Step 1: Awareness
Awareness is a good first step to handling emotional eating. You recognize that battling yourself doesn't work. You have a rational mind that wants to lose weight and you can see clearly what you need to do to get from point A to point B. And yet, your emotional self has other needs and doesn’t seem to care about weight loss. Plato used the metaphor of a chariot to capture this situation: the driver is your intellect and the horses are your emotions.
One thing is clear: Your emotional self doesn’t respond well to being “silenced.” It has needs and if they aren’t addressed, your emotions can take over and sabotage your wellness program. And then, feelings of guilt and shame can follow, along with wanting to quit altogether. There is a different way to proceed.
Step 2: Acceptance
After awareness, acceptance comes next. Accept that you have an emotional self that plays by a different set of rules. You’ll have better results by working with your emotions and not making yourself “wrong” for the struggles you experience.
What are your emotions saying? Give them a voice and try to pinpoint what you are feeling. Be honest. Are you feeling threatened, deprived, ignored, lonely, sad or frustrated? Are you being too restrictive in your approach? Or is it something else altogether? A therapist can help you access your emotions.
Step 3: Strategize
As you practice awareness and acceptance, the next step is finding healthier strategies for soothing your emotions than eating or numbing out. If you’re eating plan is too restrictive, a small guilt-free treat can make a difference. Are you doing too much exercise? Do you feel like you are punishing yourself? What do you need (more of in order to feel balanced and to tap into positive emotions? There are many ideas that can be nourishing, such as painting or drawing, looking at art, taking pictures, listening to music, reading a good book, spending time with a friend, playing an instrument, journaling, taking a bath, lighting candles, and gardening.
Now that you know where you want to go, taking the time to tend to your horses will help keep your chariot headed in the right direction.