We’re an overweight nation because we eat more fuel than our bodies burn. So then, why are we eating beyond what we need?
I believe one of the main reasons is that we’re so tuned-out from our bodies and its signals that many of us don’t recognize what “full” is and some of us eat so regularly that we never even allow ourselves to feel hungry.
This comes as no surprise since we’ve been conditioned over time not to trust our bodies. We’ve been encouraged to focus on external programs to show us how we ‘should’ eat and as a result, have become unconscious eaters. We eat because it’s lunchtime, because of an event or gathering. Or, we embrace a promising diet program that tells us exactly when and how much to eat by counting points, carbs, calories or fat grams. We’ve pursued pills, fasts and have even undergone surgery all in a quest to be thin. At the same time, we’ve amassed an encyclopedic knowledge base as it relates to food and nutrition. We’re a smart bunch.
And while many are able to lose weight with one or more of these strategies, the unfortunate truth is that most gain the weight back, and then some. We brush ourselves off, experience shame, berate ourselves, drum up some new enthusiasm and look to the diet industry to provide another promising approach. Wash, lather, repeat. Yuck!
The reason diets don’t work is because they address overeating without addressing the root cause of why we’re overeating in the first place. Overeating is a symptom of being overweight. Permanent weight loss involves getting to the cause of overeating and the cause lies within us. No diet can substitute for the wisdom of your own body.
Attaining and maintaining your natural weight requires conscious connection both physically and emotionally, and it requires you trust in yourself. The good news is that with practice, you can learn techniques for mastering this connection and therefore empowering yourself to end the war with weight and permanently thrive.
The key is to recognize whether you’re emotionally hungry or physically hungry. Physical hunger is a sensation in your body. It’s a cue you feel inside whether it be a subtle recognition that you’ll need to eat soon or a more overt stomach growl. You feed physical hunger with fuel.
Emotional hunger is a feeling with an accompanying thought. You feed emotional hunger by allowing it and embracing self-care. Instead of food, you may really need rest, a walk or a conversation.
In our culture, many of us never learned how to feel our emotions. We either feel nothing or if we feel something, we’ve learned to turn to food for immediate comfort. But what you resist does persist. Those emotions will creep back in and many of us will eat more, shop, drink, or embark on some other distracting behavior. The good news is no emotion will ever kill you and when you allow yourself to experience it, on average, it will only last 90 seconds!
How do we process our emotions?
Become the watcher – Become a compassionate observer of yourself. Start by noticing, like a scientist, what you’re thinking and feeling without any judgment. Get into the habit of checking in with yourself. I advise some of my clients to set alarms in their online calendars every four hours with a simple prompt, “What are you feeling?” This awareness is new ground for many of us.
Allow the feeling – When you recognize an unpleasant emotion, give yourself the gift of a few minutes to process it. Stop and notice how your body feels. Is it hunched over? Is your stomach tight? Are your muscles tense? Is your throat constricted? Describe it. Give it a name. Acknowledge that you’re experiencing the feeling and let that be ok. It’s normal and part of being human. More often than not, once you allow the feeling you will find that it will begin to loosen and won’t have such a grip on you the next time.
Reframe the thought – Ask yourself, what is the one thought that’s creating that emotion? For instance, if you’re feeling hopeless the thought could be, “I’ll never lose weight.” Try to create a better feeling and believable thought such as, “Even though I don’t see it yet, I’m currently in the process of losing weight.” Our thoughts create our emotions, which drive our actions and lead to our results, so coming up with a better feeling thought can dramatically shift your daily experience.
By practicing these techniques, you will empower yourself to give your body what it truly needs and be one step closer to achieving and maintaining your natural healthy weight for good.
You can do this!