Today a client of mine said, “Please tell me how I am supposed to find time to exercise. I don’t even have time to breathe.”
I asked her what a typical day looks like, and it went something like this:
- hit snooze a million times and wake up exhausted
- wake the kids up and act happy even though I am exhausted. They whine and say they want to stay in bed and I try to act positive but I just want to scream, “ME TOO!”
- Coffee, coffee, and more coffee
- rush through breakfast and feel annoyed once again that nothing in my closet fits
- get to work 10 minutes late. Ok, fine, 20 minutes late.
- Open my inbox and see a flood of emails before it’s even 9am. Craving sugar. No, cheese. Actually, both.
- Can’t respond to the emails because I am in meetings all day. One was 2 hours long and I swear it could have just been an e-mail
- Go, go, go through the day. No time for lunch so I grab some stale pretzels out of the snack cabinet in the kitchen at work. They are gross, but I think of how many calories I’m saving and halfway pat myself on the back for at least this one thing
- Get a text from kid number 1. I forgot it was dress up day and she’s feeling left out and I am the worst mother ever
- Get home, starving but have no idea what to do for dinner. Throw a frozen pizza in the oven.
- Help kids with homework and put them to bed. They go right to bed when I tell them like little angels. Just kidding. Getting them into bed is a war every. single. night.
- Collapse on the couch and watch brainless TV with the hubs to cope with my exhaustion. Eat all the kids’ leftovers plus like a gallon of ice cream. It was delicious and worth it and I haven’t eaten all day and it makes me happy stop judging me.
- Wish I could go to bed at a decent hour but I’m totally wired, plus, I don’t WANT to go to bed even though I’m exhausted. I haven’t had a single second to myself all day and don’t I deserve that?
- Watch more brainless TV until way too late and then finally fall asleep
Is it a surprise that she finds it difficult to have a healthy relationship with food and movement? The way her life is structured now, it is impossible for her to take care of herself. If I lived out that day, I’d probably eat a gallon of ice cream, too. I wouldn’t eat stale pretzels because I myself am a sweets fanatic, but I would probably find some stale chocolate in that same snack cabinet if I were in her position.
This is a great example of how emotional eating is not about the food.
Our bodies crave certain things that are common to all humans. Among other things, we crave safety, love, fun, pleasure, adventure, passion, and a lack of chronic stress. We not only crave these things; we must have them.
One time, years ago, a friend of mine was pregnant and taking a prenatal vitamin. I said, “I guess it’s really important to make sure the baby gets enough nutrients. I would be so worried about not having enough of something and damaging my baby!” She said, “Oh no. These are for me. Because that baby will take whatever he needs to grow. If he needs calcium, he will take it from my bones. The baby always takes what he needs to survive. Ideally, I keep us both fed well enough that he doesn’t need to!”
As I’ve studied emotional eating, that story has always stuck with me. Like a baby in the womb craves nutrients and does whatever he needs to do to get them, our own bodies crave pleasure. They crave fun. They crave calm. They crave adventure. They crave rest. They crave passion. And our bodies will do whatever is necessary to get those things at at least a baseline level.
If your body is craving calm and you’re feeding her nothing but anxiety, she is going to do whatever she needs to do to feel calm, even if it’s harmful to you. Oreos feel calm. Ice cream feels calm. Potato chips feel calm. A wheel of cheese feels calm. Three giant bowls of pasta feel calm. Just think about the warm feeling of fullness that washes over you after a binge.
Just think about the warm feeling of fullness that washes over you after a binge.
So what’s the answer? The answer is to first identify the feelings that your body craves, which can be a lot harder than it sounds. Then, once you identify the feelings, look for ways that you can give your body those feelings that she craves by changing your life to make them a priority.
Once that happens, your cravings “magically” disappear. Without diets. Without punishment. Without the huge struggle that you’ve been led to believe is necessary.
Your cravings “magically” disappear.
After listening to and empathizing with my client’s struggles, I led her through a meditation to identify what feelings her body was begging her for in the form of cravings. We had a major breakthrough, and I then worked with her to set up an action plan to start making some serious changes.
Life shouldn’t feel like a constant climb.
So tell me in the comments, what’s your “naughtiest” go to binge food? And how do you feel after you eat it?