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Breaking Free From Emotional Eating To Lose Weight
Breaking free from emotional eating is to know that the brain has two built in directives: survival and pleasure seeking. And both of them influences our eating behavior!
The Pleasure-Seeking Program
To understand the pleasure seeking program we look at early experiences. For instance, how many holidays did you celebrate as child? And then how about if we add the number of birthdays and other special occasions, such as weddings and anniversaries. You may total between seven and sixteen per year. All of these occasions brought with them relatives, friends, love, attention, warmth, and what else? Yes--lots and lots of food!
Now let's look at some other early experiences. What happened when you ate your carrots or helped your mom with the cleaning? You were rewarded with dessert! Or your dad would take the family on Sunday to Dairy Queen!
With all this early programming, it's easy to understand why your brain often says, "Eat, be nice to yourself; you'll feel better; it tastes good; you deserve it."
The Survival Program
As a baby when you cried-for most any reason-what was the answer? The bottle, right? Anytime you were frustrated or upset, your mother made sure that the bottle was there. Thus you learned an early association with food and upset.
Later when you were in kindergarten, maybe you approached another little boy or girl and were rejected, or you lost or broke your favorite toy, or the teacher yelled at you for any reason, or you didn't have a date for the a dance, or some other calamity happened, and you ran home crying, "Mommy, Mommy, the world's coming to an end." And what did Mommy say and do? "Come have some milk and cookies. It'll make you feel better. And yes, a little while later you did feel better. Not knowing better, you thought it was the cookies and milk, when it was really just the passing of time.
Little wonder your brain often says, "Eat, you got a lot done today," or "Eat, you've had a rough day," or "Given all the bull you've put up with today, you deserve something," or "Eat. And there's, "If you don't eat it, it'll get thrown away and you'll be wasting money," or "Eat. Be nice to yourself and treat yourself to something good!"
For many years this may have been OK. But, one day you realized that you had a weight problem. At what age? Seven, fifteen, thirty-five? The age is irrelevant because the early years of your life are the most formative and by the time you realized you had a weight problem, you had already been perfectly conditioned to eat in response to survival and/or pleasure. Now we understand that when you feel upset, frustrated, down, bored, rejected, happy, glad, excited... your brain suggests that you eat. It's simply the program. It would seem obvious that all we need do to stop emotional eating is to be aware of our emotions and correct the program.
Unfortunately most of us have been trained to deny our feelings so the brain doesn't say, "Eat, you're happy." It says, "Eat because it looks good." Even when we're bored, the brain doesn't say, "eat because you're bored;" it says, "eat because it would taste good," or "eat because there's nothing else to do."
Because of this, you think you have an eating problem as opposed to a problem handling emotions (reactions to our various stressors in life). The irony though is that our emotional reactions to stress become stressors in themselves and this is because of our limited experiences in managing emotions. The goal to breaking free from emotional eating is to learn to acknowledge emotions as they are felt--stop diluting emotions with food to end eating emotional eating.
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