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Emotional Eating & State Change

By: Ryan Willms

When stress creeps up into normal life or during a global pandemic, I usually find myself quickly falling into emotional eating. It began when I was a child; I watched my dad do it, I ate to avoid studying in high school, and now financial stress can drive me to it. Cookies, ice cream and popcorn have always been there for me. But eating these foods isn’t really the worst part, it’s how we tend to beat ourselves up about it afterwards. The cycle can be challenging to break and bringing awareness to it is the first step towards finding a healthier relationship with food and ourselves.

Food is amazing. It literally turns into the cells that make up our body, fuels us to achieve and experience everything that is beautiful in life—not to mention how good it tastes, each bite offering the chance to experience joy in the present moment. As wonderful as food is, our emotional bodies can take us out of balance with this relationship, craving more than we really need or searching for nostalgic flavours that signalled safety when we were children. I’ve been able to uncover some of this programming from my childhood, and I’ve learned to bring compassion to my inner child through experimenting with fasting. Not only does fasting offer our bodies a chance for deep repair and physical recovery, but it also can shed light into our relationship with food more holistically.

I don’t recommend trying fasting for the first time when life is feeling extra stressful however. But I would invite you to try to bring more awareness to your choices, especially with snacking and late night treats. Asking ourselves, “Do I really need this? Does my body need these nutrients? Am I feeding my inner child? If so, when did I feel this way in the past?” Pulling at these threads can be a powerful way to understand our subconscious patterns. Then, if we choose to eat these foods to fill an emotional need, we can make that choice consciously and ask our bodies to accept the food, knowing that we are feeding our inner children and not beating ourselves up about it.

Once we can begin to catch ourselves in these patterns, we can start making new choices. Utilizing a state change is the quickest, healthiest way that I’ve found I can manage this. Taking a cold shower, 60 seconds of push-ups, walking around the block, a 10-minute meditation, journaling or some Wim Hof breath-work; all of these provide the opportunity to re-evaluate how we’re really feeling, and why we’re reaching for food in this moment. I’ve often found by using one of these simple tools, I can easily see that I don’t really need that bowl of popcorn right now and by moving my body, changing my physical and emotional state, I can make a better choice for myself—and that’s real growth.