Ola my friends,
Thank you for this great question. It’s a really interesting topic and many of us find that we eat more than we need when we’re anxious. Along with how relieving it feels to MUNCH away at something & how comforting delicious food can be, overeating feels so good because a full tummy pushes down the diaphragm and this gives us a feeling of relief similar to when we breathe deep.
Since we’re speaking about anxiety-induced overeating, it’s important to calm the anxiety first. You can create all the “right rules” for yourself, but if you’re not addressing the underlying cause of the behaviour, you’ll either break all the rules, or you’ll create another equally distressing self-soothing behaviour.
So, how do you address the anxiety?
Stay with it.
It’s so tempting to run away from ourselves when we experience discomfort. Whether it’s physical or emotional pain, we’ve grown up in a world where these experiences have been masked with medication, or dulled out with alcohol and distractive behaviours. When you eat, you’re distracting yourself from your pain and uncertainty.
Pain and emotions are a lot like kids –
“Hey mum, look at my picture.”
“Give me a second, I’m on the phone.”
“Hey mum, look at my picture!”
“Just a second, hunny, I’m on the phone.”
“Show me!…Wow, what a beautiful picture. Tell me about it.”
The child will tell you what they drew and why, and once they feel understood, they’ll go off on their next adventure.
Pain and emotions do this too – the more we ask them to go away (by fighting them/distracting ourselves), the stronger they come back, screaming “Hey!” “Hey!” “Hey!”
The truth is, you can handle your anxiety. You are bigger than your anxiety; the anxiety is only a part of your experience. You can’t fight anxious thoughts and physical symptoms away, but you can bring attention and acceptance to them, and this will allow them to metabolise.
How can I bring attention and acceptance to my anxiety?
Bring attention to your emotions and thoughts through practices like journalling, mindfulness meditation and therapy. All these practices empower you to be in conversation with yourself.
You create some distance between your automatic unconscious mind and the observer of that automatic mind. The observer notices what’s within you and this brings acknowledgement and acceptance. Acceptance of your anxiety, as paradoxical as it sounds, is exactly what will set you free.
How else can I reduce my anxiety?
1) Breathe deep
Instead of relying on food to push your diaphragm down so you can trigger that feel-good state in your body, get into the habit of breathing full, deep breaths. A mindfulness practice will definitely help you with this, but if that isn’t your jam, you can put a reminder into your phone to take deep breaths twice a day, and when it goes off, you breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 6 and breathe out for a count of 8, and do this 5 times. You’ll notice a significant reduction in the tension in your body and a boost in the quality of your focus and thoughts.
2) Schedule breaks, connection and fun into your day
We live in a production society. We’ve all inherited this bullshit belief that if we’re not constantly busy then we’re somehow unworthy. But to come up with our greatest work, our brains need time to process all the information we’re receiving.
To do this, our brains need to take breaks. We need to get outside and go for a walk. We need to take a bubble bath or sing in the shower. We need to call a friend and laugh about something.
When you take breaks, you’re so much less stressed, that you don’t need that sudden shift in state that you’d get through munching through a bag of oreos.
3) Eat with awareness
When you eat, stay present with yourself and what you’re eating. Taste it, smell it, feel your body so that you can notice when you’re getting full. If you choose to go beyond your full-point, that’s fine, just make it a choice, not an unconscious reaction to stress.
Remember that we reach for the nachos, the cake or the huge plate of pasta, because we’re craving comfort and distraction from our anxiety. When you incorporate awareness, joy and calm into your day (even as you get stuff done), you’ll enjoy your day more, you’ll feel better and you won’t need to overeat.
If you’d like to use this challenging time as an opportunity to develop an even more resilient mindset, you’re welcome to contact me to organise a complimentary online Lifestyle Strategy Session during which we’ll discuss the best way forward for you to THRIVE.
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