Updated: Aug 8, 2022
When it comes to emotional eating, it isn’t the emotion itself that is the trigger for emotional eating but rather, how the emotion is dealt with.
It’s about the food but it’s really not about the food because when we make our way to food, we are also making our way away from something else, typically something we don’t want to sit with or an impulse towards food that is so strong we are unable to sit with it.
Unpleasant and difficult feelings are part of human experience and they can be challenging to sit with and experience in their entirety. We were never taught in school about the spectrum of emotions, how to sit with challenging feelings, let alone about emotional flexibility.
Emotional flexibility is a key skill in overcoming emotional eating.
Emotional flexibility has 3 parts to it:
the ability to sit with and stay in contact with the present moment,
while being aware of thoughts and emotions without trying to change or be controlled by them
depending on the situation, choosing one’s behaviour based on the situation and personal values.
Therefore, the solution to emotional eating is found not in trying to compensate for it with calorie restriction or a new diet plan but to befriend what it is we are unwilling to sit with and build emotional flexibility skills.
Building emotional flexibility takes practice and like any repeated behaviour, what you practice grows stronger. As you practice, your capacity to hold unpleasant feelings grows and as a result of this, these emotions begin to come with less intensity and less frequency because they get to be released when we make space for them, instead of getting stuffed down deeper inside us.