Chicks in Control - How do you "sit with your feelings"? (Emotional eating-related)




Durian
06-11-2014, 08:04 PM
How do you "sit with your feelings" rather than eat them? I tell myself I'm just bored or sad or "insert emotion", and yet, in my head I say, "I want that" and then I eat it. I'm not sure how to change that. How do you actually sit with your feelings? Do you talk through it? Am I supposed to be feeling them or distracting myself from food as a means of not dealing with them? And, how do you move past the desire to have something, even something healthy?

If you've worked through this, please tell me what helped. Any words of encouragement are appreciated.


Mrs Snark
06-12-2014, 12:56 PM
Well, there is no easy answer to this one. I'm sure different things work for different people -- and different things work for me at different times.

So as for me, I am a person who is often "too much in my own head". I tend to obsess over my thoughts and feeling and worries, wallow, get bogged down, flounder and sink (into a bowl of Swedish fish if one was handy). I definitely used to turn to food as a distraction and a comfort during times of strong emotions (and sometimes I still do).

My problem is, I don't need to "sit with my feelings" any more than I already do. It just isn't productive for me. I need to redirect myself, and hopefully in a way that doesn't involve eating everything in sight. At first it takes conscious thought and will to create a new habit that doesn't involve eating as distraction/comfort. And it is hard. It gets easier over time (at least for me it has). I tend to turn to books, movies, exercise, the internet/forums, my dogs, or creative endeavors (writing, painting, home improvement projects, etc.) as a more healthy distraction.

I think positive redirection is one reason I come to 3fc as much as I do -- reading about other people's problems and solutions and trying to be supportive of others is an excellent (and productive) distraction and often reminds me of ways to handle my own similar issues when I'm struggling.

:)

pixelllate
06-12-2014, 02:03 PM
I just do it and bear through the pain. I don't think too much about the how. I just choose not to eat. I find the pain to be bad, but I mean, not as big and scary as I imagine it to be once I just let myself face it.


kurisitaru
06-12-2014, 02:11 PM
I agree with Mrs Snark, redirecting emotions to other things such as forums or activities is a good way to deal.

I am a HUGE emotional eater. When I'm stressed I want carbs and coffees and sugars. I feel like I can't study or work without something sweet. When I'm sad I want dairy. Ice cream is the best when I want to cry. Angry and I'm after Mexican food with extra cheese. Happy? I have a food for that as well. I want to go out and eat weird things, desserts, etc. Bored... yeah... eat for that as well.

I've learned to either allow myself to eat, but I don't eat the same things now. For instance, when I'm stressed and want something sweet, I get strawberries or melons. SWEET and no guilt. No one ever says "ooooooops I hate the whole thing of strawberries, I'm such a fatty!" You just eat the strawberries... write them down in your diary and feel fine about it. When I'm bored, instead of getting a bag of chips I either do something so I'm not bored (like go for a walk) or I'll get a small bag of no sugar/salt popcorn for 100 calories if I must. OR glass of water to satisfy the need to get something.

I'm slowly switching from "needing food" to satisfy something with doing something else. I get stressed and so I decided to train myself to go for a walk or run next time I'm stressed. If I'm angry, I'm going to do Yoga or boxing as that seems like a good way to calm down. I think if we force ourselves to redirect our emotions to something healthy, like a healthy snack or a work out, vs doing something destructive (like eating an entire cheesecake... moment of not being proud of myself), then we will feel better in the end AND it's proven than these things can lower depression, stress, and anger. So it's not just to redirect, but will actually help us!

Next time you're upset or stressed, instead of going for the food, make a conscience decision to go for a walk or get something healthy. See how good that made you feel vs guilt of food, and then it becomes easier. Because the second time you feel stronger like, you can make that change and you feel better when you did. After a while, going for a run when stressed will be what you crave vs going to Starbucks.

kurisitaru
06-12-2014, 02:19 PM
Oh, and BTW, when I run or shower or do my alternative to food, I don't sit with the emotion, I think about it. Running is easier when I'm dealing with an emotion because I don't focus on "my god my legs hurt" and instead I'm thinking "I need to do the project, when I get home I can do this, then this... and it'll be fine...."

I also talk to people about it. If you don't have a kind person in your life who let you vent to them about what's eating you, or you feel that that person just doesn't want to hear it anymore, I've discovered therapy is a good thing, if you can afford it, have it in your insurance, school offers it for free... etc. Don't let the emotion fester. Work it out, just work it out in a different way. Maybe instead of food as well... if you're really upset about something, make a list of what you're sad about and how to solve what you're sad about. For instance:
I'm sad that I can't fit in my jeans anymore.
Step 1) Count my Calories
Step 2) Start excercising
Step 3) Seek Help
Step 4) Buy clothes that fit until I shrink.

It helps to make lists. Pros and Cons lists when you are stressed about a decision, lists of "To-do" when stressed about projects, Lists of things you like about yourself (I'm not joking) when you feel low.

seagirl
06-12-2014, 02:23 PM
I literally sit. Without the computer or tv or my phone or a book or food. I just sit. And I see what feelings come up. I separate them into thoughts and physical sensations. So I might say "oh, my stomach feels weird and my brain is telling me that it is hunger. but I am also nervous about that thing at work which makes my stomach feel weird and my brain tell me that I might get in trouble for xyz." Or "I am sad about the breakup, it feels like tightness in my chest and my arms feel heavy and my mouth is turned down."

Then if you see for a few minutes you'll see that other physical sensations might come up, and other thoughts. And you'll see that feeling sad or scared didn't kill you, and that it passed. You might find journaling helps too.

You could even set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes to sit every day.

And each time you feel the feeling instead of eating it, you get stronger and it will get easier.

KayMayWill
06-12-2014, 02:43 PM
I put off eating. If I'm stressed or feeling any emotion, mostly boredom, and I get that urge, I tell myself to just wait an hour. Or if its a strong one, say I'm passing a Chinese buffet and I want to go in a pack a to-go box completely full. I tell myself, no, get it tomorrow instead. If I still have the opportunity or urge the next day I tell myself the same thing. Eventually I lose the craving or forget I had it in the first place. Most of the time.

Finding a non-food distraction or putting off eating usually works for me. Then, if I need to deal with my emotions I can do so without eating.

lin43
06-12-2014, 04:05 PM
Well, there is no easy answer to this one. I'm sure different things work for different people -- and different things work for me at different times.

So as for me, I am a person who is often "too much in my own head". I tend to obsess over my thoughts and feeling and worries, wallow, get bogged down, flounder and sink (into a bowl of Swedish fish if one was handy). I definitely used to turn to food as a distraction and a comfort during times of strong emotions (and sometimes I still do).

My problem is, I don't need to "sit with my feelings" any more than I already do. It just isn't productive for me. I need to redirect myself, and hopefully in a way that doesn't involve eating everything in sight. At first it takes conscious thought and will to create a new habit that doesn't involve eating as distraction/comfort. And it is hard. It gets easier over time (at least for me it has). I tend to turn to books, movies, exercise, the internet/forums, my dogs, or creative endeavors (writing, painting, home improvement projects, etc.) as a more healthy distraction.

I think positive redirection is one reason I come to 3fc as much as I do -- reading about other people's problems and solutions and trying to be supportive of others is an excellent (and productive) distraction and often reminds me of ways to handle my own similar issues when I'm struggling.

:)

I could have written this post! You and I must be mental "twins." I, too, am always in my head too much. It's one reason that I don't seem to notice very much (a running joke among my sisters and me is that I would make the world's worst witness. I wouldn't even be able to tell you the color of the rug in my office without a conscious effort to notice it).

To the OP, like Mrs. Snark, what works for me best is distraction---for me it has to be an enjoyable one. For instance, some folks clean their house to distract themselves, but for me, food will always win over doing a chore of some kind. So, phoning a friend, taking out a sewing project I'm working on, etc., are the type of distractions that work for me.

I don't believe that actually answers your question, though, since distraction is not sitting with one's feelings. I think I can probably sit with sadness; sometimes, a good cry is what I need, and it feels great. However, I don't know how to sit with those other emotions that cause me to eat (e.g., boredom).

Kudos for raising a great question, considering how often we've all heard that we need to "sit with our feelings" rather than drown them in food.

ubergirl
06-12-2014, 04:05 PM
I put off eating. If I'm stressed or feeling any emotion, mostly boredom, and I get that urge, I tell myself to just wait an hour. Or if its a strong one, say I'm passing a Chinese buffet and I want to go in a pack a to-go box completely full. I tell myself, no, get it tomorrow instead. If I still have the opportunity or urge the next day I tell myself the same thing. Eventually I lose the craving or forget I had it in the first place. Most of the time.



I'm a huge emotional eater, stress eater, binge eater, and I do find that the above strategy works for me surprisingly well. I tell myself "you can have that, but not right now."

But, there are definitely times when I force myself to "sit with my feelings". That is when I'm experiencing what feels like an overwhelming craving-- if I don't give into it it is a very unpleasant, kind of itchy, agitated feeling.

For myself, I do not find that eating a substitute, like strawberries when I crave candy, is helpful. Turning toward food of any kind just seems to reinforce the habit and strawberries would be like a gateway drug for me. :dizzy:

What's more helpful for me is if I just tell myself, okay, this awful craving feeling is just a craving and you are just going to have to ride it out. I'm not sure that it helps me so much to identify the exact emotion that I'm feeling (anger, stress, boredom) as it is to tell myself that it is just a craving and that if I wait that it will pass.

The most dangerous time for me is when I'm really upset and whatever is bothering me just manages to take up most of the space in my head-- then the little voice saying "resist the craving" is really faint and easier to ignore. That's the thing I'm going to have to work on more.

Wannabeskinny
06-13-2014, 09:45 AM
Sitting with our feelings is one of the most daunting things ever. But it's one of those things that once you do it a couple of times it's like "ok that's not so hard." I've worked really hard with my nutritional therapist on this very issue and sitting with my feelings was truly not possible when I was dieting. Intuitive Eating has helped me tremendously with this because I don't have to work so hard now to battle cravings and restrictions and I can focus all my energy on addressing my emotional needs. What I mean is that it's impossible for me to deal with an emotion when I'm trying to force myself not to give into a craving. After decades of emotional eating my body interprets all stress as hunger and so the initial process of IE is to address that hunger and give it whatever it wants. Once that never ending hunger was finally satisfied I could move on to observing my cravings, which were always brought on by emotion.

So when I feel a strong craving now, especially now that I know the difference between stomach hunger and mouth hunger, I can identify right away that it's not real hunger. I have a series of things I can do.

Distraction: change environment, watch a funny movie, surf the net, listen to music, go out with a friend, go shopping, go for a walk

Support: reach out to a friend or family member, internet forum, talk with an advisor like a counselor or therapist or spiritual leader

Deal directly with Feeling: write in a journal, listen to music that matches my emotion, write a letter, sit with the feeling for 10min, try to reframe the situation by stepping into someone else's viewpoint, talk with a therapist

Self-care: set limits, respect my vulnerability, take advantage of alone time, sleep/rest, write in a journal, unplug phone/computer

All these tools are very helpful to me. Sitting with the emotion specifically looks like this: I pick a chore like folding laundry or washing dishes and I talk to myself out loud about how angry I am. I fully immerse myself in that emotion and run with it. If I'm angry with my husband for example I have a pretend conversation with him, out loud by myself. Once I get it out I feel better and all those feelings don't seem daunting anymore.

If it's too overwhelming and I can't think straight I go ahead and give in to it and eat whatever I'm craving. But I make sure after I've eaten that I go back and evaluate that feeling. I don't burden myself with guilt about eating, that just gets in the way of truly addressing those emotions.

So now that I wrote this all out it has made me realize that all the food restriction and food journaling and calorie counting and guilt inducing food behaviors and avoidance, all those things were in the way of dealing with my emotional eating. I'm not an emotional eater anymore. As it turns out, the question is always always always "What do I need right now to help me get through this emotional hurdle?"

lin43
06-13-2014, 07:31 PM
Sitting with our feelings is one of the most daunting things ever. But it's one of those things that once you do it a couple of times it's like "ok that's not so hard." I've worked really hard with my nutritional therapist on this very issue and sitting with my feelings was truly not possible when I was dieting. Intuitive Eating has helped me tremendously with this because I don't have to work so hard now to battle cravings and restrictions and I can focus all my energy on addressing my emotional needs. What I mean is that it's impossible for me to deal with an emotion when I'm trying to force myself not to give into a craving. After decades of emotional eating my body interprets all stress as hunger and so the initial process of IE is to address that hunger and give it whatever it wants. Once that never ending hunger was finally satisfied I could move on to observing my cravings, which were always brought on by emotion.

So when I feel a strong craving now, especially now that I know the difference between stomach hunger and mouth hunger, I can identify right away that it's not real hunger. I have a series of things I can do.

Distraction: change environment, watch a funny movie, surf the net, listen to music, go out with a friend, go shopping, go for a walk

Support: reach out to a friend or family member, internet forum, talk with an advisor like a counselor or therapist or spiritual leader

Deal directly with Feeling: write in a journal, listen to music that matches my emotion, write a letter, sit with the feeling for 10min, try to reframe the situation by stepping into someone else's viewpoint, talk with a therapist

Self-care: set limits, respect my vulnerability, take advantage of alone time, sleep/rest, write in a journal, unplug phone/computer

All these tools are very helpful to me. Sitting with the emotion specifically looks like this: I pick a chore like folding laundry or washing dishes and I talk to myself out loud about how angry I am. I fully immerse myself in that emotion and run with it. If I'm angry with my husband for example I have a pretend conversation with him, out loud by myself. Once I get it out I feel better and all those feelings don't seem daunting anymore.

If it's too overwhelming and I can't think straight I go ahead and give in to it and eat whatever I'm craving. But I make sure after I've eaten that I go back and evaluate that feeling. I don't burden myself with guilt about eating, that just gets in the way of truly addressing those emotions.

So now that I wrote this all out it has made me realize that all the food restriction and food journaling and calorie counting and guilt inducing food behaviors and avoidance, all those things were in the way of dealing with my emotional eating. I'm not an emotional eater anymore. As it turns out, the question is always always always "What do I need right now to help me get through this emotional hurdle?"

Great post---really enlightening!

Streudel
06-14-2014, 09:14 AM
Deal directly with Feeling: write in a journal, listen to music that matches my emotion, write a letter, sit with the feeling for 10min, try to reframe the situation by stepping into someone else's viewpoint, talk with a therapist

I do all of the above and it is very helpful. ( Excellent post Wannabeskinny )


Seeing a therapist was a huge step for me. Not because we focused on my eating issues, but because we focused on my inability to set my boundaries and enforce them. 9 times out of 10, the root cause of the emotion I wanted to bury, whether that emotion was sadness, anger, guilt, etc. was my inability to express my needs to other people. The more I learn to say " Hey, I'm NOT OK with __________ " to the people in my life, the less I find I have to sit with my feelings.

lin43
06-14-2014, 04:28 PM
. . . 9 times out of 10, the root cause of the emotion I wanted to bury, whether that emotion was sadness, anger, guilt, etc. was my inability to express my needs to other people. The more I learn to say " Hey, I'm NOT OK with __________ " to the people in my life, the less I find I have to sit with my feelings.

This is me all the way. Years ago, a book titled The Dance of Anger was recommended to me. It's been a long time since I read it, but the gist of it was how women are conditioned by our society to be embarrassed of their feelings, especially ones that are perceived as "un-feminine," like anger. Instead, we bury it to our own self-destruction. At the time (in my late 20's) I read a bit of it and thought, "This doesn't apply to me at all!." Years later, I happened to come across it again and couldn't believe how accurate it was; I just couldn't objectively see it in me those years before. I still have a problem saying "no," and it has gotten me into "friendships" with people who are using me for something and/or find a "friendship" with me convenient because I'm so easygoing that I make little to no demands on them. Even then, I find it difficult to break off those friendships. I wonder if I had the courage to be more straightforward with people if that would affect my eating in any way.

Just some thoughts; hope I didn't derail the thread.

Durian
06-14-2014, 04:32 PM
I have no idea how I missed these responses! Thank you all for taking the time to respond in such a helpful way. I will probably try a different suggestion each day and see what helps me through it long-term.

Thank you again; I appreciate all of the thoughts.

Well, there is no easy answer to this one. I'm sure different things work for different people -- and different things work for me at different times.<snip>

Something for me to keep in mind. Thank you.

Seeing a therapist was a huge step for me. Not because we focused on my eating issues, but because we focused on my inability to set my boundaries and enforce them. 9 times out of 10, the root cause of the emotion I wanted to bury, whether that emotion was sadness, anger, guilt, etc. was my inability to express my needs to other people. The more I learn to say " Hey, I'm NOT OK with __________ " to the people in my life, the less I find I have to sit with my feelings.

Interesting. I'll have to take note of this in my own life.

I could have written this post! You and I must be mental "twins." I, too, am always in my head too much. It's one reason that I don't seem to notice very much (a running joke among my sisters and me is that I would make the world's worst witness. I wouldn't even be able to tell you the color of the rug in my office without a conscious effort to notice it).


I have a good bit of that in me, too.

I literally sit. Without the computer or tv or my phone or a book or food. I just sit. And I see what feelings come up. I separate them into thoughts and physical sensations. So I might say "oh, my stomach feels weird and my brain is telling me that it is hunger. but I am also nervous about that thing at work which makes my stomach feel weird and my brain tell me that I might get in trouble for xyz." Or "I am sad about the breakup, it feels like tightness in my chest and my arms feel heavy and my mouth is turned down."

Then if you see for a few minutes you'll see that other physical sensations might come up, and other thoughts. And you'll see that feeling sad or scared didn't kill you, and that it passed. You might find journaling helps too.

You could even set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes to sit every day.

And each time you feel the feeling instead of eating it, you get stronger and it will get easier.

I love this. I will try this first.

<snip>
All these tools are very helpful to me. Sitting with the emotion specifically looks like this: I pick a chore like folding laundry or washing dishes and I talk to myself out loud about how angry I am. I fully immerse myself in that emotion and run with it. If I'm angry with my husband for example I have a pretend conversation with him, out loud by myself. Once I get it out I feel better and all those feelings don't seem daunting anymore.<snip>

Have you found talking out loud more helpful than talking "in your head"? I have actually been considering it because I don't find talking "in my head" helpful.

Wannabeskinny
06-15-2014, 09:31 AM
Have you found talking out loud more helpful than talking "in your head"? I have actually been considering it because I don't find talking "in my head" helpful.

Yes, it is much different than saying it in my head. For me anyway. It helps me to articulate those thoughts. But you have to push yourself to really say what you want to say and not be afraid to go there. I make sure that I'm alone though so I can say all the things I want to say out loud. Sometimes I'm shocked by what I have to say, and the level of anger that comes out. But once it comes out it doesn't fester in me anymore.

Locke
06-15-2014, 01:38 PM
If I have a negative feeling I focus on it. I go from "I don't feel right" to why I don't feel right. I try to find out why I am feeling that feeling. I acknowledge it and give it legitimacy. I give myself permission to have the feeling. It's okay to be sad about "x", for example. Then I "feel" the feeling. I check in with my body. How does my body feel right now as I have this feeling? Is my heart rate a bit elevated? Do I have a slight headache? Tingling in the limbs? These are all little things that I can deal with- when I simply "feel" them they don't seem as scary. Then I try to address the source of the feeling. Some sources of feelings are within your control. Some aren't. For the ones in my control I try to make positive changes to alleviate the problem. For the ones out of my control I will either let it go or distract myself with something positive.

Gingerjv
06-15-2014, 01:56 PM
I am great emotional eater!!! I eat when i am happy, sad, tired, bored... I found the only one way not to eat - be busy with anything! when i feel emotional hunger i start to do something: cleaning, walking, talking on the phone, reading. It helps to forget about emotional hunger for long time;-)

LilDazed
06-17-2014, 10:48 AM
I am great emotional eater!!! I eat when i am happy, sad, tired, bored... I found the only one way not to eat - be busy with anything! when i feel emotional hunger i start to do something: cleaning, walking, talking on the phone, reading. It helps to forget about emotional hunger for long time;-)

I'm the same way! Especially with wine.

Gah, today was just awful. This calls for a glass of wine.

Today was amazing! I must celebrate with a glass of wine!

:^: Keeping busy really is the best way to keep food/drink off the brain.

Wannabeskinny
06-17-2014, 10:59 AM
I'm the same way! Especially with wine.

Gah, today was just awful. This calls for a glass of wine.

Today was amazing! I must celebrate with a glass of wine!

:^: Keeping busy really is the best way to keep food/drink off the brain.

I'm extremely busy, that has never stopped me from a binge. We live in a busy world, people have never been as busy or as fat as they are now. Distraction is one small way of dealing with a craving but by far the least effective except in a few circumstances. You cannot outrun, outsmart or distract emotions continuously. You can put them to the side for short bits of time until you come up with a better plan but that's it. Do you know anyone busier than Oprah? Nope, and she has disordered eating just like the rest of us.

LilDazed
06-17-2014, 04:35 PM
I'm extremely busy, that has never stopped me from a binge. We live in a busy world, people have never been as busy or as fat as they are now. Distraction is one small way of dealing with a craving but by far the least effective except in a few circumstances. You cannot outrun, outsmart or distract emotions continuously. You can put them to the side for short bits of time until you come up with a better plan but that's it. Do you know anyone busier than Oprah? Nope, and she has disordered eating just like the rest of us.

Perhaps keeping busy isn't the "best" way then. But I tend to binge the most when I'm chilling at home so if I'm out running errands, it's a pretty descent distraction. That and because I'm trying to save up some money, I don't buy food out very often.

I always feel like eating a lot as soon as I get home from work. Like, always. Probably because I eat healthy during breakfast and lunch, then I just crave bad foods come evening time and that's regardless of my mood.

Wannabehealthy
06-18-2014, 09:57 AM
Perhaps keeping busy isn't the "best" way then. But I tend to binge the most when I'm chilling at home so if I'm out running errands, it's a pretty descent distraction. That and because I'm trying to save up some money, I don't buy food out very often.

I always feel like eating a lot as soon as I get home from work. Like, always. Probably because I eat healthy during breakfast and lunch, then I just crave bad foods come evening time and that's regardless of my mood.

I would just make sure there wasn't any "bad foods" in the house, if that's the case. You can't eat what's not there.

Munchy
06-18-2014, 10:18 AM
Yes, it is much different than saying it in my head. For me anyway. It helps me to articulate those thoughts. But you have to push yourself to really say what you want to say and not be afraid to go there. I make sure that I'm alone though so I can say all the things I want to say out loud. Sometimes I'm shocked by what I have to say, and the level of anger that comes out. But once it comes out it doesn't fester in me anymore.

I do the same thing. I tend to be the one who people come to with problems, so I rarely share my very difficult thoughts and feelings. Sure, I'll ***** about work or something my child did, but when it comes to how I feel (especially about myself) I tend to box myself in until I can get a little more grounded.