Emotional Eating and Difficult Feelings | TMOHP 005

Difficult feelings and situations are a part of life. They’re a common reason that smart, busy women overeat, and they are often the things that throw a wrench into the best-laid intentions to make changes in how you eat or think about food.

What do you do with a feeling when you don’t know what to do (but you don’t want to eat everything in sight)? That’s the topic of this episode.

The go-to solutions when you’re busy or overwhelmed tend to be numbing out, avoiding, or powering through - and no surprise - they don’t work. At least for long.

Resolving to “not give in to emotional eating” isn’t a viable solution either - because not doing something, is not a strategy.

Try “not thinking about pink elephants” for a moment. How’d that work out?

Tune in to this episode where I’m covering ten things you can do with a feeling. Ten things you can really do. There’s even a free cheat sheet!

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What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • The mindset mistake that contributes to emotional eating when things get difficult or life throws you unexpected challenges
  • Why focusing on NOT eating may lead you to eat more
  • What to do with a difficult feeling when you don’t know what to do with it and don’t want to resort to emotional eating
  • How to feel effective, and even powerful, even when you can’t change a difficult situation or feeling

Listen to the full episode:

Featured on the show:

  • Download a cheat sheet of the strategies covered in this episode: What to do with a feeling instead of emotional eating

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  • Learn more about the complete framework for creating freedom from emotional eating and get an introduction to the Your Missing Peace program in my free on-demand Master Class. 
  • Take the free Hidden Hungers Quiz and find out what’s driving your overeating.
  • Visit http://toomuchonherplate.com for more tips and resources to create peace with food and overcome overeating and emotional eating

Episode Transcript

So I have a question. Why is it that we expect ourselves to be able to operate at our best when we're feeling at our worst? Now you may not think that we do that, or you may not think that you do that, but I see it all the time. And that is why today. I want to talk about emotional eating and difficult feelings. Emotional eating is a huge part of overeating for so many smart, busy women. And the advice that most people will give you about what to do about emotional eating is just plain dismal. It's things like just don't do it. Be strong, find something else to do, right? Notice that it's emotional eating and just don't let the emotions affect you, right? I mean, how is that working for you? And then there's our perfectionistic inner voice. We all have one by the way, but that perfectionistic inner voice, that takes things to another pretty spectacular level, creating a whole nother angle for us.

If yours is anything like most women that I have known and talked to, and like my own inner perfectionist, she would have you believing that if you could only just become your best version of yourself, you wouldn't struggle with emotional eating because you wouldn't have any tough emotions anymore. Lots of women have created this dream world where if they could be perfect, whatever that is, and I'm using air quotes, but if they could be perfect, there'd be no stress, or they just wouldn't feel overwhelmed, or they wouldn't get frustrated with their kids, or they wouldn't fight with their partner anymore. Most of us have an inner perfectionist who wants us to believe that if we work really, really hard, we won't have the tough things to deal with, right? Not true. Life comes with tough situations and hard feelings and things that we can't control, even when we're basically unstoppable and doing our best, you know, a coaching client was talking with me about her day and she called it the perfect storm, right?

It was so unbelievably difficult. You couldn't make it up. You had to laugh about it once it was over, it involved all the things. There was scary health news. There was feeling exhausted from a sleepless night, which was a whole other story. There was an argument with our partner. There was Kat vomit. There were clothes that didn't fit, right? And a few other interesting details, including having forgotten her phone and not being able to get in touch with who she needed to be in touch with. And like most of us, while she was trying to figure out how to cope, how to just get through the situation. The closest thing at hand was food. How many times have you started a fresh new way of eating or a new resolve to change the number on the scale, or to create a better relationship with food?

A fresh new day of healthiness only to feel completely derailed by an unexpected upside down day, an awful experience, strong emotions hurt anger, disappointment, even boredom. All of these things that seem to magnetically, pull you to the refrigerator. If you struggle with emotional eating, not knowing what to do instead of eating creates huge challenges, especially when the emotions involved are difficult ones during tough times like that willpower is not a viable strategy, not eating is not a strategy. And in fact, anything that is not doing something is not a strategy focusing on what you aren't going to do, just gets your brain focusing on that thing more. So what can you do? I want to talk about that in this episode, I want to go through some simple strategies, at least that strategies. That sounds simple, but these are strategies that probably are not occurring to you.

Or if you are thinking about them, you've probably been telling yourself that they aren't enough that you need to be doing something different. Here's the thing when we're faced with a hard feeling and when we're also not feeling, um, particularly flushed with resources to deal with that tough emotion, if we're already stressed or overwhelmed or really busy, our default response is to try to avoid it. That's why it's so tempting to push feelings away with food or to numb out with a binge or to use food as a temporary way to avoid what's going on or to just not have to think about it. The problem is numbing and avoidance just leads to feelings that keep cropping back up because they don't get responded to. So let's talk about what you can do with a feeling when you don't know what to do with it, but you also know you don't want to eat everything in sight.

And let me be clear before we dive into these strategies that we're going to go over are not a substitute for getting help when you need it. If you have feelings that are causing you to think or act in ways that are harmful to you or to others, or if it just doesn't feel possible to do these strategies, or if the feelings stay stuck or they just feel too overwhelming, it's time to get professional help. No podcast is a substitute for working with a licensed professional, a psychologist or a therapist who's qualified to help you feel better. These strategies may help, but if you need more help, get more help. That's the best path to feeling better and getting the results that you want. So without further ado, here's my list of 10 things to do with a feeling even when you don't know what to do with it.

And we've put together a cheat sheet for you with these 10, 10 strategies on them, I will put the link to download that in the show notes for you. First thing to do with the feeling when you don't know what to do with it, number one is breathe. It's simple, but your mind is going to want to overcomplicate this. Don't let it. When you have a feeling and you don't know what to do with it, just sit tight, breathe in, take it out. You may not know this, but feelings come in waves and no feeling, no matter how horrible is going to last forever, breathe in and breathe out. Just breathe. The second strategy you can use is to give yourself permission, to feel the feeling. And you can connect this with the breathing strategy. And remember again, that no feeling is ever bigger than you feel it.

Breathe in, breathe out, remind yourself that you are bigger than this feeling. You can say it I'm bigger than this feeling, and it will pass strategy. Number three of what to do with the feeling when you don't know what to do with it, do something physical emotions impact us physically. We feel them in our body and movement and activity, they can help move the emotions through our bodies. They can help us move, move out of that feeling or complete the cycle of what we need to feel. So walking, running, dancing, punching a pillow, these things can help you discharge built up emotions and can eventually help to calm you down and actually get you grounded in your body. The fourth strategy of what to do with a feeling when you don't know what to do with it is wallow in it. Sometimes a feeling just needs to be felt.

And sometimes nothing is as therapeutic as feeling it, having a good cry or having a time limited pity party, let yourself go there. But if you need to set a time limit so that, you know, you're going to move on, and sometimes it's really useful. If you're going to wallow in something to have a designated time, to really feel the feelings and then have something else planned after that, so that you can refocus your, your energy and your thoughts and not, not have that fear that we sometimes have, that we'll get stuck wallowing in it. Strategy. Number five is the phone of friends strategy, reach out to somebody, somebody that you trust, somebody that you feel safe with, somebody who cares about you and let them know what it is that you need. You might want to tell them simply that you're overwhelmed or that you're frustrated.

And you just need to be listened to. Maybe you want somebody who will just let you vent, or maybe you actually want some advice or some comfort or some soothing or some reassurance, reach out to somebody, call a friend. strategy number six, get perspective, whatever the situation is or the emotion. Sometimes it's helpful to just take a step back from it, ask yourself, what's it going to look like and feel like six months from now or a year from now, is this something that will be pivotal 10 years from now? And if it isn't, that doesn't mean that your feelings now aren't important, but it does mean that you and your life are going to go on. And sometimes it can be helpful to have that perspective, to know that what I am feeling feels intense or overwhelming right now, but a year from now, I probably won't remember this moment, or I will remember this moment six months from now, but I also know I will have survived it.

Talk, you know, check in with your future self and get a little bit of perspective. The seventh strategy that can be really useful in dealing with a feeling that you don't know how to deal with is probably one that's familiar. Distract yourself, distract yourself in ways that are not reaching for food. Rent a movie, play a video game, read a book, clean out a drawer, wash a window, focus on something, focus on anything. Distraction is not a bad thing. It is okay to give yourself some distance from a difficult feeling. Sometimes the place that distraction gets to be problematic is when it is the only strategy that you have for dealing with difficult feelings. I love using distraction at the dentist's office, right? I don't necessarily want to think about all of my feelings in that moment. If I'm feeling nervous or anxious about a procedure that's going on.

However, distraction is a temporary strategy for dealing with difficult feelings, because it is not a strategy that helps you resolve them or shift them. Or in some ways it's not a strategy that helps you take care of yourself in the long term. The eighth strategy moving on is to change your scenery. When you have a difficult feeling and you don't know what to do with it, but what you don't want to do is emotional eating. Sometimes just doing something different, changing it up, changing your scenery, going somewhere different. If you can leave the house, go for a walk or a drive or go stand outside, take a deep breath, get somewhere else, get in a different environment, get away from your usual cues. Because when we're in our same old place, we tend to do the same old things. If you're trying to break ingrained habits like emotional eating, sometimes a simple strategy of something like we're going somewhere else can make a powerful difference.

And speaking of powerful strategy, number nine is to empower yourself, take a deep breath back to strategy. Number one, and remind yourself of your strengths. Emotional eating and difficult feelings can come together to get us into that place where we're thinking of all the things that we don't like, that we're frustrated with. Make a list of your accomplishments. Write down all the tough situations that you've survived. The exams that you've taken, the children that you've given birth to, the children that you've parented, the challenges and projects that you've conquered. Don't leave any stone unturned. Give yourself credit. Take a moment to remind yourself that you are strong, that you are tough, that you are capable, that you can be here with this tough feeling and you will be okay. Strategy. Number 10 is going to sound so easy. It is easy, but it's also one of the most powerful strategies on the list.

This 10th strategy for dealing with difficult feelings. When you don't want to go into the kitchen and eat everything in sight. is to sleep. When you don't feel up to anything else, it is okay to take a timeout. I'm not talking about sleeping your life away or sleeping endlessly. These are strategies that you are going to mix and match and using one of them all the time would not be effective for you. But many times what we need is a timeout, or we need to rest, take a nap or pack it in early and just go to sleep for the night, give yourself a break and realize that tomorrow can be another day. It can be a fresh start. It can be a different kind of beginning and often just getting that interruption and a good night of rest can have a huge impact. So there you have it.

You can be effective and even powerful with difficult feelings. Sometimes you can transform them. And even when you can't, there are alternatives to emotional eating. And many of them actually put you on an on-ramp to taking better care of yourself and giving you more of what you need. These strategies work, and they take practice, which is okay. My advice is to pick a few, try them out, see what happens. Don't forget. There's a cheat sheet that lists all 10 of them for you to refer to. I will put the link to that in the show notes. And if you'd like help and support in creating your own new relationship with feelings and with food in creating new thoughts and strategies and breaking out of those cycles with emotional eating and overeating, then come check out the missing piece program. That's where we do that. I've got a free on-demand masterclass that not only tells you about the program, but it will also lay out and teach you the complete framework that I use to create freedom from overeating.

So I will put that link in the show notes as well (https://tmohppod.s3.us-west-2.amazonaws.com/005+10+things+to+do+with+a+feeling.pdf). It's free. It's on demand. You just sign up and you get to watch the training, but play with these things. Difficult feelings do not have to be a showstopper and you do not have to expect yourself to somehow get so supernaturally strong and perfect that you never have difficult feelings. Again, not only do you not have to expect that you can just accept the fact that that's never going to happen. You can deal with difficult feelings. You are more powerful than them and these implementable strategies.

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Your Missing Peace is the psychologist-designed program that provides the tools, the support, the coaching, and the confidence to create freedom from emotional eating and overeating. Finally - emotional eating help done right! Your Missing Peace is specifically designed for smart, high-achieving women who are DONE with diets, who want a lasting solution, and who are ready to take their power back from food, from overeating, and the scale. 

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