The truth behind eating and your emotions
Many of us have or have in the past, had negative habits. Me included. Sweets used to be my issue. Jelly sweets to be specific; I could finish off a big bag before anyone else had even opened theirs. I didn’t really taste them, not properly. I would just plough my way through, stuffing one after the other, after the other, into my mouth, until they were finished. But why did I do it? I knew it wasn’t healthy and I knew there was something not quite right about this behaviour, but I still did it regularly. It’s only since my training and work in transformation coaching that I have finally realised why I used to do it, and how I managed to eventually stop.
The first thing I needed to explore was ‘when did I do it?’ I always, always did it when I was feeling stressed, happy, or unhappy about something. That sounds odd, right? Why would I do something when I was unhappy and happy? The reason was really the same for both situations. It was when I had too much on my mind, too much going on in my head. It was when I wasn’t feeling calm and it was a habitual behaviour, which started when I was at school, and continued into adulthood.
Another of my habits used to be tidying, obsessively; or rather putting things into piles and then straightening the piles. Straightening anything that wasn't straight and in line. Or putting things in drawers and cupboards because if I couldn’t see them, I ‘felt’ calm. If I was really stressed, I wouldn’t be able to leave the house until I’d gone through it, checking each room. My ex-husband used to think I was nuts, but knew that trying to stop me would make me worse, so he’d just leave me to it.
It was only when I changed my career and started to look at life in a different way, that these behaviours began to drop away.
So, what exactly are habits? In a nutshell, they are those things that we feel driven to do, that we feel partly or completely out of control of, but that we know are not necessarily good or healthy for us, but we still do the regardless. With emotional eating and/or binge eating, they often manifest as very physical and very strong urges. In this case, urges to eat.
And on the whole, they do kind of serve us quite well. How? Because they are often our best option, at that time, to feel better! All we ever want to do is feel better, calmer, and to return to our innate state of wellbeing. My ‘addiction’ of sweets and my obsessive tidying were just ways I'd found to make myself feel better.
Something that starts as a one-off action feels pretty good. Usually really good! And so we repeat it. And repeat it. And again, until it finally turns into a habit. We know it makes us feel better at that moment. And there’s a physical element to this too, with neurons firing, and as we repeat something over and over, neural pathways being created. The brain wants to find the easiest way to calm and bingo, it has found something that works, as we repeat the behaviour over and over.
So, what can we do? Well the good news is that our true nature is perfectly well, healthy and habit-free. We just don't always see things that way.
Seeing our experience as human beings and of your true nature, has deep implications for behaviours and habits, including emotional eating and binge eating. These powerful and positive consequences do not just relate to issues around food and eating issues either, but they have the power to improve all areas of life.
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About Vanessa O'Brien
I'm Vee O'Brien, a Transformation Coach and Nutritional Therapist. I work with clients to help them make transformational changes to their health, well-being and happiness, whether that's reaching health or weight-loss goals, overcoming illness, removing habits, ridding themselves of chronic stress, or rediscovering their love of life again!