A lady just contacted me, a personal trainer, saying that she had some of her clients that were turning to food and alcohol in times of stress, and this is not unusual. I have helped hundreds and hundreds of ladies that go through this exact same strategy.
From the very first taste of breast milk (or bottle milk), we have been conditioned to connect food with stress relief, with love and comfort. And so, from that very first kind of imprinting stages of baby connecting food with comfort, all the way through to soothing sweet foods that make us feel good in the minute that we’re eating them, or distract us from whatever feelings are going on, people often turn to food in times of stress.
A lot of women have told me, heartbreakingly, the same kind of story: “Food is always there for me and food is the only thing that I can count on.” Or, “Alcohol is the only thing that I can count on to really be there for me when I need it.”
When you are craving something, it’s a change of state and it goes through like a wave. It comes up and then it goes down again. And so, the first thing that I would suggest if you are turning to food in times of stress is to ride the craving wave, and imagine that you are surfing the wave of the craving and breathe through it.
You can do this beautiful circular breath that I learned from breath master teacher Dan Brulé. Highly recommend getting his book, by the way, if you’re interested in learning more about how to breath through stress instead of eat your way through stress. He teaches this simple transformational breath called the circle breath. Your in-breath and your out-breath have no gaps between them, so you breathe in and out, and then in and out.
Turn to your breath in times of stress instead of turning to food.
It sounds so simple that we ignore it as a strategy, but it is one of the most powerful strategies you can use, is to turn to your breath in times of stress instead of turning to food. Breathe through the stress, breathe through the emotions, and ride the wave of the craving. It will go up and will reach a peak. Sometimes it reaches a really intense peak and you feel like you’ve got to drive to the shops and go and get some food or put some toast and slather honey on it, or whatever it is. The craving comes up in its intensity BUT it passes, and the craving will pass whether you eat or you don’t eat.
If you imagine yourself like a surfer riding the craving wave, then you can ride it and keep breathing through that craving and focus on your breath, and keep breathing through that craving until it passes. That’s the first step.
The second step is to hydrate. A lot of the times when we’re stressed we’re actually dehydrated, and having more hydration, more water in your system, is absolutely going to help you deal with stress better.
Point number one is breathe through it. Point number two is hydrate. Air and water – get that in. Number one to deal with. So your body goes, “Ah, I’m safe. It’s okay. I have air to breathe, I have water.” It knows that it’s physiologically okay.
If you can, lie down on the floor and do a full body relaxation, like breathe into your belly and imagine relaxing and melting your body down into the floor. So that’s three, relax. Focus on relaxing through the stress.
The fourth one is to face the emotions that you’re actually feeling. A lot of times, we use food to numb out or to avoid the emotions because we don’t want to face the real emotion that’s going on – the anger, the sadness, the pain, the rage, the jealousy, the despair. Whatever it is, they’re normal human emotions and everybody feels them from time to time. And just like the craving, they will rise and they will fall again.
We use food to numb out or to avoid the emotions because we don’t want to face the real emotion that’s going on.
The paradoxical trick to facing uncomfortable emotions is that when we squash them down and we try to numb them out with food, or alcohol, or drugs, or sex, or shopping, or scrolling on Facebook, whatever that is, when you try to numb them out and avoid them in that way, then it’s like you’re stuffing them down, you’re putting a lid on them, and so they get trapped in your body.
When instead, if you breathe through them, if you face them and really go into that feeling and feel the feeling as uncomfortable as it is, and breathe through it and know that you’re safe, and just honor and acknowledge the feeling that you’re feeling, the feeling will pass. It’s like this beautiful magical alchemy that happens with emotions. When you face it, then it will transform into some kind of wisdom, into a peace that comes after, like the calm after the storm.
The cave that you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.
Joseph Campbell, the writer of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, he says, “The cave that you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.”
A lot of times people fear to enter the cave of their emotions because they’re afraid they’re going to be overwhelmed by them, or they’ll never come out. But it is in fact inside that cave of those emotions that the greatest wisdom is, the greatest depth of character, the greatest forgiveness and compassion for yourself and others lives. It is inside that cave of those emotions. So don’t squash it down with food. Go into the cave of your emotions, and I promise you you will come out the other side.
If this is going on and you’re like, “I’ve done some deep breathing, I’ve drunk some water, I’ve lied on the floor and relaxed, I am facing my emotions by journalling them out, or crying, or raging into a pillow,” if after 5 to 10 minutes of doing all of those things you still feel like that particular food, HAVE IT. Have it and eat it mindfully.
This is the trick. Mindfully eating your craving foods completely unravels and turns the craving on its head. You can’t scoff down food mindfully. So take a tiny nibble.
Take a tiny nibble.
I just read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my daughter Ruby, and there’s this one scene where Charlie is so poor and only gets a bar of chocolate once a year for his birthday because they’re so poor. He opens up the chocolate a little bit, a corner at a time, and he nibbles on the corner and let’s it just melt into his mouth, and then the next day he nibbles off a tiny bit more.
Imagine that you’re like Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and eating your food, whatever it is, donut, chocolate, hamburger, whatever is your craving food. If you’ve done all of those other steps and you’ve ridden the wave of the craving and you still feel like it, instead of depriving yourself and beating yourself up about having that craving, allow yourself to honor the craving and honor it mindfully. Honor it mindfully.
Eat whatever that food is or drink that wine, but drink it mindfully. Savor the taste, savor the flavor, breathe it in, feel the emotions that you’re feeling while you’re eating that food or drinking that drink. You will notice that when you mindfully eat those foods, you end up eating far less than you would otherwise.
Those are my tips for dealing with food cravings in times of stress. If you have any other questions or things that you would like me to answer or give you some tips or strategies on, then post it in the comments below. I would love to hear it and I would love to be able to help you and serve you with more tips and strategies that will help you to discover and uncover your Weightless Woman inside.
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