Overcoming overeating

If you overeat on your feelings, you are not alone.

I spent several decades overeating on my feelings and although I have been on a remarkable healing journey over the last 20 years – finding freedom from food and body obsession and maintaining a stable and healthy weight – food remains my first port of call when I am anxious, angry, stressed or sad.

I am incredibly grateful that the extreme binge eating has stopped. I no longer stuff myself with cereal, bread or sugar until my stomach hurts and I can barely move; I no longer binge on chocolate bars in secret and hide the wrappers afterwards.

But I can still turn to food, eating an extra handful of nuts or a small cup of yoghurt with seeds (oh so healthy!), when I want to distract myself from how I’m feeling.

The fact is it takes huge courage to feel our feelings, to face our feelings and to break free from the trap of overeating or using on other substances.

Often, we just want to take the easy way out.

We want a quick release, a hit, a momentary high or we want to feel numb. We want to eat sugar or drink booze or take a drug or zone out on our phones or run around the park or flirt with an ex or have mindless sex.

Anything to escape.

Anything to avoid.

But the problem is these are temporary fixes and, as I discovered on my healing journey, they stop working after a while.

Once we come out of denial, these unhealthy coping mechanisms leave us with a hangover of shame, pain and self-hate that is far worse than the feelings we were trying to avoid.

We end up with double the amount of uncomfortable emotions – the feelings we were trying to run from and the feelings about the harm we’ve inflicted on ourselves.

It’s just not worth it.

More than that, it’s the path of self-destruction. It robs us of joy, of relationships, of health and of life.

So what’s the answer?

The compulsion to overeat (or to do anything else to excess in order to cope) is a complex one and the roots of the behaviour will be unique, depending on our life circumstances.

This means the answer is complex too.

Maybe that’s why it’s taking me so long to finish my book on emotional overeating – a book that’s partially written but that has been sitting on this computer for a few years.

Maybe I’m scared I can’t provide the definitive solution or cover all the ground. Maybe my perfectionism is holding me back.

But I know I have a huge amount to contribute on this topic so I’m going to commit here to finishing that book, to getting out of my own way, in the same way I did when I published How to Fall in Love.

And in the meantime, I’m going to suggest that you give yourself the gift of slowing down and feeling your feelings – because feeling is the path to healing.

Whenever you feel drawn to eat or drink on your feelings or to engage in other behaviours that distract you or numb you out, first:

Pause – yes, pause, just for a second or a minute.

Next, breathe. Take a breath. A slow breath. And another.

Then, ask yourself:

What feelings am I trying to numb or avoid? What am I trying to escape from?

Am I afraid or stressed or anxious or lonely? Or am I hungry or tired? Yes, you might actually be in need of genuine nourishment or you may be exhausted. I always thought the answer to tiredness was to eat, but the healthier response is to rest.

Once you’ve identified your feelings and your needs, how can you feel your feelings and meet your needs as best as you can, in healthy ways that don’t involve a packet of biscuits or a bottle of rum.

Maybe you are afraid to feel your feelings, to connect with your pain? (I was afraid to feel for years. I thought that if I started to feel my pain, it would overwhelm me, knock me for six, wipe me out even. Yet here I am, still standing, still writing, still growing, still learning, still feeling.)

What are you afraid of?

How can you get support to face your fears and feel your feelings?

And how can you support yourself and get support to meet your own needs in healthy ways?

Did you know that every time you eat or drink or use on your feelings, you deny yourself an opportunity to heal and to grow?

And every time you face your feelings, you give yourself the wonderful gift of healing and of growth.

Imagine that.

Imagine giving yourself this gift every time you want to overeat or use on something else?

Imagine choosing growth over grub; healing over hot dogs (I’m a big fan of alliteration!).

Imagine how much taller you would stand.

Imagine the knock-on effect on your life, your work, your creativity, your relationships.

Imagine the freedom.

The sweet taste of freedom – the best taste in the world.

I’d love to support you to taste freedom.

I’ll do that by finishing my overeating book as soon as I can but if you’d like some immediate support, why not join me and some like-minded women on my small group workshop on Zoom on Thursday April 20th: Break Free from Emotional Overeating and Find Your Healthy Weight for Life.

Let’s break free, together.

Thank you for reading,

Katherine x

Additional Resources

My first book, How to Fall Love, includes many tools to help you to connect to your feelings and overcome unhealthy patterns and behaviours, as well as the story of my personal journey of healing.

Step Inside – Reconnect to Your True Self is a 7-day online course that will support you to connect to your feelings and let go of unhealthy coping mechanisms such as overeating or undereating.

I work 1:1 with clients who are looking to overcome overeating and other forms of self-sabotage as well as to find and form a healthy and loving relationship with themselves and with another. Explore my coaching offerings on my website.

About Katherine Baldwin

I am a writer, coach, midlife mentor, motivational speaker and the author of How to Fall in Love - A 10-Step Journey to the Heart. I specialise in coaching women and men to have healthy relationships with themselves so that they can form healthy and loving romantic relationships and lead authentic, fulfilling lives. I coach 1:1, lead workshops and host retreats.
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