In my last blog post, I talked about how I overcame my chocolate addiction. In the months that followed, I had some relapses but finally was able to kick this habit for good. I wanted to wait to write a follow-up blog because I wanted to make sure that this transformation is real and is there to stay. I’m happy that it is.
While going for extrinsic ways to curb my appetite for binge-eating chocolate — such as switching to 100% dark chocolate and making myself accountable to my audience — did help a great deal with my success in kicking the habit, what made the change permanent was a long and difficult personal journey, in which I dug deeper into my soul and found out what the emotional root of this unhealthy habit was. I listened.
I listened to the raw emotions that filled my body whenever I had the urge to reach out to my preferred food of addiction.
I sat down and allowed myself to process those emotions.
What I meant by “emotions” was the physical sensations our body experiences, not the interpretations of those sensations. When we are confronted with a certain experience, our body (autonomic nervous system) will respond with a certain set of physical reactions before we attach a “story” to what we are sensing.
For example, when treated in a way you don’t like, you may sense that your pulse rate is increasing, your heart may start to race, your breath may get shorter, you may break out a cold sweet or your hands or even the entire body may start to shiver. I call all of these and other heightened physical sensations “raw emotions.” Of course, you may also experience positive sensations but my focus in this post is on the negative emotions as they are the ones that often trigger us into emotional eating.
How do those sensations make you feel? My guess is that they make you feel uncomfortable.
What is your response when you feel uncomfortable? Let me guess again: run away from the discomfort.
Escaping from uncomfortable emotions is an extremely common route that people take in order to feel better. After all, we all want to feel good, don’t we?
What would you do when you are trying to run away from the emotions that are pounding at your door?
For those of us who have been struggling with emotional or binge eating, reaching out for comfort food — especially if they are readily accessible or available — seems to be the easiest choice.
In fact, it seems to be a “safe” choice. It is safe because you’re not going to substances that have a bad reputation and that would cause you to feel like a “bad person.” Substances like drugs, alcohol or cigarettes.
However, these are all “coping mechanisms” by nature. By the same token, some people choose gambling or sex as a way to cope with their discomfort.
Now, it may seem under-stated to call it “discomfort” if a person is trying to use any of the above measures to get away from it.
It may feel more like “pain” or “suffering.” That’s true, when you have added the layer of “feelings” to your physical sensations. At this very subtle and often undetected juncture, you are basically creating an interpretation of your emotional experience. For example, when someone you are close to has done something that violated your personal boundary, you start to feel your heart racing and your head spinning. You are sensing the emotions of anger and disappointment. The feelings of anger and disappointment are your interpretation of the event. What that person has done does not match your expectation of the kind of behavior you have in mind for this particular type of relationship. If it was a stranger, you may have felt differently, or, if you feel the same type of feelings, the intensity of the feelings may not be the same.
What I’d like to suggest, is for you to pay attention to your raw emotions as soon as they show up — regardless of the feelings, or interpretations, that follow.
Next, sit with those emotions. Breathe into them—to acknowledge their existence. Breathe out — to let them out of your emotional body.
You see, when you sidestep this process, your physical body will internalize the emotions and store them somewhere physically, until one day, when those emotions are repeatedly so many times that you can’t stand them anymore, that they start to scream at you through different forms of physical pan or diseases (“dis-eases”).
There is a “90-second rule” about emotions. What the rule says, is when you feel a certain emotion and stay with it while letting it run through your body for 90 seconds without any judgement, it will dissipate by itself. This is one of the most powerful things you could do for your health!
According to Jill Bolte Taylor, author of “My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey,” if we are aware that emotions take 90 seconds to surge through our systems, we can simply allow them to naturally pass and flush out. If we choose to fight the emotions instead, we will emphasize them further and then we will need to fight them again and again. By then, the emotions will have become an “illustrated story” in our mind and will have the power to control us.
Try this 90-second rule out for yourself, and share with me how you feel in the comment section below!
In my next post, I will go even deeper and share with you a complete, step-by-step process of how to resolve emotional eating/food addiction for good.