Emotions are a blessing and a curse. Conceptually, we know they exist, and we experience them daily. Yet oddly, we don’t always have the emotional intelligence to understand, recognize or manage our emotions. Sometimes, managing emotions equates to eating, and it’s aptly dubbed emotional eating.
Anyone can participate in emotional eating, though women are more prone to it. Eating in response to emotions may feel good momentarily, but in the aftermath, it is common to feel guilt, embarrassment or failure. Long term, weight gain can also occur.
Research suggests that self-compassion and mindfulness practices can make a difference in how you respond to emotions. Of course, giving yourself permission to receive this gift isn’t always easy, so let’s start with an icebreaker.
“A book fell on my head. I only have my shelf to blame”.
Nothing like a corny joke to make you smile, smirk or grimace. But wait, there’s meaning behind this joke. Contrary to self-blame, self-compassion is when you extend kindness towards yourself, especially during feelings of inadequacy or failure.
What is self-compassion?
- Awareness that you are feeling an emotion
- Treating self with kindness
- Acknowledging that emotions are universally human, everyone feels them
When emotions drive hunger, sample this.
- Attend to physical discomfort by touching your body where it hurts, changing positions, stretching or taking a deep breath
- Speak words of affirmation (even if you don’t believe them, yet). “I’m perfectly imperfect, just like every other human. Mistakes will be made”
- Express confidence in your ability to improve, just as you would to a friend. “I tend to eat when I feel bad, but I believe in my ability to change this”.
- Moderate physical activity, three times a week
Curious to know how self-compassionate you currently are? Take this quiz.
NOTE: The practice of self-compassion, and the exercises described here are adapted from the work of Dr. Kristen Neff, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.