I have been meaning to write this blog post for a while, but when I got around to it was going to be more of a reflection on my past and how much I have grown, looking back. Falling into an old feeling and pattern the past couple of weeks has motivated me to share my story about emotional eating as a way for me to put all of these pieces together and also share what I think may shed light on what is probably a more common issue that most of us realize.
I recently started reading Heal Your Body, a classic by Louise Hay on the metaphysical way to overcome common physical illnesses or symptoms. The suggested cause for excessive hunger is "Fear. Needing Protection. Judging the Emotions." Something I did not realize I was craving during the days when this was a huge issue for me. I cannot say that I have ever had an eating disorder from how I understand them, but have had experiences of intense insatiable hunger that have come along with many emotions connected to what I now recognize as anxiety.
It first began with a number of new experiences- when I moved out for the first time, was a new teacher in a difficult school and also began my wellness journey and was experimenting with eating healthy. This combination led to a constant feeling of being starving. I think that the emotions I was experiencing were being manifested in a feeling of hunger. I also now know that I was not eating the right foods to nourish myself. I will post more about the beginning of my wellness journey another time, but I basically began by eating a packet of sugary oatmeal and a banana for breakfast, low calorie lean cuisines for lunch, and then would come home from an extremely stressful day of work STARVING and down multiple "healthy" bowls of sugary granola and almond milk to try and fix the feeling. It probably did not help that I was watching the news from bed at night (something I now know is a big no no for me!) and pushing myself to wake up at 5am to workout halfway to work on my hour long commute each morning.
I can recall keeping bags of chocolate chips in the freezer and mindlessly eating almost half a bag in one sitting after work. Seriously just to calm my nerves and feel "safe." Chocolate cravings are no stranger in the present. Especially during stressful times. The last couple of weeks I have been running a Summer program for youth with difficult backgrounds. All the FEELS have been back. The fear. The anxiety, The judgement. I now completely get it and know where it is coming from and have ways to cope. I meditate daily and use the mantra that Louise Hay suggests for excessive hunger, which resonates with this situation so much- "I am safe. It is safe to feel. My feelings are normal and acceptable."
This is such a work in progress. I have gone so long without the feeling of constant excessive hunger but it is back in full force the past few weeks. Before this, I was practicing intermittent fasting and not hungry until a later breakfast, but now I am back to how I used to be for years- waking up STARVING ready to eat. The difference is that now I get it. I know why and I know what I need to work on to heal this feeling. In the meantime, I am letting myself enjoy the extra large meals and my daily chocolate with coconut butter I am coming home from work ready to dive into. I know how to prepare healthy comfort food for myself- warming and clean, high fat foods that make me feel good. I expect this feeling to go away after the program ends this week but know it will come back again later in life if I do not work on getting to the root and fixing the beliefs I hold that reveal themselves in this way.
That's a longwinded way of me trying to share the following:
Excessive hunger and emotional eating is normal and a physiological response to stress. If you experience this, reflect on if you are feeling fear or needing protection. Are you judging your emotions? If so, practice and repeat this mantra: "I am safe. It is safe to feel. My feelings are normal and acceptable" (Louise Hay).
What is making you feel this way? When I used to experience this I was like a fresh piece of meat thrown into a tiger den at a tough school and scared as shit of the angry parents, challenging kids and condescending leadership and felt so inadequate. I was not only unfairly judging myself, but judging my emotions, which were completely normal. I have healed this over the years but these couple of weeks with the program I am running, fell into the same trap. Instead of letting myself just feel and be okay with the stress of working with challenging kids (I am literally driving a van of them on field trips!), I am judging. Judging myself and judging my emotions. I now have the tools I need to recognize and work on this so that it doesn't become a long term pattern again.