Act, Distract, or Dig In?
At CWMC®, we use an Intuitive Eating model to re-establish a healthy relationship with food. With Intuitive Eating, you listen to your body's physical and emotional hunger cues to learn when, what and how much to eat. As awareness increases, it quickly becomes evident how often many of us will eat when true physical hunger is absent. At this point, you may ask, "Now what do I do?" The answer is you can Act, Distract, or choose to Dig In. Each of these have their pros and cons and neither is more or less valid than another.
When you notice that you are emotionally hungry, one of the options is to eat anyway, a.ka. Act on it. The key here is that you are choosing to do so and not mindlessly reacting. You are In Charge of this decision. This option is desirable at times because it requires the least amount of effort, it's easy so-to-speak. If you choose a high sugar, fatty, or heavily processed food (and we often do when it's emotional hungry), it also provides pleasure - at least temporarily. It also gives you the distraction you needed from what triggered the emotional hunger in the first place. However, the downside of Acting is that it won't solve or fix the root issue. It is simply a quick fix. You may feel regret or guilt, even if your choose was intentional because deep down, we know acting on our food cravings doesn't help us emotionally. Remember, if we aren't physically hungry, food isn't the solution. It can also lead to dichotomous thoughts (all-or-nothing thought patterns), which can trigger a binge-eating episode for some of us.
The second option is to intentionally focus our attention somewhere else other than food. Again, this is practicing being In Charge of your decisions and actions. Intentional distraction can be accomplished in many ways, like going to the gym, calling a friend, watching TV, reading a book or magazine, working on a hobby, getting housework done, or changing your environment by getting out of the house or office for a walk. The advantages of this option is making better use of your time, reinforcing that food is not the only coping mechanism, disrupting the eat-repent cycle, and possibly addressing the root issue depending on what redirection technique you choose. The cons of this option is that you are still ignoring the root cause on a conscious level, it is more difficult and requires more thought and preparation than simply "Acting" with food, and it may only be a temporary solution. The distract technique is helpful in situations where there is an external trigger versus an internal trigger; for example, walking past a donut shop or the candy station at work.
Ok, here's the good stuff. It is the hardest, but the most transforming. I promise. If you are willing to put in the work, your effort will pay off in so many ways! The Dig In option gets to the root of what is causing your ravenous emotional appetite, something food will never solve and typically only fuels the fire. To begin, you must be aware of your thoughts and feelings that are present during and prior to the craving. Your thoughts and feelings are the cause for your need to eat. When you bring your thoughts and emotions into non-judgemental consciousness, it becomes much more apparent what is keeping you stuck in negative feedback loops. The advantages of this option is that eventually your urges will decrease because you will learn to see your thoughts and emotions for what they are, which is emotional cravings, not food cravings. It will also give you the ability to start changing negative thoughts and limiting belief systems that are not serving you well. Being conscious of your own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors is a life skill everyone should know how to do but unfortunately, few are even aware, let alone taught how to do this mental exercise. There are many, many books that cover this topic. If you are interested, check out our Resources page for suggestions and the link below to learn the Thought Model. There are also great podcasts that cover this topic as well. The only con of this choice is that it is the hardest and it takes the longest. But, anything worth having is worth waiting for - how much is your happiness, peace of mind, and health worth to you? I can give you the answer: It's Priceless.
- Learn the Thought Model