“If you are what you eat, I’d rather eat the good stuff” — wise words from Remy the rat in the charming Pixar movie Ratatouille. Sure, in a perfect world, we’d all choose only the good stuff. We’d know how much to eat and how good our body is actually meant to feel. But somewhere in our busy lives, this awareness plays hide and seek with us.
Recently, I was chatting to a friend about exactly this. She shared how she used to head straight for the Nutella jar when she was stressed, binge on some generous mouthfuls and then regret it almost instantly. “But whilst eating it, nothing felt better. All I wanted was that soothing comfort of something delicious after a stressful day”. Imagine this – you get home at the end of an intense day, you may have had some arguments, maybe your car got scratched. You come home to your cosy coach and dig your spoon into a tub of chocolate ice cream. The gooey softness just melts in your mouth, and suddenly you feel reassured that it’s all okay. “I guess I was literally eating my emotions, and eventually it caused a problem for me” she continued. Many think that it’s perfectly okay to eat in response to emotions. If food is able to soothe, relax and nurture you, then it can’t be wrong, can it? But wait, let’s take a closer look and see what actually happens.
When you use the food to divert your mind and mask your real emotions, you forget what the real issue is. The soothing is only short-term, the real emotion (grief, anger, sadness) gets buried deep within.
Once you begin to enjoy the benefits of eating emotionally, you’ll want to keep repeating this pattern of soothing yourself with food. It can become part of your go-to coping strategy. When you keep turning to eating emotionally or impulsively, your food choices are not likely to be healthy, and your body doesn’t get a signal of when to stop. You lose control of this area in your life.
Resonates? Health Coach Sheetal Ramchandani offers some tips to help avoid the emotional eating trap:
1. Face it:
Create a safe space to release your emotions. It is okay to feel what you’re feeling — anger, fear, disgust. Face the feeling and label it without judgment.
2. Practice radical acceptance:
The beautiful feeling of acceptance helps you end the struggle with your emotions because only through acceptance can you begin to heal.
3. Learn to tolerate distress:
Tolerating distress is basically a person’s ability to manage actual or perceived emotional distress. We often respond to distress by resisting it. In our mind, we label it as ‘not good’ and do whatever we can to avoid it. So, take a moment and observe:
A. Do you push it down?
B. Do you bottle it up?
C. Do you ignore it?
4. Develop self-healing coping skills: Consider creating space for your emotions and accepting them:
Self-mastery is the most important tool in healing. It has been said that if you can control what you eat, you can control all other aspects in your life. Eating mindfully helps us to connect with our inner emotions. Remember, it’s always better to ‘face your stuff’, rather than ‘stuff your face’.
During my time spent at an ashram in India, the teacher often spoke about ‘Mitahara’. It simply means that instead of a highly excessive diet or even a restricted one (in terms of quality and quantity), it is necessary to find your authentic balance and inner knowing of what your body needs, when and how much. We practiced the principle of “eat your water” (sip water slowly, allowing it to stay in the mouth before it passes the food pipe, as it helps the alkaline saliva reach the stomach to neutralise acid levels in the stomach) and “drink your food” (chew 32 times to grind your food into almost liquid form). My body never felt better.
Making this a lifestyle practice may take time, but it is not impossible. Nutrition is the foundation of life itself, and mindfulness plays a significant role in helping you find your own sacred food rhythm. Being aware of not just what and how much you consume but how you consume it, will transform your mind as well as body.
Connect with Delna Mistry Anand across social media @DelnaAnand