The big challenge with food is how easy it is to misuse without pausing to think about. Food is so available and enticing and such a big part of life, it’s really easy to use it unconsciously for emotional reasons. One of the key issues is understanding the difference between wants and needs. From the time we are little kids, we learn to use food for a long list of reasons without stopping and asking ourselves, “is this really what I need?” We live in a society in which the focus is typically on the outside world, not the inside world. Most emotional eaters aren’t really even aware of exactly what they are feeling and what else besides food might be what they are craving. One of the great things about working on your eating issues in therapy is not just eating more responsibly, but also learning what you really need to feel satisfied and fulfilled. When you dig into what is behind the eating, you can discover and clear the blocks and barriers to having a richer, sweeter, more satisfying and fulfilling life. When you are getting what you really need, you don’t need to mask the emptiness or emotional hunger with the powerful chemistry of “comfort foods.” This means a more satisfying life.
One of the big drivers of emotional eating is the chemical high we can get from our comfort foods. Sweet, starchy foods give us a dose of serotonin. This neurotransmitter is meant to signal us that we are happy and satisfied. We can enjoy it’s benefits from loving touch with friends, partners, animals or massage. We get a dose of serotonin from giving to others and from the satisfaction of accomplishing something meaningful. It can also come from being physically active or making love. When we get caught in using surrogates to feel the way we want to feel, we can get stuck with all the negatives of dependency or addiction, or a life of fighting our impulses simultaneously with not putting our energy where it really needs to go. It can suck up a lot of life energy to battle with food and not leave enough left over to focus on what really matters to us. Finding out what our passions are and clearing barriers to self actualization is a really rewarding exploration in therapy.
Along with the psychology of emotional eating, many of us have the issue of having chemical imbalances which cause us to be constantly chasing the comfortable feeling we really need. These imbalances can come from eating a diet of foods that inflame and distress our bodies such as gluten. It has a molecule called gluteal-morphine which is quite addictive while simultaneously being very hard on the gut, causing a cascade of reactions. Also some of us are genetically pre-disposed to be low serotonin to begin with. Symptoms of this include a family history of alcoholism, depression, anxiety, irritability or sugar addiction. Often when folks talk to their doctor about this, they are prescribed an anti-depressant. However, in Europe, doctors who are less driven by big pharma suggest a supplement with is a natural precursor to serotonin, 5HTP, and exercise. 5HTP is short for five hydroxy-tryptophan which is the amino acid (protein) your body uses to produce serotonin. This supplement comes from a bean and can be easily purchased in natural food stores.
What I really enjoy about helping people with food issues is that my clients experience freedom from the relentless battles in their heads and have more and more energy to focus on real satisfaction. Ask yourself, how much time do you spend talking to yourself about food and weight? Some people spend 75, 80 or even 90% of their mental energy caught up in this painful struggle. Next, ask yourself, if all that energy was freed up to focus on creating my best possible life, what can I imagine creating for myself? These are just a few of the issues that can drive an out of balance relationship with food. What’s most important is to find out what it is for you, clear it, move forward into getting what you really need in life, and stop fighting with yourself. This is completely possible and realistic, even if you’ve struggled with this your whole life or feel very out of control with food. Don’t spend your life in an endless battle!