Embracing Your Emotional Relationship With Food

Do you have an emotional relationship with food? Many of us do. And that’s okay.


The experience of taking in food becomes infused with our emotions from birth when we learn to equate milk from breast or bottle with the experience of being loved. The connection grows as we do. Children grow accustomed to receiving food as reward for being good or to occupy time when bored. As adults we find ourselves turning to food as comfort after a bad day, as reward for a good day, to soothe our raw emotions when hurt, to fill up voids of loneliness, or to stuff down unpleasant thoughts.


It’s common to hear people allude to emotional eating experiences, as in, drowning sorrows with a container of ice cream after a break up, but that’s usually when the conversation usually stops – at the point where the food was eaten, therefore avoiding asking the deeper question of why. But that’s where it gets interesting. When we pause and get curious, if we’re willing to slow down and get quiet with ourselves, then we can explore what’s really going on with our eating.


So what is going on for you? Check in with yourself, feel into your emotional and physical body for clues about what it is you are feeling, and what it is you are needing. Are you feeling unappreciated and using food as a way to give love to yourself? Are you needing more pleasure in your life and eating is the easiest way to satisfy that desire? Are you craving intimacy and indulging in a delicious meal is the closest symbolic substitute? This all makes perfect sense. So, try to let go of the guilt, shame, and self-judgment that usually follows.


Instead, embrace your behaviour. Your body is speaking to you through the symptom of emotional eating. The goal here is not to rely on willpower to extinguish a behaviour you think is bad. The invitation is to bring some awareness and compassion to the table and explore what purpose your emotional eating may be serving. How is it helping you in the short term? How might you be able to resource yourself better in the long term? Perhaps there are areas in your life where you are not speaking your truth? An environment that isn’t serving you? People who are draining you? Are you simply bored? Or is there something you are avoiding feeling?


Emotional eating isn’t in and of itself a problem. We are meant to enjoy our food, and eating can be a very satisfying experience. But if there are underlying needs that aren’t being met, food can take on an exaggerated sense of importance and serve as a crutch — inhibiting personal growth, while expanding your waistline.


It’s worth mentioning that not all overeating is emotional eating. If you are not consuming enough food, if you’re addicted to poor quality food, or if you aren’t absorbing adequate nutrients, your body will demand more food. If you feel hungry all the time, there’s usually a good reason why. If this leads to you feeling uncomfortable in your own skin, it might be time to get honest about what you are really hungry for.


The more we tap into our deepest desires and live in alignment with our true self, the more our eating struggles begin to naturally drop away. A sense of ease takes it’s place, as our relationship with food naturally becomes a source of nourishment and pleasure. Because when you feel better, you eat better. And when you eat better, you feel better.



If this resonates with you, and if you feel ready to explore your own relationship with food, I encourage you to book a consultation with me. lisa@fourleaves.co.nz

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