Stress/Emotional Eating: Why We Do It & How Meditation Solves It
Stress Eating & Emotional Eating
Why We Use Food To Numb Our Feelings
For many of us, food is not just fuel for our bodies.
We order a Domino’s extra-pepperoni pizza when we are lonely. We fill up on a pint of Breyer’s vanilla ice cream when we are feeling down. We swing by Jack in the Box to blow off steam. We binge a whole bag of Lay’s sour cream & onion chips when we are bored.
Instead of feeling our uncomfortable emotions, we turn to food.
The problem is, while binging on carrot cake might make us feel better for an hour or two, it does nothing to address the deeply ingrained emotional issues which bulldozed us into gorging in the first place.
Because food can’t fill our inner potholes, like a cat chasing its own tail, filling up when we are feeling down only leaves us dazed and confused.
Making matters worse, every time we use calories to snuff out our feelings — another guilt, shame, and remorse wad gets crammed into our ready to burst emotional baggage.
While rewarding ourselves with a tasty treat every now and then is perfectly fine, when our first impulse reaction to anger, stress, boredom, and sadness is to Usain Bolt into the kitchen, then we know our inner world needs a gut renovation.
If your food cravings have you on the ropes, if you keep sabotaging your diet, then there is a solution. It’s called meditation.
Dr. Ian Campbell, British weight loss expert, BBC contributor, and medical consultant for "The Biggest Loser", recently told DailyMail, "Just telling people to eat less and exercise more doesn't tend to work, we have incorporated mindfulness into our weight loss programme and the results have been fantastic… Mindfulness could provide the ‘missing link’ between the biology and psychology of weight loss."
Emotional Hunger Vs Natural Hunger
Those of us at war with the scale know it well. Emotional hunger.
If you have ever, in an unconscious trance-like state, binged a whole box of Miss Debbie oatmeal cream pies, then you have used food to extinguish your emotions.
So, what’s the difference between "natural" hunger and "emotional" hunger?
While emotional hunger can have us eating until we are blue in the face, natural hunger needs just the right amount of food. While emotional hunger hits us like a ton of bricks, natural hunger comes on gradually, taking hours to build.
While emotional hunger usually craves comfort foods loaded with sugar, fat, and salt, natural hunger craves whole, nutritious foods like fruit, lean protein, and vegetables.
Less Stress & Anxiety, Less Emotional Eating: How? Meditation
As the two-headed monster behind why we humans eat emotionally, both stress and anxiety need to be sacked or the dirty cycle won't stop. Luckily, meditation tackles them harder than NFL hall of fame linebacker, Lawrence Taylor.
With thousands of studies and millions of anecdotal reports, meditation's "stress & anxiety" defensive playbook could fill the New England Patriots front office. We have listed a few plays here:
First, meditation raises our emotional break point. When our mindful armor becomes impenetrable to the things that usually get us hot and bothered, then our unconscious grab to self-medicate with food gets dropped like a bad habit.
Second, through the power of neuroplasticity, meditation fortifies our brain's "command and control center" prefrontal cortex. Like an electrical outlet, this stress modulating brain region keeps us cool, calm, & collected when our back is against the wall.
By dramatically upgrading the wattage needed to make our systems go haywire, meditation ensures a balanced state of consciousness all the livelong day. Staying equalized helps us crave food when our cells need it, not our emotions.
Third, meditation activates our body’s "relaxation response." Coined by the esteemed Harvard cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson in the 1980's, this "opposite of stress" response is the highest healing state for the human body.
Cranking up our relaxation response purges poisonous stress hormones (like cortisol) from our body, purifying "us" from the inside out. By cleansing our cellular toxic stress residue, meditation rolls out the red carpet for our natural hunger's grand entrance.
Fourth, by dramatically reducing the 70,000 thoughts per day that the human mind thinks, meditation anchors our awareness firmly into the present moment.
Quieting down our impulsive "must raid the fridge right now" monkey mind chatter reveals a treasure buried under years of emotional eating — our natural hunger.
In the end, meditation helps us become our own inner Mozart, where all we need to orchestrate our next cell-nourishing meal is the deeply resonant symphony of our growling belly.
Good riddance to our emotional hunger's harsh screeching, clattering, and clanking.