If You’re Eating To Numb | TMOHP Episode 038

When’s the last time you went for something to eat because you wanted to escape? Or numb out? When’s the last time you wandered into the kitchen to avoid thinking about the email that just landed in your inbox? Using food to zone out, to numb yourself, or to push through or push down feelings or needs is an easy habit to slide into.

Breaking the habit of eating to numb is tricky, and it’s especially tricky if you only try to change things at the moment when all you want to do is eat something so you can zone out or not deal with whatever’s in front of you. But you can break the cycle. In this episode I’m talking about why eating to numb is so disempowering, and simple practices that you can use to break the cycle and take your power back (instead of overeating).

What I cover in this episode:

  • An alternative to mindless eating, endless emotional eating, and weight gain when it feels like you just need to escape the overwhelm
  • One reason (that has nothing to do with you) that numbing is so tempting
  • The inverse relationship between numbing and self-care
  • Small routines and habits that can help you break the cycle of eating to numb or zone out

Featured on the show:

Episode Transcript

Today I want to talk with you about a really common and very frustrating kind of overeating, and that is eating to numb or to numb out. You're not alone if sometimes you reach for something to eat, because it just feels like the easiest way to cope. And God knows there's a lot to cope with these days, right? 

Food is simple. Food is usually accessible and allowing yourself something that you crave it's temporarily satisfying. And depending on what you eat, there can also be an actual chemical reaction that comforts you and soothes you and calms you in the short term. And like I said, right now, there are a lot of circumstances that might be triggering you to reach for something to eat as we've covered in so many episodes of this podcast.

It is so easy and tempting to feed hidden hungers. Hungers that aren't really for food by reaching for something to eat. And by the way, if you don't know about hidden hungers or you don't know your primary hidden hunger, be sure to go take the free quiz at toomuchonherplate.com/hidden-hungers-quiz/. I'll put the link in the show notes. That's much easier, but be sure to take the quiz because knowing your hidden hunger is really important, although it is not the primary focus of this episode. 

Let's go back to eating to numb. Eating to cope with overwhelm is an easy habit to fall into and it's a big reason that people eat to numb. In some moments, it may feel like there's nothing else that will help.You might even tell yourself, you might even believe that in that moment, there aren't any other options. But stick with me because there are some simple moves that you can make that will help you take your power back from that emotional eating and overeating. And I'm not talking about tricks to gain yourself superhuman levels of discipline.

You aren't alone. If you're feeling challenged right now, or if you've been feeling challenged for a while, you're not alone. If you just want to escape to zone out to go numb to turn off and you might just need to turn off. Honestly, you might just need to turn off. Take a look and make sure that you are allowing yourself pure undiluted rest. Numbing isn't rest. Eating all the Oreos isn't rest. Scrolling through social media or having the news playing nonstop in the background isn't rest. 

Rest is a basic human need and contrary to popular belief resting isn't always easy and more and more resting isn't comfortable. We live in a world where we're being conditioned to choose numbing and distraction over rest and over the strategies that I'm going to talk about in a minute.

And this conditioning to choose numbing and distractions is absolutely tied up with overeating, emotional eating, and overwhelm. It's absolutely tied up with vicious cycles with those things and also with other habits that you probably aren't happy with. Think about when you numb out with that pack of Oreos or whatever it is. In the moment, you might have a sugary rush and you might be able to escape your feelings. But a few hours, or maybe a few minutes later, the situation is the same.

You used snacking or bingeing or overeating to press pause. But nothing really changed about your circumstances. At least it didn't change for the better. So this isn't about shaming and it's not about guilting. This is about understanding and empowering yourself to make different choices. 

So let's talk about the alternative to mindless eating and endless emotional eating and weight gain. When it feels like you're in this place where you just want to escape the overwhelm, when you just want to numb. I want to underline this, okay, there isn't something special or different about you that makes it so tempting to numb out or to distract yourself or to choose scrolling or snacking over, honestly, looking at what you need or over resting or making some truly beneficial choice.

It is not that there is something wrong with you. There are entities making a lot of money and spending a lot of money to get you to make these choices of numbing and distracting and distancing. There are entities that make a lot of money and spend a lot of money to keep you in reaction mode, choosing to react by grabbing your phone or a snack or diving into Netflix when uncomfortable situations or feelings.

Your power and your ability to make different choices, that comes when you can break this cycle of being reactive to the cues or to your old habits or the triggers to numb the urges, to push feelings down, or the reaction of wanting to reach for something to eat at the same time you pick up your phone.

If you only take one thing from this episode here is what to write. You can only be intentional, you can only make true clear choices when you are grounded. If you are numbing, if you are in reaction or distraction mode, if you are not thinking about things, then you're not in the driver's seat. As we say in Your Missing Peace, you're not occupying the CEO chair at the boardroom table.You are not the CEO of your wellbeing. 

You're reacting at what's coming at you, not choosing. The way out of numbing with food is to find simple, reliable ways to feel anchored and grounded. This is how you take your power back. This is so important. Being anchored and grounded means your present you're in your body.You can feel the ground beneath your feet, literally and figuratively, both. 

When you're grounded, you know what you're feeling and thinking and needing, which gives you the power to respond. It gives you the power to take care of yourself. It gives you the power of choice. Numbness makes it impossible to identify what you need when you're numbing out.You can't take care of you. It's not possible. 

All right, so let's get practical. How do you do this? How do you get grounded instead of numbing out with food? I have some things for you to try and here's the thing, I recommend that you do not think of these as emergency strategies that you pull out in the moment when you need them the most. I recommend that you pick one or two and then you try practicing them consistently. 

I recommend that you let your brain and your body get familiar, get comfortable with them. Make these habits. Because the influences to use these numbing strategies like overeating to cope, those influences are very familiar to you. So you really want to practice these. And they're simple enough that they are things that you can when you pick one that that feels like a fit for you. You can practice these and just incorporate these into your life. 

So here are some ideas to get you started. The first one is super simple. And you can do it anywhere, but I still want you to practice it on a regular basis. Just stop and take 10 deep, slow breaths. That's it. When you stop and you take 10 deep, slow breaths, you'll be in your body. You'll be aware of your body. You'll slow down. And if your body happens to be in the midst of a stress reaction, you are going to begin to physiologically reverse it by taking those deep breaths.

Make this a regular practice, just this one thing. And you might be amazed at what happens. Try this out before you react. Before you pick up your phone, before you take something to eat out of the pantry, just practice this and see what happens. 

Another thing that you can think about trying is journaling. Do not make this a big elaborate project. Journal for five minutes every morning. Use it as a time to check in and to notice how you're feeling. Do not make this something bigger than it is. I want to say that over and over again, we put so much weight sometimes on journals. Don't tell yourself how much you'll write or what you're going to write about. Don't worry about going back and reading it over.Just set aside the time, pick up a pen and write without judgment. Let it be enough and see what happens. 

Another thing that you might want to try that can be really useful is to eat a mindful meal. Tune in, stop all the distractions and tune in with all your senses and experience being present. Tuning in with all your senses, blotting out the distractions means no TV, no phone, no book in front of you. Paying attention is a really interesting process. I bet you'll learn something. 

If this is not something that you do regularly, paying attention allows you to feel satisfied. It allows you to know when you are no longer hungry, it allows you to taste your food. It's okay if it feels uncomfortable. Be curious about that. It very well might feel uncomfortable. Just, just wonder about it, see what you can learn from it. What do you discover when you stop? And you eat a mindful meal when you allow yourself to be present and anchored in the moment. 

One thing that really helps with being grounded and anchored and present is to make sure you give yourself space. And I don't mean big swaths of space. You don't need to take a week off. But give yourself a little bit more space, even a few minutes in between your activities. Give yourself the opportunity to actually change gears instead of charging from one thing to the next or overlapping, right? 

Starting the one thing while you're still finishing up the other thing without a break. Or like many people do- not giving yourself actual physical time between things, but grabbing a snack as a transition. Transitions the space that we give ourselves or don't give ourselves in between things. These things are so important. They play such a key role in overeating. If you haven't listened to my two podcast episodes that I did on transitions, at least at the time of this recording, I've only done two episodes about transitions, I am pretty sure there'll be more. 

But if you haven't listened to those, be sure to take the time to do that. I think there'll be really helpful. They are very helpful in doing the kinds of things that you need to do to stop eating to numb out. So I will put the link to those in the show notes. Okay. Back to this episode. 

Another thing that you can do a simple thing to get grounded and to bring yourself into the present is look for small, easy places where you can create some order. Where you can feel in control. This doesn't have to have anything to do with your eating. The goal is to bring yourself into the present and to get grounded and to get back into your life and in your body, instead of following through with a pattern of numbing out. 

So look for a small place that you can create order. It might be organizing a shelf in your closet. It might be cleaning off your desk. Look for something that you can do that helps you feel in control and effective. This could be taking any purposeful action that has meaning to you. It could be making a donation to a cause that you believe in. It could be putting something that you've been procrastinating on your calendar and making a plan for when you're going to get that thing done. Specific actions. Meaningful action can absolutely counter that vague kind of cloudy, foggy feeling of overwhelm. Just start do something. 

If you're not feeling like taking purposeful action at the moment, another way to get grounded and centered and present is to use gratitude, make a list of things that you're grateful for, or a list of things that are going on. Changing your perspective, choosing your perspective is very grounding. Okay. So I talked about taking purposeful action and looking for things that can allow you to feel effective and in control, and that can really help, but sometimes looking at all of the things in the places where you want to be effective and take control and the things you want to do can add to the overwhelming.

It can add to that urge to just want to escape and zone out, right? So here's a strategy you can use instead of creating a to-do list or numbing a sense that you should be doing a hundred things right now. Go to your calendar. Take your to-do lists and take those tasks that need to be done and put them in your calendar, put them on a specific day, give them a time slot so that you can feel a sense of having taken care of them.

You don't have to do everything to have made a decision about when it will happen. And here's the thing. If your list is too long to do this, put a spot in your calendar to spend some time putting tasks on a calendar. And make it a recurring weekly task. You don't have to do it all in one sitting, but give yourself a sense of control of order of being again, like we've talked about in the Missing Peace program, being the CEO of your wellbeing, being the CEO of your life. It changes everything. Another way to be the CEO. 

Another way to get grounded and anchored is to spend 15 minutes, 15 minutes preparing something that helps you to be at your best. So it could be doing lunch prep for the week or for tomorrow. It could be laying out your workout clothes. It could be creating a space so that you can actually spend the quiet time that you want to spend in the mornings. It could be going and getting something that you're going to use for your journal, but create some space to prepare for you to be at your best. This helps you get grounded and anchored. 

Creating opportunities and habits and behaviors that allow you to keep coming back to a sense of being grounded and present. They put you in charge. They give you your power back. Yeah, I talk a lot about when you're grounded, when you're in the moment, you can, you can actually see what it is that you need. You, you have a sense of what it is that you're feeling in a way that you don't when you're disconnected and when you're numbing out.

And all of that is true, but I hope you hear, as I'm talking about these strategies, how empowering they are. Because every time you make a choice or you put something in place that is going to allow you to be more grounded and be more present, you're making a choice that is empowering. You're making a choice. That's for your own wellbeing, you're making a CEO choice. All right. 

So as you go along, you can look for places where you. Where you need that kind of structure, where it would be helpful to you, or maybe you crave it, maybe it would just make everything feel so much more simple. A kind of structure that allows you to come back to being grounded and present.

So look for those places and then start to create small routines, small rituals that are manageable with how your life is now. 

These could be things like taking 10 deep breaths before you pull out of the parking lot or checking in with yourself while you're brushing your teeth. And just asking yourself what you know about how you're feeling or, you know, adopting that habit of the five minute journaling routine in the morning, while you drink your coffee. 

Creating and repeating routines gives you ongoing ways to keep regrounding to stay in the present to disconnect from that need to zone out and to numb out with food and to take your power back. 

Another way to get anchored is to connect with someone that you trust, spending time with another person. Even if you do it virtually sometimes can be grounding. Physical touch is grounding talking through your thoughts, the thoughts, you know, the ones that are ricocheting in your head, talking those through, saying them out loud to another person that you feel safe and safe with and cared about. This is grounding. 

Now one other important way to feel more grounded is to make sure you're getting the level of support that you need when you need it. If all of it is feeling like too much, if the strategies don't feel like they're enough of what you need, there are professionals who can help. That's how you take your power back.

Look, every CEO knows that it is a power move to identify when you need more resources and to reach out, to build up your team or to get the additional resources that are going to get you to your goal, to not be hesitant or afraid, or tell yourself stories about how it's anything except a power move to allow yourself to support that. Okay. 

One final thought. Sometimes the simplest thing that you can do to feel more grounded is to simply begin noticing when you aren't tuning into how you feel. Whether it's peaceful or stressed or anxious, that's grounding becoming more aware of your thoughts and your feelings and the physical sensations going on inside of you.

That will bring you into your body. That alone being aware that, "oh, I don't feel so grounded right now" will help you be more present. Being present, being grounded these days? It's not always easy. You are definitely going to be imperfect and sporadic at it. We all are. You're doing your best. The beauty of all of this is that all of that is okay. 

Every time you stay present, every time you connect with what it is that you really need, you're reinforcing a new habit and you are diminishing the hold that overeating and emotional eating habits have over you. Overeating reaching for something to eat doesn't fix what's hurting you or disturbing you. It doesn't feed your hidden hungers.

It doesn't help you get what you need. Disappearing yourself by going numb or burying your feelings. Doesn't help in the big picture. The story that you just need to ignore your feelings and push down your needs. That hurts you and overeating is never a solution that lasts. 

So remind yourself of these things.

Put down your phone, walk out of the kitchen, take a few breaths and then ask yourself what it is that you really need.

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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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