Emotional Eating- What We Resist Persists

The basis of emotional eating is grounded in trying to resist emotions. We are so afraid of feeling our emotions, many of us try anything to avoid them. When Carl Jung stated, “That which we resist, persists”, he was referring to parts of ourselves that we try to deny. I would argue that this is true of all uncomfortable emotions as well. The reality is that the chemical reaction in the brain only lasts about 90 seconds when we experience an emotion. However, the longer we avoid it, the more it persists and the chemical reaction doesn’t dissipate as it needs to do so. Emotional eating patterns often begin in childhood. So much of what we experience is out of our control and we often don’t have the coping skills to be able handle our emotions in an adaptive way. Those connections between food and emotional relief get wired together over time and the more we engage in emotional eating, the harder the pattern is to break because we strengthen the connections between emotions and food. Over time, the adaptive coping skills we do have, fade. They atrophy just like muscles that we don’t use. Emotions and body sensations related to emotion live in the right hemisphere of our brain. Logic resides in our left brain. By simply naming the emotion and recognizing why we are feeling it, brings the left brain online and calms the right brain. Big emotions are hard to deal with. This is especially true when we haven’t learned how to cope without food. So, next time you are feeling completely overwhelmed by your emotional brain and reaching for food, stop. Take a step back. Give words to what you are experiencing. Allow your brain to calm down enough to make a thoughtful decision about what you actually need before eating the food.

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Weber State University and a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Utah. She has been working in the mental health field since 2001.
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