Wednesday, 21 July 2010

If you don't want to eat it, feel it

We overeat for so many reasons. Some are more mundane than others:

Becky overeats because it tastes soooo good.

Debbie overeats because she can’t hold out any longer and the crisps and chocolates she’s been depriving herself of beckon her irresistibly. One bit is not enough. By the time she gives in to the craving she just can’t stop.

Fatima overeats because hasn't eaten all day and now she's starving and is shoveling it in.

Isabelle overeats because she is a member of the clean plate club. Has been since she was a little girl.

Natasha overeats when she watches TV or reads a book, when she travels and when she’s in good company. At those times, she's so distracted that she doesn't even notice she's eating and is always surprised to see her empty plate.

Pam overeats because everyone else is eating and she is expected to. It's the polite thing to do.

Ruth overeats because she grabs lunch on the go and gobbles it down on the bus from one job to another. She regularly eats more than she's hungry for because, stupidly, there's no bin on the bus and she doesn't know where to put the food otherwise.
None of the women above eat for reasons that involve big emotions.They overeating because of old ingrained habits, because they are distracted and forget to make eating THE activity. In  situations like these, it can be relatively simple to stop overeating. Being mindful of the diet mentality trap, tuning in to hunger signals, eating whatever we want, gauging how much is enough to satisfy our appetite and eating slowly and regularly drawing our focus back to the food can all make a huge difference to the amount of food we eat.

But what about the times when the whole point of overeating is so that we don't slow down and don't tune in? The times when food is serving a purpose, when we are eating in response to or to avoid or quash an emotion we don't know how to manage in any other way? Food works. It does the job because when we eat we are disconnected, we don’t feel.
Christine overeats because she's the anxious type and she needs something in her mouth all the time. It helps her feel she's keeping it together.

Emily overeats because her boyfriend often comments on her weight and she’s embarrassed to eat in front of him. Once she’s on her own in the car it’s as if the floodgates open, she just can’t stop herself.

Grace overeats because hates her job and she just doesn’t know how to make herself feel better in any other way.
Kate overeats because while she is eating she can forget everything. She can focus on the hit of sugar, the crunch of the crisps, the creaminess of the chocolate. Even when what she’s eating stops tasting good, the action of chewing and swallowing and chewing and swallowing, mouthful after mouthful crates a temporary void, a bit like white noise.

Leila overeats to avoid having to do all those things on her endless ‘to do’ list which fill her with dread: finishing that report, writing that email, phoning that client…

Olivia overeats because she just don’t know what else to do with herself when she’s with other people. Eating gives her something to do so she doesn’t have to stare into space with no one to talk to, wishing she could be swallowed up by a giant hole.

So how do we go about managing unconformable feelings and situations without turning food? At the end of the day, the ONLY way we know to stop eating our feelings away is to be willing to feel whatever we would feel if were not eating. There are no two ways about it. The trick is to feel our feelings in a safe way, to feel them and be in control. When we can experience sadness without drowning in our tears, fear without a panic attack and anger without lashing out at others, we can also make a choice not to eat. 

Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was some kind of manual that explained how to manage feelings in this way? Well, there is...

We're about to launch a new product we are very excited about. It's called the Food & Feelings Toolkit. The Toolkit is a selection of ideas to experiment with and a set of tools to help you feel the anger, fear, sadness or joy and stay in control. Tools that we show you how to make your own.

The Food & Feelings Toolkit is a four week course including 4 recordings of live Masterclasses, each focused on a particular feeling and an accompanying workbook with more information, worksheets and suggested actions. The course can be done DIY (download everything and do it yourself) or as an e-course (get the course sent to your inbox in bitesized chunks and unlimited email support from us). The Food & Feeloings Toolkit is launching next week with a special launch offer so keep your eyes peeled next Thursday for our newsletter...

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