Monday, September 29, 2014

Emotional Eating and Eating to Regulate Emotions

spiritual food, spiritual eating, salad, spiritual nutrition, spiritual awakening food
The topic of emotional eating probably won't seem particularly spiritual, but I will simply remind you that all of life is spiritual. This aspect of unhealthy coping shows us how out of alignment we are with our natural healthy bodies.

If you've been reading this spiritual awakening blog for awhile, you'll have noticed that I'm using the term "natural body" more and more. I want to encourage you to think about coming into your natural body type and shape and not into an idea of what your body should look like. Most people's ideas around their bodies are completely polluted by cultural nonsense. Which often leads to upset feelings and emotional eating (you see how we've come full circle).

But dealing with our emotions by eating is not healthy. It's not the function of food to make us feel good. It is important that as we become more mature on the spiritual path and become heart strong that we face upset emotions instead of burying them. But it is an all too common thing to try to make ourselves feel better through food and to regulate our inner emotional environment with food. So let's take some time to identify what this looks like, the fallout from doing so, and the importance of getting healthy emotionally and physically.

The Inability to Process Emotions

A vast number of people simply cannot process their emotions. Emotions are powerful things, to be sure. Whether it's the joy of a close, intimate connection or the sudden fear of losing a job, these emotions have a powerful influence on our inner world. Additionally, emotions and different endorphins and hormones are tied in together. And while I don't intend to off science about this (I encourage you to research this on your own), the resulting tidal wave of emotional and physiological responses can be quite overwhelming.

Plus, we're not all the same. The type of inner responses people feel in regards to similar experiences ranges widely. It depends on a whole bunch of physiological, emotional, psychological, and even karmic combinations. As such, a bad break-up doesn't bother one person whereas the other person is decimated for months, years, or a lifetime. It all ties in together in a nasty reinforcing web of dis-ease. That's why it can take so long to cut our way out. We've created (mostly unconsciously) a huge system of responses inside, and we have no real idea why they all function the way they do.

Because many people cannot process their emotions at all, many people simply shut down and go emotionally numb or dead. Many others use a variety of tools to mask them or get entirely lost in them. Food often becomes a common piece of any of these responses.

Noticing When You Eat

Step one can simply be noticing when you eat. Do you eat when you are hungry only? Or are there other times that you eat? Do you eat when you are upset? Do you eat when you are bored? Additionally, other substances beyond food can be added in to this discussion. Alcohol is a big one. It's been used as a cultural emotion suppressor for generations, and while there are emotional drunks who use the loss of inhibitions to indulge in emotions, this isn't healthy processing. So the core issues remain unexplored, and this usually leads to many repetitions of unhealthy emotional purging, which often causes more problems for the person, often including alcoholism.

Thus, when you are drawn to food is a great time for self-exploration. Everyone gets hungry, but the body's feeling of hunger is different than emotional craving. Do you know the difference in yourself? If not, this is a great place to practice deepening your own discernment around your inner urges and desires.

Noticing What You Eat

Without sounding too new-agey, different foods have different vibrations. Plant-based foods tend to be lighter and less dense, and meat products tend to be much denser. Dense food is great at holding things down. If you have a lot of anger, a hamburger or steak will help bottle that feeling up. Certain other foods have different interactions with your body and can correspond to different issues. Dairy is often used as a comfort food. If this is true for you, you should notice how you are feeling emotionally when you reach for cheese, yogurt, or ice cream.

And let's not leave out the elephant in the Western world's room--sugar. There is so much sugar in foods these days. It's simply not funny. The health ramifications of self-medicating unhappy emotions with sugar are pretty extensive ranging from cavities (it's why they lace our drinking water with fluoride in many places) to obesity to diabetes. Who knows how many more negative impacts sugar has on us?

In a slightly more spiritual sense, sugar is an energy booster, although it's actually a very dense level of energy. The clearer and healthier you are, the more sugar may actually drop your energy because it's so out of alignment with your natural body and your natural vibration. This may sound weird, but it's been my experience that breaking away from more and more refined sugar (and even more than a little sugar in fruits) and then adding it back in to my diet has made sugar less and less enjoyable. One of the things about the spiritual path you'll notice is that if something is healthy for you and you take a break from it (food, relationships, work, etc.), you tend to enjoy it as much or more when you return to it. Any substance supplying an unhealthy support to you tends to be less enjoyable or outright sickening, assuming you've spent enough time away from it. In many respects, this is about breaking an addiction. You can't go back to it and be objective until the addiction is healed.

Why All this Emotional Eating?

I can't say why there is so much emotional eating. I don't run statistics. I also don't have any stats of how happy people were before and after a given timeframe. I don't care to blame corporations or anyone "in charge" because they are simply mirrors to the public, and while they do create reinforcing loops of behavior (i.e. the more people buy sugary foods, the more they make them and market them), we are responsible for our behaviors. So if you are noticing that you're an emotional eater, the question becomes once again why? Why are you so unhappy?

It really isn't enough to create a new coping mechanism. Sure, you can probably start going for jogs instead of eating a carton of ice cream to feel a different type of endorphin high, and that is probably going to be a lot healthier for your body. However, the cause of your emotional upset has still not been found. You'll keep jogging and jogging until you wear out your knees, but the deeper issue remains unaddressed. As such, you are not truly healthier. As I said, your body is probably getting nicely toned, but the core issues must be addressed for us to really come into alignment with our natural healthy body.

Spiritual Awakening and Emotional Eating

To take this conversation to another level, spiritual awakening can churn up all kinds of upset emotions, and that can lead to emotional eating and other ways to try and cope with the mass of upset emotions that have been released to finally be processed. There definitely have been some stories that have found their way into my inbox about over compensating and getting out of balance on the body chemical level through different kinds of emotional eating as well as over-detoxing and over-compensation. We don't need to go to extremes to heal ourselves, but we also can't keep covering up our feelings through eating. Thus, it often takes a lot of care and dedication to really start listening to the body and what your body actually wants. You will very likely go through phases of removing foods, and in some cases, that may include relatively healthy foods (such as meat) while you clean out deeper level junk that would rather hide out. Don't ask me why, but heavy, dense foods like meat can get in the way of the "spiritual digestion" of heavy issues like shame. As such, temporary eating changes may arise, but once again, don't go to extremes.

Occasionally. some people who suddenly realize how unhealthy they've been completely overhaul their eating in a night. I won't say this is bad depending on the individual, but depending on the body, it can throw things way out of balance in another way. If you are awakening, enough stuff is shifting around already. Go slowly and gently to figure out what new foods to add in as you're letting go of others. You will begin to find out what it truly means to nourish yourself as opposed to self-medicate yourself.

A Truly Nourished, Healthy Body

A truly nourished, healthy body is a wonderful thing. There's no way to describe it, and even for those of you who have considered yourself healthy for most of your life, you may be shocked at how unhealthy you'd been, depending on your diet and the emotional inner climate. It's okay. This is all part of the spiritual path. As you learn to relax into your natural healthy body and release emotional dis-ease, a genuine healthy glow and energy starts to exude from you. When your body is no longer trying to dump out alcohol, fats, tons of starches, sugars, and so forth, it relaxes further. It is more efficient in a wide variety of ways, and only you can discover for yourself all the resulting health benefits. The simple story is that it feels good. It feels good to eat to nourish yourself and not to regulate emotions. When you are secure in your emotional self, the need to do so goes away, and living life becomes an even greater joy.
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