Did you know that there is a hidden force that drives your behaviors associated with food addiction, emotional eating and binge eating? This hidden force is your emotions and when you struggle to regulate your emotions, it can have a big impact on your binge eating, emotional eating and food addiction behaviors. If you have food and body image issues, you may respond to emotions by using food to numb yourself or tamp down even happy feelings. Both reactions to emotional pain are two sides of the same coin—attempts to escape from your emotions, or from the “emotional soup.”
In this episode you will learn:
1. What is the emotional soup?
2. What are the 4 things you need to know to get out of the emotional soup?
3. How can being stuck in your emotions affect your food and body image issues?
4. Why how you express your emotions is the same as how you deal with food.
o Write down three emotions you experience each day x 1 month. Use this format:
a. Example: FEAR
b. Describe situation:
c. Describe body sensations associated with fear
o Make a list of emotions you have trouble expressing.
a. Example; ANGER
b. What is your judgment about people who get angry?
c. What do you do when you begin to feel angry (to avoid expressing your anger)?
o Think of times when you’ve expressed your emotions in healthy ways and unhealthy ways, and ask yourself how each affects your eating.
o What were your family rules about expressing emotion? Some examples are listed below:
a. Don’t show any emotions that hurt someone else
b. Hide your anger
c. Keep your emotions to yourself
d. Use anger when you want to get attention.
e. Ignore your feelings.
f. Don’t trust your emotions; trusting your logical mind is more reliable.
g. Be happy even when you’re not.
o Think of 3 skills you’ve used to deal with stress in other areas of your life that could be applied to your food and body image issues. Some examples are listed below:
a. Meditation or breath work
b. Taking a walk when upset
c. Calling a friend or reaching out for support
e. Writing a pros and cons list when struggling with a difficult problem
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Hi everyone. It’s Dr. Carolyn with episode number 99. I can’t even believe I’ve done 99 podcasts. This is step number two in the five steps to recovery. And this one is all about emerging from the emotional soup. So stay tuned. Did you know that there’s a hidden force that drives your behaviors associated with food addiction, emotional eating, and binge eating while there is, and it’s your emotions. Now here’s a patient story that can maybe help you understand why I say that. Marianne just turned 60. She’s married and has a successful career in nursing. Although she feels really good about most things in her life. She continues to struggle with food and body image issues. When she feels happy she over eats, when she’s sad or angry she overeats, when her husband has to work late and she’s home alone she overeats. She describes food as my best friend. Her husband is very “health conscious” and often makes disparaging comments about her size just as her mother did when she was a child. Marianne really believes that if her life were just less stressful, she could stop over eating. Now Marianne story demonstrates how people in her life starting with her mother and now her husband have focused on her size, the emotions she feels about. This started in childhood. And now as an adult, the same emotions are triggered when her husband makes comments about her size or her unwillingness to go out and you know, do extreme exercise like he does. The emotions of embarrassment, guilt, shame, anger, loneliness, and disappointment are the driving force behind her overeating. And she is truly stuck in what I call the emotional soup. Now, if you’re like many people with food and body image issues, you may be able to identify with Marianne and recognize that sometimes emotions can feel really overwhelming, or you may be the kind of person who absolutely shuts down any access to your emotions and you even have trouble naming what you’re feeling.
Now both reactions to emotions are two sides of the same coin. They’re both attempts to escape or numb, or get away from the emotional soup. When you’re stuck in the emotional soup, you may feel like your emotions are in charge of you as opposed to the other way around. And that’s like, you’re sitting in the backseat of a car and your emotions are in the driver’s seat, but you’re in the backseat trying to drive the car. It doesn’t work very well. Emerging from the emotional soup requires what’s called emotional development or emotional maturity, you could say. And that includes these things, identifying, expressing, understanding, and regulating your emotions. So we’re going to talk about each of those in a moment, but it is not your emotions themselves that cause problems in your life. Rather it’s your attempt to suppress or avoid emotions that leads to problems. I want to say that again, cause that’s really important. It is not your emotions themselves at costs problems in your life. Rather it is your attempt to suppress or avoid your emotions that leads to problems.
Now that taoist’s view of emotions is that they are energy and emotions can be called the energy of self-expression. Emotions can also influence our perceptions. For example, if you hear a dog barking, depending on your past experiences and your perception of dogs, whether you like them or not, et cetera. You may try to pet the dog. If on the other hand, your past experiences with dogs have been really negative and maybe scary, and you have a fear of dogs, or if the doc seems threatening, he may want to avoid getting close to the dog. Now emotions can be the signal that can draw us toward what we like and warn us away from danger. You know, it’s like in the horror shows where the young woman goes down the dark alley and you hear the music and you want to say stop, stop. Well, in the case of a dog barking perception, partly determines how you view the situation, but the emotion of fear at the sound of a dog barking can also be a sign of true danger. The tricky part though, is sorting out what is perception and what is real danger and often our past experiences make it difficult for us to see what is real. So we’re going to talk about that a little bit more.
Now, humans and most other animals are equipped with a basic set of core emotions. Fear, anger, surprise, disgust, joy and sadness and humans also have a set of higher moral emotions that are dependent on our level of self-consciousness and ability to empathize with others. And these include guilt, embarrassment, shame, and pride. So remember just a moment ago, I said emerging from the emotional suit requires emotional development. In other words, being able to identify, express, understand and regulate your emotions.
So let’s start by talking about learning how to identify your emotions, which is putting a name to what you’re feeling. And that’s the first step in being able to express emotions in a healthy and safe way. Emotional expression really is important because it allows you to be an individual with your own perceptions and viewpoint. It’s also a necessary part of being human. Now, there are many ways in which we’re able to recognize emotions in ourselves and in others. Babies even communicate their emotions purely non-verbally from birth, through crying, their facial expression, their little body postures when a parent reads these non-verbal cues and then responds appropriately it gives the child a feeling of security and safety. But for many of the patients that I work with in the anchor program who have had childhood trauma or neglect or abuse, they don’t necessarily have haven’t all always had parents who read the non-verbal accused and respond appropriately. And so they may have learned that their emotions just aren’t validated and they’re not valued, but learning how to identify emotions and others happens when we’re usually when we’re very young and each of us learns differently. So you may grow up in a home where you came home from school upset and nobody paid attention to you, or you were told stop pouting and go to your room. If so that lesson was my emotions don’t matter. Now, if you were mistreated or abused as a child, you may have learned to be afraid of your emotions because showing emotions could lead to further abuse.
Okay. Let’s talk about the second. Important step in uncoupling, our emotions from behaviors, and that is learning to express our emotions without using food of course. Even if you didn’t grow up in a dysfunctional home, the messages you’ve learned about how to handle your emotions. For example, which emotions were considered appropriate in which situations may have come from your family’s rules and some of those rules may have come from your family’s cultural background. There may have also been cultural rules about the kind of events in which emotional expression was sanctioned. No, some cultural in some cultures, crying at funerals is very well accepted and maybe in others who may not be. Patterns of emotional expression can also be interestingly and I find this very interesting, similar to patterns in your relationships with food. So let me give you an example, if you’re the kind of person who skips meals or restricts, what you eat, you may also be the kind of person who withholds your emotions, and that usually sets you up for the next binge or emotional outburst.
Now, many people have trouble with expressing certain emotions and usually it’s because they have a judgment about themselves. Or feel that other people will judge them if they express certain feelings. So, you know, I’m going to give you an example, you may feel that you’ll be judged as being weak if you express sadness, but emotional expression must go hand in hand with emotional regulation. You can’t regulating emotion that you can’t, number one name or identify and number two express. So it’s all, all part of the emotional development. Now, each family has patterns that are often unspoken concerning emotions. So you have to look at. Your own family and ask yourself what, what, what were those family rules and patterns.
Now, number three in emotional development is understanding your emotions. One way to do that is by looking at and trying to understand the family rules. You may not remember specific rules being talked about, like nobody sat down and said to you, perhaps in this family, we don’t talk about. But over time, you may have realized that in this family, we don’t talk about things. But the rules were the way you learned how to express your emotions either directly or indirectly. So emotional rules can include ones that allow a child to change their expression of emotions, to protect someone else’s feelings. And then they become a people pleaser, or it may allow them to mask emotions to protect themselves from harm or to avoid embarrassment. For example, your mother may not have told you I don’t approve of you getting angry, but she may have left the room or giving you a disapproving look, whenever you expressed your anger, which was an indication that expressing anger was unacceptable, or your father may have yelled at you. Don’t talk back to me. When you got angry, suggesting that it was not okay for you to get angry, but that it was okay for him to do so.
Now emotions themselves in and of themselves are neither good nor bad or right or wrong. But you may have judgments about past experiences and the emotions associated with those experiences. Think about those judgements and the associated emotions and how they keep you stuck in a story or experience from your past. And then you re-experienced these emotions that are kept in place by your judgment of the past experience and that then can lead to overeating or bingeing. Let’s just take an example. You went through a divorce as 50% of Americans have and you’re angry at your ex-husband because you have a judgment that he’s an awful person or a jerk because he hurt you. And if you hold onto this judgment, has many of us do let’s come on let’s own up women, ladies has, uh, let’s get real. We have those judgments and you may continue to stay angry about what happened during that time. That will make you stuck in a past that no longer exist in the present moment. When you understand that this judgment is causing you suffering, probably not causing your ex suffering, he doesn’t think about your judgements I’m sure, but it’s causing you suffering, which leads into bingeing and other unwanted behaviors. It is possible to move past these negative emotions and again, to uncouple your emotions from unwanted behaviors like bingeing.
Now, number four in the emotional development is regulating emotions. In order to make the best use of emotions it’s important to know how to manage or regulate them without using food. Now in Marianne story, I gave you her story is a good example of an emotional reader. Someone who uses food to regulate her emotions. But emotional regulation begins in early infancy. When babies learn to self-soothe or calm themselves, you know, sometimes by sucking their thumb or sucking a binky, that’s a way for them to self-sooth. But by the age of four, sadly, children have usually learned to change how to express their emotions, to suit the expectations. Of other people they’ve learned the cultural and family rules about emotional expression. They may learn for example, to express negative emotions, maybe more often to their mother than their father for example. You may be using many healthy ways of regulating your emotions in other areas of your life, but find yourself at a loss about how to do that with food and body image issues. For example, Marianne has to regulate her emotions in her job as a nurse where it would be inappropriate for her to express how she feels to her patients, but she may be able to express those feelings to a co-worker. So in that area of her life she’s really successful. But when it comes to stuff that leads her to overeat, she’s not been that successful.
So as I mentioned, many people with binge eatin,g food addiction and emotional eating have been taught to suppress their emotions from a very young age with messages like via good girl or boys don’t cry. A history of childhood trauma contributes to the problem of emotional dysregulation. But the point is using food to manage emotions may have been something you learned as a child when you didn’t have other skills, but now you do, and you need to learn to tap into that other skillset for emotional regulation. Interestingly, if you are a person who has difficulty accepting your feelings, Or being emotionally upset makes it hard for you to concentrate, focus, complete tasks, or do your work. You may be more likely to struggle with food and body image issues when your emotions are in charge, the consequences can be very serious as you probably already know for your relationships and certainly for your relationship with food and your body.
While eating in response to emotional triggers or negative moods is common. In many people with binge eating, emotional eating and food addiction. You may have noticed that the negative emotions don’t go away after you binge or overeat. Overeating, may unconsciously be your way of trying to change your negative feelings, but ask yourself how long you get relief after a binge. He may start out eating in response to anger only to find out that your anger is still there after the binge. Only now you’re angry with yourself for eating that bag of chips. On top of that, you may then feel embarrassed and guilty about the binge. So the goal is to be able to experience a normal range of emotions without feeling so uncomfortable with those emotions that you use food to avoid dealing with them. Whether you have a history of specific trauma abuse or neglect, or are you just wired differently in terms of how strongly you feel about your emotions and your ability to regulate them it’s important to understand that emotion are often the driving forces behind your behaviors. You can learn new skills for dealing with your emotions that will enable you to finally uncouple your emotions from your unwanted behavior.
Now I have some homework for you. I’ll put all of these questions in the show notes. So you don’t have to pull the car to the side of the road or anything. All the questions will be in the notes. So the first one is, it’s not a question, but write down three emotions you experienced and each day for a month, use the format. So for example, write down, you may want to write down fear, describe the situation that caused the fear, describe any body sensations associated with the fear and then go on to the next emotion. And the next one make a list. The second question is make a list of emotions you have trouble expressing. So for example, anger, then ask yourself, what is your judgment about people who get angry and what do you do when you begin to feel angry, to avoid expressing your anger. Okay, question number three. Think of times when you’ve expressed your emotions in healthy ways and unhealthy ways and ask yourself how each affects your eating. And finally, what were your family rules about expressing emotions? And I I’ll give you some examples in the show notes. And then think of three skills you use to deal with stress in other areas of your life that could be applied to your food and body image issues. And again, I’ll give you some examples in the show notes.
So don’t forget, I still am offering a free copy of my book. The Food Addiction Recovery Workbook, I pay for the book you pay for the postage. I’m putting a link in the show notes there. And if you are an international listener, because of the cost of postage being so high internationally, I’ve given you a different link where you can get an E-copy ebook version of the food addiction recovery workbook. I’m also offering a free, just like Ebook pamphlet called the five steps to recovery, which is what we’re doing right now. We’re going through the five steps and episode number 98, we talked about step number one, which was super getting rid of superficial behaviors. Today, we talked about emerging from the emotional soup in the next podcast we’ll talk about body sensations and how to get in touch with your body again. And also why I say that your body has all the wisdom you need to run your life.
So please share this podcast with anybody who you feel could benefit from it. I’d appreciate your giving me a good rating and I hope that you will subscribe to my podcast and come back next time when we’ll be talking about the third key to recovery body sensations.
Thanks for listening.