For those of us who struggle with emotional eating, we tell ourselves many lies to keep ourselves stuck. I think the biggest lie is believing that feeling our emotions will irreparably damage us. No one has ever died from allowing themselves to feel emotions. We are all fully capable of enduring difficult emotions. The problem lies in telling ourselves we can’t and reducing our tolerance. We all have something Dan Siegel refers to as the window of tolerance. It is our comfort zone, so to speak. Within that window, we are able to deal with adversity. When we experience difficult emotions, we are thrown outside of that window and end up in one of two states:
Hyperarousal (overstimulation) which leads us into a fight or flight response
Hypoarousal (understimulation) which leads to freezing or dissociating
Dissociation is a psychological form of shock. When we are experiencing physical pain, shock allows us to disconnect for survival. Dissociation does the same thing for our emotions. Emotional eating is a form of dissociation. Over time, emotional eating actually decreases our resilience and narrows our window of tolerance to the point that we honestly don’t believe we can survive our emotions without food. This is why we end up needing more food to feel ok and we lose our grip on any other coping skill. I am here to tell you that your emotions won’t kill you. You are fully capable of feeling them and moving on. With emotions, resistance is persistence. The more you push food down with food, the stronger your emotions become. Often they end up spilling out in ways you don’t expect. The reality is that just allowing yourself to acknowledge emotions decreases the intensity, but we often cut it off by eating before we allow that to happen. Here is the truth….emotional eating doesn’t take away your problems. In fact, emotional eating only serves to take away the emotion for about as long as it takes to finish the food and then you usually feel worse. So, stop lying to yourself. Stop telling yourself that food will solve your problems. Stop telling yourself that you aren’t capable of dealing with your emotions. Stop telling yourself that your emotions will kill you. They won’t! If hunger isn’t the problem, food isn’t the solution! The great thing is that you can widen your window of tolerance. By addressing the emotional issues that created the emotional eating patterns and gaining healthy coping skills, your window will get bigger.