional eating. As a 17th-degree rainbow-belt Master of Emotional Eating (which means I’ve done it a lot and have also kicked its ass a lot), I had a big ol’ long answer that I thought was better as a post, so I re-routed it here.
While the answer discusses children, having kids of your own is not required to put it into practice: any child that you know and love works well, spouse is okay but they are usually independent enough that it doesn’t carry the same weight in your mind. A younger sibling might work or even imagining that you have a chance to teach your younger self.
I have a hard answer that sounds all righteous or something, and SO isn’t, but honest to God, it’s the thing that works best for me (when something works):
Never do to yourself what you would never do to your child — because they learn how to be from watching you.
(This applies to soooo much more than food. In fact, I’d say nothing has changed my behavior in my life more than this single statement.) So if you don’t want your child to be an emotional eater, you can’t be one; you have to force yourself to do something else when faced with it. There are two paths to take. In the beginning, the first one is slow and deliberate, as you teach yourself the habit.
Path #1 – Figure it out.
A. What are you feeling? Anxious, afraid, frustrated, angry, stressed, sad, etc.
B. Why are you feeling this way? Car won’t run, money is tight, the injustice of life, etc.
C. What can be done about B.? Get it fixed (again), buy meat only in family packs this month, not a dang thing, etc.
D. Make a plan for C. (This part may come later, after you’ve conquered the feeling, or right away as the way to conquer the feeling – depends on the issue and the person.) If the planning is to come later, you’ll probably need to proceed to path #2 now. If you are in a situation where you can’t stop and take the time to work through path #1, then take a quick second to figure out A and B, if possible, and then go with #2, coming back to #1 later when you can. (This sounds like a bathroom lesson…)
How would I want my child to work through this feeling? This question automatically negates eating and basically anything else bad for you and can usually adjust your mindset frighteningly quickly. Warning, the first couple of times you ask yourself this question, you’ll be terrified because you won’t have an answer. That’s okay. Just try to figure something out pretty quickly if your child is with you. If you have small kids, I highly recommend lying down on the floor, putting the kiddo on your feet and doing the “airplane” thing. It’s almost impossible to feel anything but joy when giving an airplane to a small chid. 😉 My kid is older, so we will do something physical like take a walk, chase each other around the house (silly is good), or something that needs to be done around the house — a sense of accomplishment, even for a ‘menial’ task, puts me in a better place to then stop and deal with my feelings. If I’m by myself, I’ve been known to do something aerobic, blog (for those times when I can’t jump up and down), write something scathing that I save as a draft and will probably never post but at least I’ve gotten the feelings OUT, clean house (again, sense of accomplishment). The important part is to go back to path #1 to make sure that you recognize your feelings and why you’re feeling that way and then figure out a plan to deal with the situation and/or your feelings about it if you can’t do something about it right away. Again, it’s a habit you’re trying to build, so it takes time and practice and practice and practice.
And to not buy oatmeal cream pies. Because if it’s right there, it’s like waving raw meat in front of a lion – eventually, you’re going to eat it!
(Years of therapy, by the way, for the process, but the original statement was from life coach, Martha Beck.)