I have a mulitude of triggers that would spark an emotional eating binge, but one of them – the strongest one boils down to worthiness. If I am nervous about meeting an expectation, if I feel out of my depth, if I feel at all like a third party – another person could say or do something that would destabilise me, my reaction is to turn to food. Food comforts this feeling, it makes me feel better. It literally pushes down, deep inside these uncomfortable feelings so that I don’t feel them anymore.
As I recover from this state of being, I am building up my inner reserves so that nothing outside of myself can have that power. My meditation has helped me to learn to surrender negative thoughts, and the need to control outcomes to a Higher Power. I have developed a trust that God has my back, and whatever comes into my life does so for a reason, even if that reason is difficult to see.
The first time I succumbed to an emotional trigger since my mind shift took place , I was working for BritMums and had to let 120 bloggers know that they had been shortlisted for their annual awards. The announcement had gone out on the website that morning and people had already started congratulating these bloggers on social media. I was aware that I needed to get out the emails to the bloggers asap but there were 120 to do, across 12 different categories – twelve different emails going to groups of 10 bloggers. I only had a few hours to do it in as I was constrained by the school run and there were a few elements that needed to go into each email. Plus I needed to source everyone’s email addresses from their websites. Some were easier to find than others! Basically I felt under pressure. I didn’t want to let down 120 people who were waiting for an email to confirm that they were indeed on an awards shortlist, I didn’t want to let down the two ladies I work for – this was the first award ceremony I’d administered for them and I didn’t want to be late for my son at the school gates.
I stepped away from my desk after promising my bosses that I’d get this sorted and my immediate reaction was to rip into the kids’ chocolate that was left over from Easter. It had been sat on the counter for about 6 weeks and not bothered me until this point but I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to eat the lot – to help me with this mild panic that was starting to build momentum. So I did.
Of course after the binge I felt better as I knew I would, but this time I also had an awareness of what I was doing and what I’d just done. Before the binge, I observed my thoughts and behaviour and said to myself rationally ‘You know that this is just a reaction to the situation, you are not hungry and you don’t need it’. I then tried to tap away the urge (EFT Tapping – I will explain this in another post). This had worked in several milder situations in previous weeks and I’d resisted the urge to binge, but on this occasion the compulsion was too strong and I gave in.
The thing is that after I’d done it and I felt calmer, the part where I would usually beat myself up about the binge, didn’t appear. I had a new level of acceptance about my actions and myself. I realised that I had done the best I could at the time and I enjoyed the chocolate so let that be that. No blame, no recriminations. I told myself that next time I would know better so I would do better and I left it at that. I got back on with my work and completed the task the way I wanted to just in time for my son’s school run.
About a month later I was triggered again but I handled it differently. I didn’t do this consciously – it was only afterwards that I realised my success in the situation, but I liken this building of inner reserves to a growing baby. Every day they live from birth they get stronger and stronger. At first they can’t hold their own head up but after a few months they are rolling over then they are sitting then they start walking. It takes time but each day they come on just a little bit more and grow and gain strength. Every day I am gaining just a little more inner strength and this became evident after the incident with the Drama Grandma.
I’d nicknamed this lady Drama Grandma because I wanted to put ‘horrible car crash incident’ into my phone next to her number but I don’t like to look at the negatives – preferring to keep a positive attitude. It was my fault, I’d been reversing my car out of a side street on a quiet road near school and my parking sensors were not working and I’d banged into her parked car. I got out to a face of thunder (I can’t blame her – I would have been upset too) but I held my hands up – apologised and asked to exchange details so we could resolve the matter.
There was a tiny scratch on her car. I have no way of knowing whether that scratch was there before, I’d bumped the car at less than 1 mile an hour – I was reversing near a school – I am always careful near a school, but nevertheless I had to cop to it. But Drama Grandma first told me how the bumper of the car was nearly falling off, all the side was scratched and how she had a massive jolt. I was afraid that the next thing I’d hear was that she had whiplash and wanted to make a claim. It was a tiny bump. There was no damage to my car but this tiny scratch to hers and I wasn’t trying to wriggle out of it – I’d admitted that I was at fault, but this lady started to gather passers by to be ‘her witness’ and a big scene was created. After swopping details and asking her to have a mechanic look at the scratch and provide a quote she called me several days after to tell me that her local garage had to replace a clip on the bumper and sort out the scratch and that the damage would come to £180. This was a lot higher than the £40 I was expecting for a bit of T-Cut to wipe out the scratch.
I took my husband round to go look at the quote with me and see the scratch for himself. I felt stupid for bumping into her car in the first place. I felt drained at the thought of having to go through it all over again as she explained about the sudden jolt and the bumper hanging off to my husband and I felt anxious about how we would solve this problem. Would I have to pay her £180 cash or would I have to put this through the insurance and then have even more to deal with on this issue for weeks to come as it got sorted? I just wanted it all over and to not have to think about this incident anymore. Yes, it was my fault but did I have to stay in repentance forever over this? I’d already apologised – who likes to feel like shit constantly as your mistakes are trotted out again as the event is relived? I asked my husband to help me. I wasn’t strong. I didn’t want to deal with it. I wanted to hide, but I knew that by dealing with it and getting it over with I could close the door on this particular incident and not have to think about it again.
So we went to see Drama Grandma. My husband patiently listened as she retold the story with such gusto, I’m certain she’d been dining out on it. He agreed that there was a scratch and said how it was ‘one of those things’, his patience and manner helped the lady to see me as someone who’d just made a mistake rather than an evil woman out to rip apart her car, and she was relating to me as if we were old friends. My husband agreed to settle the £180 then and there, giving her the cash she’d asked for without quibble. I’m not joking, she actually did a little jaunty hop as she held out her hand for the cash, glad to be getting the matter sorted so easily. I too was glad that the matter was sorted and that I’d never have to be in contact with her again. She’s not a horrible lady – but who wants to be reminded of their mistakes? I was keen to have it over and done with. When we left I teared up and hugged my husband, so grateful to have him there with me, to lean on in this difficult time.
It was only later on that I realised I had not turned to food. I had not even thought about food. I had felt awful, uncomfortable feelings about myself and my actions but I didn’t turn to food to get rid of them. Instead I allowed myself to feel those feelings and talk them through with my husband when we left. I dealt with them as I imagine ‘slim people’ deal with things, without food entering their heads, because let’s face it – why would it? I’d got through a situation that historically would have had me getting a takeaway on the way home or having a slab of cheesecake to ‘treat’ myself after a hard day, and I’d not turned to food. I’d won – even if it had cost me £180 to do it!
The message I’d like to leave you with after reading this post is that it can be done. Triggers are just a reaction to certain stressful events and our way of self soothing is to eat, but we can change this pattern, we do not have to be a slave to our emotions.
Explore this website further – there are posts and resources to help you if your problem stems from emotional eating, and let me know in the comments if you have had success over one of your triggers or a way you deal with things when they get tough. I’d love to hear from you.