Is Emotional Eating Isolation Keeping You Stuck? | TMOHP Episode 035

Do your feelings about your eating, your weight, or your body ever keep you at a distance from others? Do you have thoughts about why your relationship with food needs to be private? Do believe that you need to reach your goals before you connect more fully? I’d like to explore these issues with you.

Emotional eating can be isolating. It’s often an area that women keep to themselves, and you might be telling yourself stories about why this is necessary or for the best. But is it? Let’s talk about emotional eating isolation, the consequences it can have, and the alternative.

What I cover in this episode:

  • How isolation shows up and its impacts
  • What you can learn from your feelings about connecting
  • Common stories or beliefs that may be holding you back
  • How and when connecting vs. isolating can help you change your eating
  • Why a group can be helpful even for “non-group” people

Featured on the show:

  • New: The Freedom from Overeating Workshop Series: I’m leading a free, 5-day online workshop beginning June 13. We’ll meet for a session each day and I’ll teach you the framework to use to stop overeating and emotional eating - without guilt, without superhuman levels of willpower, and without feeling deprived. Register and reserve your seat here.
  • Your Missing Peace  is my 16-week program for women ready to stop overeating and emotional eating for good. It’s a group program for individuals. Enrollment is open! Go here to learn more.
  • Private Coaching. One-on-one coaching is for you if you’re looking for something that’s completely individualized and specific to your situation. Openings are limited. Learn more here.

Episode Transcript

Today I want to talk about a trap that catches so many smart women who are unhappy or struggling with emotional eating or overeating or weight. And it’s a trap that you might not even see - or if you see it - you might be telling yourself a story that it’s unavoidable. Or even that it’s necessary.

But it’s a trap, and for many women, it’s keeping them from achieving their goals or healing their relationship with food.

I often ask the women I work with what will change when they achieve their goals with food and the way they eat. I’ll ask, “How will you show up differently?” “What will be different?”

One of the answers I hear a lot is that they WILL show up differently, and that they will allow themselves different things - once they have crossed this finish line they have in their minds.

“I’ll accept more invitations.” “I won’t avoid some of the get-togethers I am avoiding now.” “Sometimes I just feel better staying home.”

Pulling back and hiding show up all the time - even for women who are so good at pulling it off that no one even suspects they are not showing up as the fullest version of themselves. Or that they’re hiding.

I’m calling this emotional eating isolation, and today I’m going to talk about the reality, the consequences, and some shifts in thinking that I think you might find valuable.

First, I want to ask you if your feelings about your eating, your weight, or your body are holding you at any kind of distance from others.

Are there things you avoid or say no to?

Are there ways you try to hide or be less visible when you do show up?

Is there self-consciousness or self-judgment that restricts your behavior or keeps you from asking for what might be helpful?

The stories we tell ourselves about what it means to be eating in a way that you aren’t content with, the self-blame we dish out, and the diet-mentality beliefs that we’ve swallowed can lead to being more isolated than you need to be with a struggle that’s important to you to solve.

Isolation over emotional eating can also lead to more overeating and to staying stuck.

I want to be clear. I’m not talking about severe cases of isolation like not leaving your house or never interacting with others, or even severe social anxiety. When I talk about the isolation related to overeating or emotional eating, I’m talking about living in a self-imposed silo when it comes to your concerns about your relationship with food.

A self-imposed silo whose walls are probably reinforced with guilt and even shame about this area of your life, and cemented with stories that you’ve come to believe like: I should have fixed this by now. I should be able to figure this out. Everyone else knows how to do this. Or I’m weak, or lazy, or undisciplined.

Or even: Maybe there’s something wrong with me.

When and if you’ve decided that you are “different” in a way that you’ve decided is unacceptable, it paints an invisible line between you and the rest of the world.

And to go back to a Missing Peace member who says that she’ll reconnect with her friends in a deeper way after she stops overeating and loses the weight - well - emotional eating isolation (to any degree) can mean living a life where you tell yourself that you don’t deserve or get the connection you want until you’ve done the work and achieved the goal.

Here’s the rub. Not only does connection feed us. Not only do you deserve the goodness of your life NOW because it’s not something you have to earn. Not only does depriving yourself from the good experiences sometimes lead to deprivation that makes our cravings for short term bandaids like overeating even worse. Not only all these things -but there is this:

Sometimes the fastest way to end your struggles with food start by creating the right kinds of connection.

It’s not unusual for someone who is really the perfect fit for Your Missing Peace - my group program for ending overeating and emotional eating - to tell me “the program sounds great, but I’m not really a group person.”

“Not being a group person” can mean a lot of things, and so I ask about it. And it usually boils down to one of the following:

Shame - as in I’m ashamed of the situation I’m in, or no one else is in the same situation I am. They won’t understand. I could never talk about how I’m eating.

I could never talk about these habits in front of other people.

I’ll get in the group and my reasons for not solving this problem will sound so minor or silly.

I’m sure others have it so much worse, OR they aren’t nearly at the level of struggle that I am.

What if I join and it doesn’t work for me?

What if I can’t do it right - what if I’m too shy or talk too much or don’t know what to say?

Do you want to learn something new and important about yourself? Take a deep breath, be curious and not judgmental, and ask yourself what comes up for you when you think about sharing your overeating situation in a group that is safe for this purpose.

Would you feel safe? Would it feel like a relief? Would it feel scary as hell? What would make you anxious or fearful or trepidatious about it? (I love that word.) To be clear, when I talk about connecting or being in a group, I’m talking about a group or a relationship you are connecting with that is safe space. That is supportive space. Safety is nonnegotiable.

So what do you notice about what comes up when you consider that safe group situation? Your answer may give you some good information about things like what you need for helpful connection to feel safe. The questions you might want to ask. And your answers might give you helpful information about stories and beliefs about yourself or others that are holding you back.

I want to share some perspective that might be useful to you. Because emotional eating isolation doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t create growth or positive change, and the stories that keep you in emotional eating isolation only reinforce it, contribute to overeating cycles, and will never put you on the path to peace with food, or with yourself.

A major part, and one of the most powerful components of Your Missing Peace is the coaching. We get on Zoom three times each month for this. Most people turn their cameras on, although there’s no requirement to do this, and members ask questions, share how things are going, and ask for coaching on the situations or topics or strategies that they want help with.

Notice what comes up for you as I describe this. Notice what feelings you have in your body if you picture yourself in this situation.

Now let me tell you some things that happen in these groups that you might not expect. Things that emotional eating isolation might be depriving you of in your life.

Yes, there are relationships and connections that are built. There is community in connection.

There is also energy. There is an energy of being in a room - even a Zoom room - with women from multiple continents who are all investing their time and hope and focus into the same thing that you want.

There is an energy that is created when a group of people come together in support of the same goals and talk about similar struggles. That binge last Thursday? The guilt you’re carrying for eating the leftover candy? Something is released and the energy shifts when it’s shared and grappled with in the open.

Do you ever feel like you must have a blind spot that’s keeping you stuck and overeating? Connection - especially a group like this - but all safe connection is an excellent way to untangle and get past your blind spots. 

Here’s what I mean. Do you know how it feels like you have ALL the information? Like you should be able to connect the dots or implement the strategy and just CHANGE YOUR EATING, but for some reason, you just haven’t been able to?

When you struggle with this alone in your head - or even in a journal, it’s easy to go in the same old circles. In a group - with connection - you get to  see what’s going on from different vantage points. Sometimes you need help with something you don’t even know how to verbalize or how to see. It’s not even conscious for you. And then you hear it or see it in someone else’s experience or sharing. And you know it in a way you never would have seen it or known it if it was just you, you by yourself in isolation - trying to make changes and trying to figure it out by yourself. 

Group coaching and connection have the potential to spark amazing insights - even when YOU aren’t the one who is sharing or being coached. This happens all the time in my groups.

In a group, it is easy to hear the mindset garbage that is holding you - or someone else back. And you have access to multiple new perspectives or alternate thoughts you might want to practice instead.

You experience someone else being ridiculously hard on themselves and the self-abuse you’ve been heaping on yourself - well - there’s a moment when you GET how unfair you’ve been being to yourself.

In isolation, shame only grows. The beliefs that underlie it seem more true every time your brain repeats them. Do you know what begins to dissolve shame? Speaking it out loud in a safe place. Being seen - in safety - by people who do not believe in your shame.

Perfectionism - which is a huge source of overeating - thrives in isolation. Alone with only our thoughts, we usually miss the ways our perfectionism is tying us up in knots or keeping us stuck. I can’t tell you how often and how quickly I’ve created my own positive results because talking through my own struggles with a friend or in a group instantly showed me how I was framing everything in an all-or-nothing, perfectionistic way.

Connection reminds you of the things you may have forgotten because you’re so frustrated with the struggle. That you’re smart. A good problem-solver. A thinker. That your insights have value. You see yourself differently in a group. It’s just true.

Being in a group doesn’t make you a “group person,” it actually shines a light on your individuality and the qualities of the individuals who are there. Connecting - again in a safe place - helps you see who you are from a different vantage point.

Emotional eating isolation is fueled by diet mentality - which fuels the idea that because you haven’t “succeeded” by diet mentality standards,  you’re an outlier or someone who will be judged because you “don’t fit in.” 

Diet mentality thrives on groupthink and the idea that there’s one right way or one right place to start or one right next step. 

And to go back to the beginning where I talked about how many women tell me that they will allow themselves more true connection AFTER they achieve their goal. After they make peace with food. The belief that you don’t deserve to connect fully with others now - that you need to hide or isolate is such a damaging artifact of diet mentality.

True connection embraces individuality and helps us get reconnected with what we feel and need and want. And that’s why it is such a fundamentally important piece of Your Missing Peace.

You deserve a safe place to remember how to be YOU. Not later. Now. A place to find your confidence again (maybe just in this one area) - and how to ask for help. When you allow yourself safe, healing connection, when you can see yourself and your current situation through fresh lenses, this is when breakthrough happens.

Learning how to be YOU with food and with your feelings and your needs while others are doing the same thing in their own ways often creates a much faster path to what you need. We thrive on connection. We need and deserve connection. Now, not later. Take a moment. If emotional eating or overeating is isolating you, don’t you deserve more? I sure think so.

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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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