Emotional eating is one of the main causes of overeating. We all know that food provides immediate pleasure. It makes us release feel good hormones, making us relaxed and happy instantly. For this reason, food is commonly use to avoid unwanted feelings.
In most cases, this is done in an unconscious way. Most people are so used to this pattern that they can’t differentiate between real hunger and emotional hunger. The repeated habit makes also hard to stop it. Becoming aware or this pattern and dealing with the emotions, will set you free from emotional eating.
Allowing yourself to feel and deal with the emotions will stop using food to hide this feelings. There is nothing wrong with having emotions. Emotions don’t kill, they are there to be heard and tell us when something has to be changed in our lives or when we need to work on ourselves. This seven steps will help you learn how to deal with emotions, so you can manage them, let them go and carry on with your life in a happier way, not using food to get an instant high that will soon disappear, leaving the emotions undelt and unchanged,
The seven steps to emotional freedom:
1. Take responsibility
2. Feel the emotion
3. Label the emotion
4. Describe the emotion
5. Share the emotion
6. Release the emotion
7. Celebrate and let it go
1. TAKE RESPONSABILITY OF YOUR EMOTION
The word responsibility comes from response and ability. This is the ability to respond. It means that when you take responsibility you are totally in control of the situation or in this case the emotion. When you take responsibility you are in charge of the emotion and how you respond to it. You are the only one who has the ability to deal with it, no one else.
Your emotions are yours, you are the only one who creates them. Don't play the victim. It is very important that you take responsibility 100%. Then, you will be in total control of managing that emotion. No one is causing or is responsible for your own emotions. You can experience certain situations with people involved but your emotions are only yours. You are the one deciding what perspective you take and what emotions you feel.
Don't blame others, don't blame external factors. Once you understand that your emotions are only yours, you will be able to deal with them, rather than wait for things, the situation or people to change so you can feel a different emotion. This will never happen, it is all on you.
2. FEEL THE EMOTION
Most of the time we are fearful of feeling certain emotions. Emotions can be uncomfortable or painful, therefore we try to avoid them. In order to find emotional freedom and be able to manage them in the right way, we need to allow ourselves to feel it. An emotion is just an emotion, a feeling in your body. It is only a sensation we create through our thoughts. An emotion can't kill you. Pushing it away, won't help understanding and dealing with it. It will be on the side dormant, to come back again for being unresolved.
Trying to change or hide the emotion by using something else can be very harmful. Some people may turn to alcohol, drugs, food or even the need of other people to reduce or alleviate the emotion. This repeated pattern creates addiction and emotions become very difficult to deal with. Instead, give yourself permission to feel it. Let it run through your body. See how it feels, where it is located. Ask questions to that emotion and try to understand it. Even if you don't like it, it is there to tell you something important about yourself, your values and your needs.
3. LABEL THE EMOTION
Once you have taken responsibility and allowed yourself to feel the emotion, it is time to label it. The most important thing when labelling the emotion, is not to label it as an emotion that blames someone else and makes you a victim. These are emotions like, I feel abandoned, I feel threatened, I feel rejected, I feel insulted, I feel let down…
Same as we have to take responsibility for our emotions, so our emotions won't depend or be controlled by someone else, we must label them in a way that is only our feeling. A label that separates the feeling from anything or anyone else. This labels could be, I feel sad, I feel frustrated, I feel angry, I feel anxious, I feel fear, I feel confused and so on. This exercise will help you recognise the feeling to start understanding what is behind and to be able to deal with it and change that emotion. If you don’t know what the emotion is, it is unlikely you will be able to manage it.
4. DESCRIBE THE EMOTION
At this point you should have a better awareness and understanding of the emotion you are feeling. Now it should have a name and we can work from there. In this step you are going to describe the emotion and the situation that has triggered it.
First, write down the situation and the name of that emotion. After having it written down, start describing the situation and emotions from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd person. 1st person is you, 2nd person is the person on the other side of the situation and 3rd person will be someone seeing the situation from the outside, being neutral. This will make you see the situation from different perspectives and also be empathetic.
Doing so, your emotions will start to dissipate. They will no longer have the same strength since you open your mind to different perspectives. Being empathetic has a huge impact in your own emotions. As you will see that someone else could be suffering too or that the same situation can be seen in a positive way. The view from the 3rd person is particularly important. Make an analysis stepping out of any emotions. See yourself and the situation as if it was a film or a situation of a friend with someone else. This way you will be able to think clearly instead of reacting to the situation.
When the emotions have nothing to do with a second person, when they are an emotion that was been trigger but something within yourself, you can still do this same practice. Describe the situation from the 1st person, then for the second try to think of different ways of seeing that same situation, think how someone else with different personality could feel about them. For example, you could think of how a cold person could experience it, or some one who is very sensitive, someone who gets angry or some one who gets really sad, then think of someone who has a very positive perspective in everything and find advantages in the situation. How would all those different characters see the same situation.
The point of this step is to shift your perspective to different ones. This way your emotions will start changing, as you realise you can adopt the perspective that you want. You can choose to see a situation in a positive way or a negative one. You decide where to direct your mind to, what visiont to have and what thoughts you want to stick too.
5. SHARE THE EMOTION
All the previous steps were focused on having a deep understanding of the emotion, analyse the emotion in depth, now it is time to release the emotion. The next steps will help us liberate from the emotion. To do so, the first thing we need to do is share it. Share it with that person we can trust and is there for us. We all should have someone like that to go to. Sharing with someone else is very important. It helps us to learn how to express feelings and emotions and not keep them inside. Keeping inside the emotion, means not releasing it. They accumulate and build up until you have a big emotional explosion.
When you share the emotion make sure you share the three points of view from the previous step. You want to make clear to that person that you acknowledge what the other person in the situation is also feeling and from an external view what is right. If you only give your view on it, the other person will give you an opinion based on only one perspective and that won't be beneficial for yourself. It could actually make it worse by reinforcing the negative feelings you were having at the beginning.
6. RELEASE THE EMOTION
First we share, then we let go. Once you have shared the emotion with the person you trust, it is time to let it go. To let go of the emotion, you will have to create a ritual. Think of what suits you best and feels good to do. Some ideas is writing it on a piece of paper and burn it or tear it into pieces and throw it away. You could also do a yoga session or practice breathing with the piece of paper next to you. Exercising can also be a great way to release it. Go for a run, dancing or a fitness class.
If you believe in god you can also release the emotion through praying. Or if you believe in the universe and energy, you can practice affirmations and gratitude. The idea is to do whatever ritual serves you to stop feeling that emotion and instead make you feel good. The ritual should be something that helps eliminate the emotion from your brain, that’s why the idea of burning or braking a paper, or letting it out through breathing. My favourite one is writing it in a paper. Go for a walk, dancing or do yoga and at the end do some breathing and break the paper saying this emotion doesn't belong to me and that's not my true self. I repeat this to myself once I have done the activity that makes me feel good, so i am already in a positive state to release the emotion.
7. CELEBRATE THE EMOTIONAL RELEASE
Here is the final step. This is definitely a fun one. After completing all the steps and finally let go of the emotion, it is time to celebrate. Do something to treat yourself for completing each of the steps. Whatever makes you feel rewarded. It could be having a glass of wine, cooking a special meal, going out for dinner, having coffee with a friend, going shopping, receiving a massage or something as simple as taking a relaxing bath or taking time for yourself.
The purpose of this step is not only to have fun and treat yourself. Linking the end of such an effort with a good feeling will make easier for you to repeat the process. You will know that making the effort has a final great sense of accomplishment and that you will feel amazing. Also, you deserve to celebrate and be proud of yourself for managing your emotions in the right way.
Follow all the steps each time a bad feeling arises. It is important to complete all of them, don’t skip any. The more you do it the easier it will become. You will soon realise that emotions are only emotions, there is no harm in feeling them. This will change your life and your relationships big time.
Learning to manage your emotions is a vital part to end emotional eating. When you know you can deal with them, there is no need to turn to food. You will be able to experience the emotion, learn from it and even grow, as you will understand your needs and react in different ways in future situations that will benefit you more. Get ready to break free from emotional eating and be a new better you!
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