There are so many reasons for emotional eating. One of the biggest things we think of is when we’re overwhelmed. There’s too much to do and we just want a little treat, a break a moment of peace.
But do you also find yourself searching for something to eat when you’re bored? When you do have a few minutes (or even hours) with nothing pressing to do? Maybe that time after work? After your evening meal?
It’s like you don’t feel OK or safe to just relax. Like you have to constantly be doing something productive and search out something to eat to experience that moment of peace.
Can you relate?
Let’s explore what this emotional tug-of-war does to the body and what you can do to experience that peace in the moment without reaching for food.
Emotions Triggering Physical Reactions
Whether we’re frazzled because we’ve got too much to do or don’t feel safe to just relax, our subconscious brain thinks, “Danger!” This, this in-turn triggers a domino affect called the Fight/Flight/Freeze response or the stress response.
Whether or not the danger is life-threatening (like being in a massive car accident) or emotional or thought provoked, the subconscious brain can’t tell the difference. It signals the body to get some quick energy so it can deal with the threat, compelling us to eat sugary, chewy, fatty, creamy, salty foods so we can fight the danger or run from it.
This response also signals the body to secrete a hormone called cortisol that tells the body to start making sugar and shutting down digestion, metabolism, reproduction to name a few things. It also keeps us awake, alert & wired so we can deal with the threat to our survival.
Cortisol isn’t all bad, though. It helps us wake up in the morning, among other things. But most of us are walking around with too much of it and need to find ways to lower manage our stress so we don’t experience the negative affects of it.
As soon as we experience that sweet, salt, chew or whatever, our brains secrete another chemical – dopamine. That chemical responsible for that feel-good/reward or sense of accomplishment feeling we get when we move our body or complete a big task. And we like to feel good, so every time we eat when we feel stressed and dopamine is released, it reinforces our need to feel good by eating food.
It’s wired into your nervous system. Ingrained in your brain, so to say. The good is you can rewire your nervous system and create new pathways so you can feel safe to relax without feeling the need to eat.
Pausing to Receive God’s Peace in the Moment
Here are some specific strategies you can use to tap into and feel safe receiving God’s peace in the moment
- Pause 15 seconds (lot’s of times, even 5 seconds will work) as you notice yourself searching for food or before you take a bite.
- Give yourself permission to turn to God.
- Hand him over what’s on your heart. If you can’t pin-point it, ask him to help you clarify it or just say ‘this feeling’ or ‘this stress.’
- Ask yourself what you really need in that very moment. Again, if you can’t pin-point it, ask God for clarity.
- Trust he will provide it and then receive it with gratitude when he does provide it.
To-Do Lists – Celebrate Your Accomplishments
Something else you can do that only takes a few minutes a day is to create & use a to-do list. You’ll not only find yourself getting more done, but it will also help you feel that sense of accomplishment.
- Jot down the things you’re going to do.
- Check off the items as you complete them or move throughout your day.
- Take a moment to celebrate your success!
- Thank God for the opportunity to be so productive and let that sense of accomplishment sink in.
- Give yourself permission to relax & experience God’s peace for being so productive, rewarding yourself with a rest & recharge.
To make this strategy even more powerful, you could journal about, jot down or sketch out how you feel about your accomplishments as well as how you were able to feel safe resting in just God’s peace – without feeling the need to eat something.
What else can you think of? I’d love to hear more about what works for you in the comments!
If you want to learn more about why women approaching and moving through perimenopause & menopause struggle with emotional eating, I’ll be giving an in-person class Tuesday, August 24 at 6pm at Guiding Star Cedar Valley, 220 Southbrooke Drive, Waterloo, IA.
You’ll learn how our bodies change during this time as well as ways you can support it to create health. You’ll walk away with specific strategies you’ll feel excited about putting into practice so you can live the happy, active, vibrant life God is calling you to in this new season of life.
Click on the link below to learn more & register today! Space is limited and is filling fast, so don’t delay!