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A YOGI CHA BLOG

EATING EMOTIONS

Hi, I’m Charlotte (Yogi Cha). I’m a yoga teacher with a degree in clinical psychology. I’ve always had a deep curiosity toward eastern and western approaches to understanding the mind, and the ming/body union. You’ll find me in the lovely Canggu Bali, nestled amongst coconuts, palm trees and sunshine 🥥🌴🌞

 

Imagine that your relationship with food has very little or even nothing to do with the food itself or your hunger. Imagine instead for a moment that it has to do with CONTROL.

When you start out in life, your parents wants to set you up for success. So they train you into a routine; for sleep, for poop and for food. The idea of eating 3 meals a day can be a life saviour when you’re out of whack and need to come back to balance. Maybe you’ve been starting your day with an ice cream and eaten yourself around the fast-food chains until midday and so forth. In that case it is really helpful to find a routine which will not only teach your body to listen to it’s signals but also give the stomach time to digest the food. 

If you are anything like me, it might also have been an early conditioning that created a rather complicated relationship to mealtime. Children don’t get a saying in when and what to eat. But the fact of the matter is that our survival instinct wouldn’t let us starve. We will eat at some point when we are hungry. But it might not be what’s the most convenient for our parents.

I too, see the mayhem that it would imply to leave it to the 3 year old to choose when and what to eat. I’m not pointing any fingers of shame here. There is no judgement in my words. I’m just stating the obvious : the fact is that society is not made for the natural organic evolution of a being but structured around other needs of evolution, progression, construction…

I think I started thinking about this when trying to lose weight (of course). But I have been thinking about food for as long as I can remember, so this was to look at it from a different perspective. From the view that maybe my SELF IMAGE had more to do with it than biology. Maybe these convictions I had about what is REAL, aren’t that real.

(In case I lost you here, have a look at my articles on Self Image and Beliefs, or google Max Waltz’s on the same subject to see his discovering)

It occurred to me when I was reading up on how different people relate to food. Most of us are indifferent to certain foods and very much NOT indifferent to others. We have a rather emotionally charged relationship to some of the things we eat. Some of us are rather indifferent to food in general whereas others act as if there might not be enough food for them so they tend to eat as often as possible. Have you ever felt the need to finish your plate even though you are more than satisfied?

How often had I not heard my mother say “you have hardly eaten anything. It’s better you have some more now, we don’t know when we’ll have time to eat again” (usually when we were about to travel somewhere)?

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I would actually reflect on that remark and reply that it was probably not the best principal to go after. If you’re full, you’re full. No use to over eat.

But if you are brought up with that idea (or the typical for anyone born in the 70s and 80s “think of all the starving children in Africa”)it doesn’t come as something natural to stop.

As if we might go hungry at some point and there would be no food.

As if we should feel some kind of guilt for not shoving down our throats more than we needed or something we did not like.

I tried to look at my behaviour with food differently. How much I ate, how I ate it and when. For instance, if I wasn’t TOO hungry, I would have a better meal. I would not act as if someone else was about to steal my food or that it needed to be inside of me as soon as possible because otherwise it wouldn’t … be good any more?

So there would be less resistance in my relationship with the meal in those moments. Therefore I ate less and took my time to eat.

Wanting to become thinner, food was a mystery to me. I knew that if you eat less, you will reduce your size. But I couldn’t for the world imagine that I over-ate. It doesn’t work to starve oneself so clearly there was something I needed to see differently. Also, as soon as I actually lost weight, I would not trust that it could last. I did not understand how it happened and therefore I could not control it. And just as I had expected, after a while, everything went back to “normal”. To what I was used to.

What needed to change was then actually, what I BELIEVED to be true about me and food.

Some people take the control back by refusing to eat at all. We call that anorexia. Others are what we cruelly call “failed anorectics” or aka bulimia which can be very hard to detect due to the normal surface behaviour and the less drastic changes visible on the body. But I believe that many of us still have a complicated relationship to food, we are emotional eaters.

We try to control what was not controllable once upon a time.

To change a behaviour we need to change the perception. Nothing will change if you don’t change the way you approach it. Looking at this from the outside, reading an article for instance, it can seem so obvious. But it doesn’t mean that we understand what this implies for US.

It doesn’t mean we understand that we’re using food for other reasons than to nourish us. That we are addicted to it (ie “comfort food”).

We can probably not understand that we are addicted to food the same way we can’t see that we are addicted to thinking. It can only be clear when we change our perception.

How do we change our perception? By breaking the trance of mechanically always doing the same thing. By being conscious.

This is not esoteric, this really is very pragmatic.

You need to make a pause each time you a reaching for something to eat and ask yourself

“what am I unwilling to feel right now?”

You need to stop yourself before digging into a meal when you’re so hungry it hurts your stomach and ask yourself “am I really going to die if I don’t shove this into me under 5 minutes?”

“how would I eat this if I wasn’t in a state of crisis?” (ie super hungry and thinking something is lacking me)

The same way, when you are obsessively thinking about 100 different things at the same time, you need to stop and feel.

And to remember how to feel, use the thought, direct it. “this pillow feels so soft” or “the floor feels cold on my feet but the chair doesn’t feel cold on my bum”.

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