As we continue to break down and explore the principles of Intuitive Eating, we look next at principle seven: Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness.
Food comforts. There is likely some food that you feel a certain nostalgia for at different times of the year- during the holiday season, I love the peppermint and cinnamon and fudgy dishes that come with comforting memories of time spent with loved ones and experiencing the magic this season brings. Beyond nostalgia, food also brings comfort when you are in distress. Much like a cozy blanket and warm slippers, food can give you a sense of indulgence and self care that can be particularly meaningful when you are having a hard time.
“Emotional eating” has become a shame-filled catch phrase in the diet industry which would have you believe that eating should- I suppose- be an activity completely outside the realm of your emotions. That doesn’t seem very feasible, does it? When done mindfully, eating is integrated into your awareness- an awareness that includes your emotions!
Mindful eating is the exact opposite of what we might view as “mind-numb” eating- a space where you eat mindlessly, maybe while trying to avoid or numb out your emotions. This can be a powerful way to look at your eating- while not moralistically assigning values to food you may or may not eat during a state of high emotion, can you stay mindful in your experiences of eating?
Have you had a hard day and oreos seem like an amazing source of self-care? I get it. Oreos are the best. Take a moment to check in with yourself- what is the emotion I am currently experiencing? (See emotion wheel below, it can help really cue into what it might be that you are feeling.) Ask yourself- is this an emotion that I would like to experience with oreos? Is the answer no? Keep investigating with curiosity what is called for in that moment. Is the answer yes? Then I want you to slow down, sit back, and savor those oreos, squeezing out every ounce of comfort to be had. Notice how they taste, smell, and feel to consume. Notice how attending to your own needs- physical and emotional- feels. This is not a wild, emotion numbing event- this is mindful and honoring of ourselves. Take a moment to thank yourself with loving kindness for always being there- through the good and the bad- working with your body to identify and provide for yourself the best experiences through life possible.
This is coping with your emotions with kindness. It’s not saying eating while experiencing an emotion is BAD like so many diet platforms would tell you. (Does it even make sense to imagine a world where we only eat when we are UNemotional? A world where we really never experience ice cream when coping with a break up, or eat cake when our friends get married, or go out to a fancy dinner to celebrate a promotion? As a foodie who loves experiencing and gifting the experience of food to others, this diet culture imposed view of food as separate from emotional experiences is foreign and uncomfortable to me!
Food is used to sustain life, yes- but also to comfort and celebrate and mourn. Food isn’t for fixing our emotions, but it can be part of an emotional experience!