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The Ins and Outs of Emotional Eating

by Gina Pickersgill(more info)

listed in food, originally published in issue 153 - December 2008

Emotional Eating in a Nutshell

Do you ever eat when you are stressed, bored or upset? If so, you could be suffering the consequences of emotional eating.

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Emotional Eating is a form of comfort for psychological pain or emotional issues that have not been addressed. In particular, food becomes the ointment that soothes, comforts and even numbs emotional discomfort experienced as an internal sensation that is poorly understood. Due to the uncomfortable nature of these internal sensations we tend to overlook them and pretend they don't exist. How many times have you tried to 'hold back the tears'? Or refused to 'let yourself go'? What were you afraid might happen? Have you yourself ever thought someone to be 'too emotional'? Why is this? And why is it that food gets tied up in all this like a sort of emotional spaghetti bolognaise?

Food is an essential ingredient that is used to indicate the extent to which we are loved and cared for by those we love. Family attitudes to food and its association with social acceptance is, I believe, the mainstay of why food plays a major role in how we react to emotional situations that leave us feeling unloved and abandoned. Binge eating, therefore, demonstrates a lack of emotional coping skills that, if learned, would prevent the urge to binge in response to emotional pain and discomfort.

Many of my clients have reported a reduction or complete elimination of binge eating after just one session. I also experienced my own cure after working with one lady to find that the next morning I myself, no longer desired to eat the food that was in the kitchen just because it was there. Somehow, I had physically and mentally erased the need to eat something just for the sake of it. After 40 years of battling with food, I finally realized what it was like not to be preoccupied with food. To me this transformation was miraculous, but I was curious to find out what had taken place to create such a change in my physiological responses.

Discovering the Inner Saboteur

One of the first things I like to establish with my clients is where they have been holding themselves back. By this I mean the areas in their life that represent a sticking point that prevents the flow of self-expression, which would normally be regarded energetically as natural emotion. See this blockage, if you will, as an emotional dam that prevents the flow of emotionally-charged energy, and creates a build-up of pressure ready to burst the dam open at the blink of an eye. If held back for long enough, this process, which has been described as the saboteur by Medical Intuitive Carolyn Myss, can create great psychological pressure and 'crack' at any moment.

We have all known people who find they can go along the straight and narrow only to be knocked off course by an emotional blip that seems to have a mind of its own. The saboteur literally takes over the system whereby the conscious mind has no 'say' in the matter. It's as if they are on automatic pilot and speeding towards a head-on collision into the wall of diet failure once again. The dam has finally burst and the pent-up emotions flood out all over the place. It is for this reason that I believe going on yet another diet, without addressing the forces that create internal tension, anxiety and stress is, at best futile and at worst dangerous for mental, emotional and physical health. Those forces being the emotions themselves.

"I am in the present. I cannot know what tomorrow will bring forth. I can know only what the truth is for me today. That is what I am called upon to serve, and I serve it in all lucidity."
- Igor Stravinsky


The Nature of Emotions

(The following paragraphs have been channelled by Gina )
An insight into our emotions gives us the ability to know what we need to do to change them. If we take a look at what we do, we can notice what needs to be there in time. Emotions have been described as 'time-forms' by Dr Manfred Clynes, and he is right in assessing their lucidity over time. He did this by measuring wave impulses from the brain that showed a particular way in which these wave forms were shaped. Since we are sentient beings in time, we can rely on the measurement of such phenomenon to guide us in our understanding of how the emotions work to provide us with information.

Informing us of our states, our emotions take pride of place in our uses of what happens in our neurology. Once manifest, they can judge our responses and find a pattern that simulates what we refer to as traits. Personality traits have been defined as continuous patterns over time. With descriptions of those we deem to possess such personality traits as being 'mild mannered' or 'happy-go-lucky' sort of people.

When resisting its expression, emotion becomes an obstacle over which we must climb. The venue of this event being our minds; we have a duty of care to ensure that we service them in a safe and timely manner. This means that we each can notice the revenue of how we perceive one event from the next by focusing on what needs to be done in the moment. It's all a matter of time in the end.

As an example of this I would like to invite you to notice how you are feeling right now. What is the special quality of that feeling? Does it tell you something you need to know? Or does it just focus on what is happening right now? Were you aware of the feeling before this moment? Or did you just find yourself paying attention to the instruction? Where did your knowledge come from? And how did you know it was there? The answer is your emotions let you know. A sort of biochemical signal that flashes alert signals when stimulus are registered in the brain. This protective mechanism helps you to understand a situation, and its requirements, in order to know how to react or respond. Ultimately essential for all survival.

So what has this got to do with eating I hear you ask? Well the first thing is that it is a way to know what food is suitable for consumption. The smell of rotten meat will trigger emotions that repel or push it away. The second thing is that it is dependent on the mode of eating that enhances digestion and assimilation. So that when you are stressed, food will not be fully digested as when you are relaxed and happy. The blood flow in the first case will be diverted to the extremities, thus reducing the capacity of the digestive system to perform its natural functions.

A focus on your inner being is the key to eating healthily, and won't be nearly as painful as when you focus on the reasons you needed to eat without feeling hungry in the first place. It starts with a focus on what you know, and begins with a recognition of what states you manifest in time. NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) is good for this and yet it doesn't see the full picture. The missing piece is what is gesting in the form of pimples on the tongue. These 'taste spots' can utilize the training of your mind to find the right balance between a hedonistic experience of eating and one where you are fully satisfied internally. So what's the difference? The difference is that you only notice the one that emphasizes the feeling of being at one with your soul.

So the next step is to listen to your body with all your soul. The way to do that is to manifest what you desire and find it within your being (i.e. Visualize and feel it 'as if' it's really happening). The secret is to know what you want and get what you need from it. An adjunct to that would be to find what you need and require that you focus on what you want. What does this mean? It means that you can focus on what you desire and get what you want from it. These interchangeable concepts are such that they allow you to mind what you are doing, and gain the insight to feeling a way that shows you what is required from the situation. This concept of alignment will be the thing that helps you to understand a whole range of ideas related to food and why it spells out a way to notice what is needed.

In her book, The Solution, Laurel Mellin states that she has an idea about how to do that. She focuses on ways to express emotions that have been left behind in the minds of those that hold them. Her methods are simple yet effective and show the way to know what to do. Another ingenious method is one you (Gina) have developed in your (my) own right. It shows the way to know what to do, but it also transcends the ideas that most people have come to take as normal, such as taking your time when you eat or playing with your senses when you taste the food. These are just some of the ideas that make people notice what they are eating, as well as the reasons they eat for the pleasure instead of pain. Pleasure and pain, by the way, are not emotions in themselves, but ways of telling how to respond to certain situations for the purpose of noticing what to do.

The Buddha sits in peace and notices what he needs to do. He focuses on his pain, he focuses on his pleasure and realizes what he knows in time and then transmutes it to light. Your (my) method has similar qualities, and has an understanding of what is needed to show the way to focus on many aspects that translate a way of focusing into light.

So What is My Method?

Sit with your palms face up and resting on your thighs. Breathe into your tummy and focus on your breathing. Gently rest your eyes and allow your eyelids to close. Keep breathing softly as you ask to be guided in letting go of what you need to let go of. Ask 'what do I need to let go of in the moment?' Allow yourself to be guided and pay attention to any answers that come to mind. What do you perceive? Notice the change in sensation in your body as you ask "what would you have me do with this illusion?" Then breathe and watch the change in your body as you watch the feeling move and transmute into light. A feeling of expansion and opening should occur on completion. Then send out your gratitude and peace to the world and the Universe beyond.

(Not channelled)
I also work one-on-one with clients for deeper work using a variation on this theme, but as people are individuals I tailor their sessions to meet specific needs. But the end result is usually the same, that being they feel happier, lighter and don't need to eat as much, and even eliminate bouts of emotional eating altogether.

The Future in Understanding Emotions

(Not channelled)
Finally, if emotional eating is to be eliminated, we must be willing to look inside ourselves and pay attention to what our emotions are telling us, and have the courage to ask ourselves the question 'what do I need to do?' In order for permanent changes to be made, I firmly believe that people must be made aware of the emotions that limit choices and stifle freedom when not expressed or transmuted in healthy ways. Acknowledging our less comfortable, as well as less desirable, emotions as I have outlined above, can have a very positive impact on eating behaviours, as well as our long-term mental, physical and psychological health. I hope that I have helped to show the importance of this idea, and can inspire those who read this article to take action in understanding their own emotions better. Ultimately, know that your emotions are your friends that if, given the respect they deserve, will guide you to the answers that are invariably within you.

References

Clynes M Dr. Sentics: The Touch of Emotions. America. Souvenir Press. 1977.
Mellin L. The Solution. Harper Collins/ReganBooks. New York. ISBN 0-06-39186-3. 1998.

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About Gina Pickersgill

Gina is a transpersonal coach who brings multimedia to her practice.  She created an authoritative eMagazine on NLP and Healing, based on The Healing Pool, a virtual sanctuary she owns in Second Life as her avatar 'Nina Lancaster'.

An NLP Master Practitioner and Certified Society of NLP Trainer, Gina assisted co-creator of NLP Richard Bandler on their London NLP, seminars from 2001-5.  Originally training as a fitness instructor specializing in fitness for the fuller figure, she gained a degree in Sports and Exercise Studies in 1999 and introduced the concept of Lifestyle Coaching to Virgin Active Health Clubs. She is a published holistic article writer and regular contributor to NLPLife Training Newsletter. Gina is now focused on working towards a new paradigm of delivering NLP training to a virtual world audience via various forms of multimedia platforms in partnership with sponsors and organizations.

Gina is passionate about raising awareness of virtual worlds, their potential for training change and personal development, where they will have the best benefit to a global audience, as well as to those who need more traditional methods of learning such as books, CDs, audio and one to one coaching.

Gina may be contacted via Tel: 07932 958 262; gina.pickersgill@hotmail.co.uk   www.virtualnlpcoach.com

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