Food & Body Talk: How to Stop Eating to Numb + Start Leaning Out!
Yesterday i was getting ready for an event and I passed myself in the mirror and thought, “Wow. I look great.” I wanted to document it because I’ve been feeling really excited about my body lately. Over the course of the past few months I’ve been learning how to use food as medicine and listen to myself in a new way. And it’s paying off, big time.
Backstory: As a teenager I dealt with an eating disorder. In my 20’s, I cultivated what I believed to be a really healthy relationship with food. I ate whatever I wanted but never over-ate, and what I felt like eating was always organic and healthy (this includes cookies and chocolate of course – I have a major sweet tooth!).
However, this past year, when I put on some extra weight seemingly out of nowhere, I felt inspired to start paying closer attention.
After a few days of observing my own behavior, I noticed that in moments when I wanted to distract myself from an uncomfortable feeling, or when I would be doing lots of work and be missing pleasure and connection, I would unconsciously reach for something to eat.
I realized this unconscious snacking had been adding up to a bunch of extra calories I had hardly noticed I was taking in, because I wasn’t fully in my body while I was eating them. I was in my mind or in anxiety-world, not being fully present with what I was doing.
For me, the first key to remedying this pattern has been eating only when I’m FULLY AWARE and being intentional, and eating only for one of two reasons:
1) I’m hungry and needing nourishment, or
2) I want to consciously indulge in something DELICIOUS as a means of pleasure and enjoyment.
In other words: I cut out eating to numb an unpleasant feeling or fill a void. Now, when I catch myself in the moments of wanting a yummy distraction, I find another way to mitigate that impulse: I’ll take a quick walk or I’ll call a friend. I don’t make myself wrong for wanting to distract myself because studies have actually shown that the impulse for self-distraction can be an effective and instinctive means of upliftment – as long as it’s done in a way that’s healthy and fulfilling.
This is where discernment comes in. You can tell if distracting yourself is healthy and fulfilling based on whether you feel better or worse after you do it. Let’s be real: there are times when that walk around the block or bite of mashed potatoes just isn’t going to cut it.
These are the moments when distracting myself is actually akin to me abandoning myself in a moment when I really need my own attention. For example, when I’m genuinely worried about something or my feelings are hurt. When I’m feeling empty or lonely. In this type of an instance, what my heart and soul are longing for is me-time and a deeper dive… Not a distraction.
When this is the case, I’ll ask myself what is underneath the need to distract myself and actually attend directly to that, instead of eating something or going for a walk. When I do this, the “hunger” I perceived always instantly evaporates because it wasn’t really “hunger” to begin with, but rather a deeper need attempting to get my attention. Addressing this need is the equivalent of treating the root rather than the symptom. Eating or walking in that moment would be putting a bandaid on a wound rather than healing it.
Examples of some things I may actually be needing in one of those deeper-need scenarios: a hug, a nap, some time to journal, to scream or have a good cry, to not be alone, to ask for support, to clear my head and meditate.
Lastly on the subject of physical wellness and this awesome upleveling-period I’ve been in: two months ago I started working out with a professional trainer. I have always taken workout classes several times a week, but never seen real tangible changes in my body. I have honestly always just been thin and looked kind of the same. My trainer is teaching me to eat according to my activity level, which is helping me deepen my understanding of using food as fuel and creating lean muscle mass (gettin’ ripped – woohoo!).
The fitness journey is new to me and totally blowing my mind because I’m actually eating way MORE than I used to and seeing my body get toned and tighter – fuck yes! More to come on this topic soon.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave inspo and reflections in the comments on IG and I’ll respond to every single one.