Think you’re an emotional eater? I beg to differ.
Last week I wrote about how your methods and loving your body have to match. I wrote that in order for you to LOVE your body and have joy in your life you actually need less control and more freedom. You can read that article here. I also promised I would shine some light on why you gravitate to food when well just about anything doesn’t go as planned. I am going to dip into some brain science, but I will make it super simple. It all comes down to ‘threat.’
Threat is just the inability to predict what will happen next and the inability to respond in your environment.
A very (very) long time ago threat was anything that could harm your survival like something with fangs.
A very long time ago threat became anything that could break apart the bonds between people; more specifically families and babies.
Today threat is still all these things but it shows up a little differently. We are clever story tellers. Let’s say you experience a break up, the rational part of your brain tells your emotional brain that break ups are painful and to be avoided. Then that brain tells your reactionary brain, “Hey, anytime someone appears to be capable of breaking up with me react like it’s life or death.” And it does.
Has your heart ever raced when your ex contacted you? Did you get sweaty palms and a pit in your stomach when you thought your partner was lying to you like your ex used to? Ever wanted to eat a box of cookies during a break up or consume a lot of French fries?
This is your reactionary brain running a program to get you ready to fight, run away, or freeze. Just like you would have done a very, very long time ago. But breakups won’t kill you. The threat you are reacting to isn’t just pain but disconnection. We are wired to stay connected to other people. This is why rejection or public criticism stings so badly.
A break in social connection triggers your “Run to Mommy” program.
Your nervous system is WIRED to seek what will release a hormone called oxytocin when you’re feeling disconnected, scared, anxious, or flustered. These states are all reactions caused by some threat in your environment. When you were a teeny, tiny baby the first thing that happened after you were born was you were put on your mom’s chest.
Then you were fed breast milk, the miraculous concoction of sugar and fat.
Then anytime you cried as an infant this scenario happened over and over. Anytime you are threated today, like the break up, you run to mom, you run to sugar and fat. This releases oxytocin, the connection hormone. Food becomes a drug.
It’s not because you just can’t control your cravings. It’s because you can’t see a good outcome in whatever situation you are in right now or are anxious about happening in the near future.
It’s not the food. Emotional eating has nothing to do with a poor connection with food. It means there is something in your life you can’t predict and that is causing a very wired reaction from within.
The solution? Find what that thing is. Threat today can show up because of the following:
- Lack of acceptance
It’s not even the experience of these, but the anticipation that these are going to happen. We react to perceptions more than reality.
If you want to change your relationship TO food the best thing you can do is HONOR food and CONNECT around food.
Give and love through food.
The way to your heart IS through your stomach.
Most importantly be kind to yourself.