In order to live with a fully open heart we need to be open to feeling both negative and positive emotions.
This is the first part of a series of blogs where I am going to outline what emotions have got to do with our lifestyle choices, and specifically our eating habits. I will talk about emotional regulation and how we can express our emotions (in a socially acceptable way – more difficult than one would think), how this affects our behaviour especially our relationship to food, why we feel a disconnect from the self and how to gain that self-trust again. Apart from the explanation, I will aim to give you practical tools on each topic.
Being a small size woman with good eating habits I am asked a lot why I ended up specialising in emotional eating and disordered eating as a coach. Emotional eating is never about food, it is about not being able to regulate feelings, looking to numb pain or other discomfort and being disconnected from the self. These are issues that I have been dealing with myself for the past few years, only the outlet is different: I have been using socially more acceptable tools like people-pleasing or over-exercising.
Just a bit of background on my journey:
Feeling uncomfortable emotions is part of human experience, I keep telling myself as another wave of grief and anger washes over me; this is what I teach my clients ffs. Have you ever read books by Russian authors or seen any movies by Eastern European directors? We love pain, we lean into it–no, we actually invite it in. But what about feelings on the other end of the spectrum, like love? The first time, a friend of mine in the UK told me “I love you” I didn’t know how to react, my body literally froze. I was 38 years old.
We learn how to regulate our emotions from our primary carers in childhood.
I have memories of my family sitting down to watch an American movie, not long after the collapse of communism, when Western culture started creeping into the everyday lives of Hungarians. In the film, members of a typical American family were having a conversation and casually said “Love you” to each other. Our reaction was to mock this casual expression of love. Surely, they must know that they love each other, why would they say it out loud? Cringe! But deep down as an 11-year-old, I thought it was rather sweet and craved that kind of liberation, the ability to express my feelings fully and not being judged for it. For a long time, this was very painful to think about but now I can look at my parents and myself with compassion. The more I unwind from my expectations of how it all should have been, the easier it gets.
Here are a few questions to start you on this journey:
How do you deal with uncomfortable emotions like anger, embarrassment, shame, vulnerability, etc.? Do you need to distract yourself from feeling them fully? If so, what do you reach for? Social media, alcohol, food, Netflix? Or do you just push them down, try to move on quickly? What about positive emotions? Do you find it easier to give or to receive love, compassion, kindness? Can you give yourself the same compassion and kindness you give to others? How do you react when you get a compliment?
I hope this helps you begin to uncover your emotions and help you find more trust in them. As always, if you want to talk more, feel free to reach out directly via our Instagram or email.