October 2, 2003
If you’re feeling lonely,
anxious, or angry, you may be tempted to use food as a way to comfort
yourself. This is called emotional eating, and it occurs when you
don’t allow yourself to feel, express, or resolve the problems in
your life that are causing these feelings.
When you suppress negative emotions, it often triggers intense food
cravings. It’s your body’s way of relieving your stress. Instead
of feeling sad, worthless, or resentful, you anesthetize yourself
by bingeing on foods like potato chips, pizza, ice cream, or doughnuts.
You eat to avoid feeling.
Many women crave foods they are addicted to like
sugar, caffeine, and fatty foods. Not only do these high stress
foods provide you with a false sense of emotional comfort, but,
over time, they can actually harm your body. In addition to causing
obesity, these foods can increase your risk of estrogen dominance,
hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and cancerto name but
a few. Suppressing your feelings can also cause physical symptoms,
the most common of which are anxiety, agitation, and muscle tension.
Root of Emotional Eating
In my practice, I’ve found that a woman’s family
upbringing, deep pain, or negative life experiences can cause them
to hide from their feelings, avoiding them in hopes they will go
away. But these negative feelings don’t just disappear on their
own. If you shut them away instead of addressing them, they simply
become buried in your body.
Treat the Feeling, Not the Craving
My first piece of advice is to seek counseling
and/or participate in a support group. This will provide a safe
place for you to open up and express your emotionsan essential
first step. In the meantime, I’d like to share two effective, short-term
solutions to help you take charge of this habit, instead of letting
this unhealthy behavior take control of you.
When you begin to experience food cravings due
to emotional upset, relieve them with my two-step process below.
The goals of this process are to (1) lessen emotional upset and
restore feelings of peace and calm, and (2) stop or relieve food
During the first part of this process, sit quietly
and engage in a simple repetitive activity like meditation. I recommend
meditation because it allows you to create a state of deep relaxationa
state that promotes healing in the body and mind. By emptying your
mind of your upset feelings, you create a state of deep relaxation,
which in turn helps you restore your equilibrium and regain a sense
of peace and calm. During meditation, your body benefits from physiological
changes: your heart rate slows, your blood pressure drops, and your
muscle tension decreases. Your brain wave patterns also shift from
the fast beta waves that occur during a normal active day to the
slower alpha waves that occur just before falling asleep, or in
times of deep relaxation.
In the second part of this process, you will work
a powerful acupressure point that can literally help to turn
off food cravings. I’ve also included a second acupressure
point if your food cravings are accompanied by hormone imbalances
such as PMS. Practice these exercises whenever emotional food cravings
Peaceful Meditation to Restore Emotional
As you start to feel yourself calm down and your
body begins to relax, you should place your right hand below the
bottom edge of your right rib cage (about a half-inch to the left
of your nipple line). This acupressure point (spleen 16) will help
to relieve your food cravings. Apply firm but gentle pressure for
1 to 3 minutes.
Another point (spleen 4) can be used if you suffer
from hormone-related food cravings, like PMS. This point is located
on the arch of your foot, one thumb-width from the ball of your
foot, towards your heel. Apply firm but gentle pressure for 1 to
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