Calling all Emotional Eaters, Comfort Eaters & Stress-Heads: Do You Breathe Correctly?

I’m drowning in a sea of brown boxes, gaffer tape and bubble wrap. You guessed it. We’re moving house.

Studies like to suggest that moving house rates up there as one of life’s more stressful events.

Not that we need a study to confirm what’s high or low stress, right? If we listen, our tummies tell us everything we need to know.

Even though the house move is going well I’ve noticed that as settlement date approaches, the more urgent and frequent my need is to eat……everything + anything.

Hello, emotional eating!!!

A question for you, dear reader.

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What do YOU do when your stress levels are elevated and all you want to do is eat?

Here’s what I did.

I breathed….deeply and consciously.

“How,” you ask, “can something so simple make a difference to anything?”

Here’s how.

Low tech

I understand that breathing as a way to combat emotional eating can feel a little bit ‘low tech’.

I get that.

The good news is that it works.

That’s because nothing communicates to every cell of your body that you’re safe, more eloquently than your breath.

Nothing.

When you shallow breathe (think about when you’re stressed, anxious or nervous), you’re actually sending a message to your body: danger!!!

OK, not sabre-tooth tiger physical danger a la caveman days.

In today’s world of speed, rush, hurry up – presentations to make, kids to collect from school, fragile items to pack and move – there’s a lot of psychological stress.

And get this.

Your body doesn’t distinguish between the types of stress.

That’s right. It responds in exactly the same way to all types of stress. It floods your body with hormones – adrenaline and cortisol.

And, here’s the thing. An elevation of either of these hormones in your body causes emotional eating.

Interesting, isn’t it?

So yes – breathing – is a bit low tech.

But, given we breathe up to 30,000 times per day, can you see the enormous potential to influence your body – positively or negatively?

Do you breathe correctly?

Most of us are so busy holding our stomachs in (so they look flat and firm) that we don’t breathe from the correct place.

The easiest way to determine if you breathe correctly (or not) is to stand in front of a mirror and take a deep breath.

Go on, do it now. I’ll wait here.

If your stomach was the only thing that moved, then you’re one of the rare individuals to retain correct breathing past childhood.

If your shoulders and chest moved upwards, you need to learn to breathe from your diaphragm.

Here’s how.

3 steps to breathing correctly

1. Put your hand on your tummy and, as you breathe in, make your tummy push your hand out. Notice your chest and shoulders stay still.

2. Count to three as you inhale, and three again as you exhale.

3. Repeat 10 times.

Notice how you can actually feel a physical relaxation response. Calm. Serene. In control.

Of course, it’s unnatural to maintain a state of perpetual serenity every second of the day. No one can. If you’re human, you’ll slip up, succumb to stress and overeat again.

That’s part of the process. Simply rinse and repeat to get back to your calm space.

Bonus material

The more you practice conscious breathing the more you’ll build your neurological capacity for peace, calm and control. Just like a weight lifter builds muscle by repeatedly lifting the same weight.

You might want consider making appointments with yourself to breathe. For example, you could start the day by consciously breathing before you get out of bed.

Or, you could link conscious breathing with specific daily activities. For example, showering, waiting for the kettle to boil, and sitting at a red traffic light. Soon it’ll be a daily ritual.

So, next time you find yourself succumbing to emotional or you feel stressed, anxious or tense, take time-out for 10 conscious breaths.

Feel free to tense up again after your 10th. But you probably won’t.

Serene love etc, Avril

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