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Every day clients share their stories of stress eating and self-soothing with food.

“How do I avoid turning to food for emotional comfort?” is a very frequently asked question.

Food is everywhere these days. It’s become a very easy ‘go to’ for soothing ourselves when life feels tough.

Like when you’re feeling anxious, bored or tired.

Perhaps you’re celebrating a win—or, ironically—commiserating a loss.

Maybe you’re fed-up because you’ve been chasing the kids all day.

Conversely, are you feeling lonely because you’ve no kids to chase?

Fake joy

Sadly, when we self-soothe with food, rarely do we experience genuine joy, happiness or peace.

Sure, for the five minutes our head is in the tub of ice cream, it can ‘seem’ like happiness.

The creamy ice cream seems soothing, at least momentarily.

But, if we’re honest, it’s a five-minute ‘fake’ joy, which evaporates very quickly once we scrap the bottom of the tub.

For many women, the after-taste of ice-cream is one of guilt, shame and, in extreme cases, self-hate.

Self-soothing with food is like rubbing salt into the wound.

The pain worsens.

Our self-respect decreases.

Our self-hate increases.

And it doesn’t address what caused the wound in the first place.

So, what can you do instead?

1. Pause

Start catching yourself the next time you reach for the ice cream to soothe an uncomfortable feeling—and pause.

Remember an emotion is just a feeling. It can’t actually hurt you!

I know, I know, I know: you’re terrified that if you give the negative feeling an inch, it’ll take a mile, and you’ll drown in your tears, or the dark abyss will swallow you. I promise you; you won’t!

Ironically, when we eat to avoid our uncomfortable emotions we give them power.

So pause. Just stop, for a second.

2. Acknowledge the illusion

Most of our uncomfortable feelings have as much substance as a soap bubble. This fear that they have strength is an illusion.

What happens when you poke your finger through a soap bubble? That’s right – it pops.

If you want to eliminate comfort eating for good, you’ve got to allow emotions to bubble to the surface.

So, take a couple of deep breaths, close your eyes and allow yourself to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. Welcome the feeling, and allow it to bubble up.

3. Welcome the feeling

Often, when you welcome and acknowledge the feeling, “Geez, I feel reeeeally nervous, right now,” the feeling will “up and away” of its own accord.

The simple act of welcoming, acknowledging and voicing our fears, can remove the fear, or anxiety or nerves.

So start asking “Could I welcome the feeling to just be there?”

Either “yes” or “no” is okay. Curiously, you’ll still often let go, even if you say “no.” Go with the first answer that comes up – no second guessing or over thinking.

4. Transform the feeling

Ask yourself, “Am I willing and open to let this feeling go?” Again, stay away from debate.

If the answer is no, ask yourself, “Would I rather have this feeling or be free?” 

Even if the answer is “no,” go to the next step.

Ask yourself this simpler question, “When?” This is an invitation to let it go, now.

Remember, the letting go is a decision you can make anytime.

Repeat these steps as you go through your day, whenever guilt, anger, frustration, anxiety, or any heavy emotion comes up.

These questions are helpful when you’re en route to the fridge, and as you open the door you’ll realise the desire to eat has upped and awayed along with the emotion you were feeling.

Like anything, this requires practice. Very quickly, the results will get more and more predictable and you’ll notice how you can let go of any emotion that tries to weigh you down.

No drama.

No self-soothing.

Just soap bubbles popping.

And the feeling of genuine joy, genuine happiness and genuine peace with food.

Love etc, Avril

PS: If stress eating is something that’s preventing you being your happy shape and size, you might be interested in the release of my online Virtual Gastric Band Lighten Up programme next month. It’s a comprehensive six-week programme which address stress eating via the power of hypnosis.

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