Emotional Eating was the theme of our first new look, supper club at the Temperance in Leamington Spa this week. It was all about discovering why we eat when we are not hungry. It’s a big subject and the answer is clearly a very individual one!
Our brilliant guest speaker Amanda Austen Jones invited the guests to share their triggers for eating, which were varied and many. We eat when we are bored, stressed, sad, happy, celebrating, and for many more reasons. It seems we have many reasons to eat. I love eating and know that I do occasionally eat when not hungry. I reward myself with food sometimes like everyone does, but I am fully aware that that is what I am doing, I allow myself to enjoy it and I don’t give myself a hard time about it afterwards. It hasn’t always been like that. I clearly remember comfort eating with biscuits as a teenager trying to eat away my emotions at times. and then feeling guilty about it…
Amanda then went on to explain how CBT and transactional analysis can be helpful tools with emotional eating. She explained how our thoughts influence our feelings and ultimately our behaviour. She also explored how we can live within 3 ego states: ‘child’, ‘adult’, and ‘parent’. If we are in the ‘child’ ego state we might well say ‘I’ve been very naughty today & eaten an ice cream’, but if we stop for a moment and actually talk in the ‘adult’ ego state we would say ‘I am an adult and I have made a conscious decision to treat myself to an ice cream, that is OK and I’m going to really enjoy it.’ The conversation on Wednesday evening explored this much further but you get the idea…
She then gave us a blob tree for everyone to colour in to identify where we are on the emotional eating front, and where we would like to be…
And I think for me I was about 1/3 from the top on a platform standing proud, comfortable where I am and not aiming for the top. I am not aiming for perfection, and I guess that is why I don’t really have that struggle with food.
But I FULLY appreciate that this is not easy. I have come a long way since that teenager who ate too many biscuits to supress my emotions. I have studied nutrition for years and spend endless hours cooking up and eating healthy recipes. Eating healthily is automatic for me now. I enjoy healthy food. It tastes better to me. It is my default setting. However, I have also spent the last few years trying to be more mindful, trying to do meditation regularly. I have had several sessions of CBT; I write a journal regularly. So, I have put in a lot of ‘work’ as Amanda would describe it. It is without doubt easier to be more mindful of what you eat if you have the knowledge about what a healthy plate of food is, and some awareness of your emotions.
However, I do think there are several simple steps people can take to feel more empowered about their food choices. I am passionate about teaching people the basics of a healthy diet and it is interesting that we came back to the importance of balancing blood sugar levels for reducing unhealthy cravings. This is basic nutrition and I think is very achievable for people. However, managing emotions is certainly lot more challenging. CBT has really helped me in so many ways. It has helped me to challenge perfectionist tendencies and be kinder to myself. However, we can all try to be more mindful of how we talk to ourselves and start to recognise and label or thoughts and feelings. I have a friend who has often says to imagine yourself talking to yourself as you would a good friend and treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion. The importance of kindness came into the discussion on Wednesday evening, and it seems many of us struggle with being kind to ourselves.
Being more mindful of our food choices and how we talk to ourselves can definitely help us to overcome a little of that struggle with food.
However I think it is also really important to not label food as good as bad or to restrict these ‘bad’ foods (Unless of course you have a food allergy or they are damaging to your health). If you are restricting foods that you see as ‘bad foods’, you are more likely to crave them. However, it can be helpful but really take a moment to pause and consider your food choices. Eating healthily is not about being good, it’s about feeling good. If you crave a food eat it, but really take a moment to taste it and see if you really do think it is as good as you imagined. Also take the time to consider how it makes you feel afterwards. If you don’t feel good perhaps you might make a different decision next time but don’t beat yourself up about it! I don’t restrict foods. I tend to naturally choose healthier options as I enjoy them, and I know they will make me feel good. The healthier option is my default option and the reason why I don’t struggle with food. It is also why I am passionate about sharing delicious and healthy recipes. However, I am also not perfect. I do treat myself to cake occasionally, and I make sure I savour and enjoy it. I am also aware that I eat mindlessly at times. Like I said, I am not perfect. I just don’t restrict foods and I don’t feel guilty about it.
I would love to help others overcome their struggles with food. It is after all one of life’s greatest pleasures. Please come and join us at a future Supper club. I will share healthy food and recipes. Hopefully the more you eat of it the more you will crave it so that making healthy choices becomes your default setting. However, I also hope you also consider it an opportunity to nurture yourself and discover new ways to take care of your own health & wellbeing and start to be a little kinder to yourself. The next supper club is all about movement, when I invite the brilliant Ian Parker to come and get us all dancing and share his passion for Fit Steps, my choice of Vitamin J (Joy)
Please click on the link below to book your place. It promises to be a great night!
If you would like any individual or group support, please do get in touch with the brilliant Amanda Austen Jones. She will help you to investigate your physiological and psychological issues around maintaining a healthy weight. Please visit https://www.warwickshireweightandwellness.co.uk/ or call her on 07891099980 if you would like more information.