Over the past four decades, Green Mountain at Fox Run has helped thousands of women end weight loss struggles with eating, exercise and body image, make long-term healthy lifestyle changes and lose weight permanently. This weight loss blog helps women navigate these changes.

Awakening: How ‘Waking-Up’ Helps Us Manage Emotional Eating

managing emotional eatingAs we enter the month of April, we are truly stepping into spring. Here in Vermont it will still be some time before we actually see green grass, but as the snow melts and the ground begins to thaw, the earth begins to reawaken. As it starts to wake up from its winter sleep, the change that occurs is phenomenal.

Awakening is a word I often use when talking with the women here at Green Mountain about emotional or binge eating.

Emotional Eating In Autopilot Mode

When we emotionally eat, we’re on autopilot, which can be likened to sleep. Going on autopilot occurs frequently in life — how many times, for example, have you driven on the same stretch of road, arrived at your destination and thought to yourself ‘I don’t even remember the ride’?

Similarly, when it comes to emotional eating, we can easily go on auto-pilot because if we’ve been using food to cope for some time, we’ve developed “Grand Canyons” of neural pathways in our brain – ways of behaving when certain emotions strike that we fall into out of habit.

However, by awakening to what we’re doing in the moment, and beginning to eat more consciously, purposefully and decisively, we begin to create new neural pathways.

Pay Attention When Eating To Stay Awake

What I’m referring to is literally staying awake while we are eating.  Paying attention to our hunger and satiety, to our taste buds, our feelings, and our thoughts in the moment brings us out of ‘the deep sleep’ –  out of auto-pilot — allowing us to make conscious decisions throughout the eating experience.

jon kabat-zinn quote mindfulnessImagine what might happen when we wake up to what we are doing in the moment.  How would the food taste throughout eating?  Would we suddenly notice hunger and satiety cues? Would we notice some should/shouldn’t messages?  Would we notice fears, anxieties, and stressors?

Remember that when we’re tuned out, it’s often because we’re stuffing another, usually more uncomfortable, emotion.

During the stress response, when we’re in fight or flight, we tend to comfort eat because…well…we’re stressed and need comfort.


Comfort eating is ok as long as we have other tools for dealing with the stress and for finding comfort, too.

So, how do we wake-up to our emotional eating?

Here at Green Mountain, we help women learn how to surf the urge.  The idea is that generally when we emotionally eat, we’re not necessarily hungry.  Practicing the following step-by-step exercise before eating helps wake us up to what we’re doing in the moment and helps with going off auto-pilot around food.

emotional eating infographic

4 Steps to Manage Emotional Eating

1Take a breath.

2Ask yourself – Am I hungry?

If yes – eat mindfully.  That is, check in with your hunger cues, choose what you want, and be mindful while eating by paying attention to your senses, emotions, and thoughts.

3If no – ask yourself – What’s up?

What am I thinking?  Feeling? And most importantly, Am I willing to try an alternative first before turning to food to self-soothe?

An alternative to food can be anything that is soothing to you – some deep breathing, a cup of tea, a bath, calling a friend, drawing, reading, playing music, etc.

4Eat Mindfully

If you’re not willing to find an alternative and just want to eat, then…well…eat.  But eat mindfully – and again, check in with your cues, choose what you want, and be mindful while eating by paying attention to your senses, emotions, and thoughts.

Remember that it’s ok to eat emotionally; food can definitely be a coping tool.  But to use food as an effective coping tool, we want to pay attention to how often we use food and how much food we use, as well as what other tools we have for coping.

Much like the earth thawing in the spring, and being open to seeds of possible new life, I hope you open yourself up to the possibility of awakening to your eating experience, and what new awareness going off autopilot may bring for you.

The Healing Power of Community for Binge Eating

In the reflective weeks after our second Binge and Emotional Eating Weekend Intensive at Green Mountain at Fox Run, I continue to be struck by the power of connection and community. Other people matter. Weight Stigma and Emotional Eating Those of us who struggle with binge and emotional eating live lonely and isolated lives. We live with a secret, one […] Read more »

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The Binge Eating Diaries: Springing Forward to Overcome Fitness Setbacks

By on 03/25/2015

AHHH! I’m frustrated! Let me start at the beginning… When Fitness Becomes Boring Over the past couple of months, my movement routine had become a snooze fest. I wasn’t enthusiastic or excited. I was BORED. And to be perfectly honest, I could feel myself getting lazy. I was at that point where I was going to the gym just to say […] Read more »

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Easy Recipes to Feel Good: Steel Cut Granola

By on 03/24/2015

Easy Recipes to Feel Good Easy Recipes to Feel Good is a monthly recipe post for our readers and past participants who recognize the payoff of eating foods that support us, but also have more on their schedule than cooking food.  Our first installment, Mix It Up Steel Cut Granola, is intended to provide you with a “basic” granola recipe […] Read more »

steel cut granola recipe

Learning about Intuitive Eating from Savvy Girl(s)

 A quick look at the table of contents for the new book Savvy Girl: A Guide to Eating co-authored by Brittany Deal and registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor Sumner Brooks, tells me it would be a great book for many readers of A Weight Lifted. How To Start Feeding Yourself Well With chapter titles such as “Don’t Cut the […] Read more »

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