How to Gain Complete Freedom from Stress Eating
What does freedom look like to you? To me, freedom is like swinging from ring to ring in Santa Monica Beach without a single doubt in my mind. To me, it’s being fully aware in that moment & taking the time to feel the air blowing through my hair and the white sand crusted beneath my finger nails. To me, complete freedom means taking in every feeling, every sensation in my body, without feeling like I’m in danger in any way.
That is what it looks like for me to gain complete freedom from food.
Before I explain what I mean by this, I have a question for you: If you had no food available to you during an emotional “crisis” or “emergency” of any kind, what remains?
Really take the time to think about this for a moment. What are you left with when there is no food available during those moments that you are feeling angry, hurt, frustrated, overwhelmed, anxious, or downright outraged?
I recently experienced an event at work that I had never experienced in the 7 years of my nursing career.
It was devastating. And I was feeling a lot of things—particularly, the feeling of pain. I was hurt by what had happened and discovered that this feeling was something I haven’t experienced before. And because I wasn’t comfortable with this feeling, I had an urge to overeat. A craving for something sweet. And that something sweet can always be found in the break room.
I can honestly say that I don’t remember the last time I ate a cookie. (It was probably in January or February). But as I was experiencing this feeling of pain and hurt, a thought subtly entered my mind: “You can eat this cookie. It’s okay. You deserve it—you’ve had a hard day.”
I remember staring at a box of Diddy Riese cookies on the table of the staff break room. And all the cookies stared back at me. There was an assortment of snicker doodle, chocolate, and macadamia nut—all beckoning me to take one bite (after all, just one won’t hurt!). Not only that, but there were free Subway sandwiches in the break room as well. An assortment of savory and sweet. All completely available to me (and nobody else was looking).
But then something amazing happened, which literally changed everything.
I didn’t grab the cookie. I didn’t grab the Subway sandwich.
I allowed myself to pause.
And to experience the pain. To experience the hurt.
You see, if I had eaten the Diddy Riese cookie or the Subway sandwich, both of these items contain an unnaturally high amount of sugar and flour. Both of these things would have created an unnatural high surge of dopamine in my brain. And my feelings would be absolutely numbed. This is what makes discomfort so uncomfortable. We are told that we should be happy all the time. That something’s wrong with you if you’re sad or in pain. And so we avoid any pain of any sort, and we avoid it at all costs. We forget what it’s like to feel. And we escape uncomfortable feelings by eating highly concentrated foods.
But what did it feel like for me to pause in this moment? First, I had to pay attention to every physical sensation in my body.
Where is the sensation coming from? What color is it? What is the temperature of it? The shape? The texture? The weight? It took only a few minutes to pause and take a moment to create a mental image in my mind of how the sensation felt like and looked like to me.
For me, the sensation of pain felt extremely heavy, like I was carrying a 40 lb. back pack that I couldn’t take off at all. As if I was stuck on a mountain, hiking up a steep incline with this incredible weight over my shoulders. In the pitch of night. The color of the sensation was a soft, baby blue. And the texture of it was fluffy, like my Ugg blanket at home. It was very warm (uncomfortably warm, even), but not hot.
I paid attention to this sensation during the entire time I paused. And I realized something very important to know:
This sensation was not hurting me in any way.
It was an opportunity to learn about myself. To learn about how it feels to experience pain. To understand that this was the first time I was feeling it, and that was okay. That I did not have to run away from my emotions. That I can allow them to just be (like carrying a weighted sandbag or a wearing a weighted blanket over my shoulders).
And that nothing is wrong with feeling this way.
Experiencing this moment, which lasted only a few minutes in real time, was one of the most powerful experiences of my entire nursing career. Because even if the “worst thing that can happen” did happen to me that day, I realized that finally, I was not a “slave” to stress eating and depending on food to make me feel better. I did not need to depend on food for my happiness. In fact, I could just allow the pain and be okay with feeling it. I could invite any feeling that comes my way without having to run from it.
So to gain complete freedom from stress eating, here’s the secret:
Avoid reacting to your emotions by stopping wherever you are and being still.
Allow yourself to physically feel & experience the stress, the hurt, or the suffering you’re having at that moment. Ask yourself where you feel it in your body, and describe it with as much detail and imagery as possible. Use all your senses when it comes to feeling and experiencing this sensation.
Accept & love yourself for feeling this way without changing it or criticizing yourself. Accept that you are human, and that (as a human) you are supposed to feel a whole spectrum of emotions (NOT just happiness). And that experiencing ALL emotions is simply part of what it means to be human.
After pausing & taking the time to fully experience your feeling, it is up to you to decide if you want to eat the food or not. But recognize that pausing before you reach out to grab that food is what will help you stay in control of your feelings, stay in control of your food choices, and make decisions with your planning brain instead of your reactive, primitive brain. Mastering this technique will literally provide you freedom from any discomfort because you are allowing yourself to experience the discomfort rather than fight or avoid it.
If you are a busy nurse who is still struggling with staying committed and would like 1:1 personalized guidance on how to move forward, click here to schedule your free online strategy session with me! There are no obligations, whatsoever. Just me & you working together to find your permanent weight loss solution! Click here to start losing weight now!