If you turn to food for any reason other than hunger – then it’s a safe bet that there’s an element of self-soothing going on. I like the term self-soothing rather than emotional eating, because we can eat for boredom – but that’s not really an emotional thing. But the sluggish uncomfortable feeling from boredom can be relieved by self-soothing actions, like watching TV, browsing the net, or of course – eating. These self-soothing actions are band-aids. They are quick fixes for uncomfortable feelings.
When I run my smoking cessation clinics, people ask me what to do in order to deal with stress. And yes, there are a few things that can be done in the moment – breathing, distraction, mantra’s etc. But the truth is, if you don’t practice a life of self-soothing, or kindness – then you are ill equipped to deal with moments of stress when it hits. There’s lots of little bits of stress that pop up all the time, and it’s the way you respond to those as you go through your days, your weeks, your life – that make all the difference.
So self-soothing needs to be a way of life that you practice everyday. In that way you always have the tools ready for when you really need to be kind to yourself.
I’m not going to give a list of self-soothing actions you can do when you feel uncomfortable and turn to food.
Without a foundation of peaceful and kind actions towards yourself, you create a wobbling tower of distractions that will one day fall and crash.
How to self soothe without food?
You develop the practice of being kind to yourself. Everyday.
Kind words, kind thoughts, kind actions.
When you wake up – take a moment to monitor your feelings towards yourself.
Meditate – the practice of returning to breath and reality, instead of often ludicrous thoughts that have no basis in truth.
Judgement – stop judging others, and you will cease to judge yourself. No magazines or talent show stuff. Where you are forced to cast an opinion on someone else. Let them be, concentrate on your own actions for now.
Affirmations – crowd out the negativity by practicing positive words. It seems silly at first, but it’s a heck of a lot nicer than hearing your usual barbed tirade against yourself.
Radical acceptance – accept yourself for exactly who you are. Not perfect, but perfectly you. So what if you are rubbish at dancing or small talk? That does not make you a rubbish person. Separate the stuff you can work on from who you are. You can learn to do lots of things, and learn to do them better. Have a few kind grown up words with yourself. Being bad at an action-type thing does not make you a morally bad person.
Have faith – in yourself. You can change, you can develop, you can grow. Everything changes, nothing stays the same. You aren’t the same you as you were ten years ago. So you know that how you feel and are today won’t be the same ten years from now.
Daily Pain – feel it. I think everyone has their own daily pains. From big stuff always there under the surface (family problems or ways you think about yourself), to the annoyances of stuff not working or losing things. As well as the constant flow of all sorts of emotions, like frustration bubbling up, then joy, then silliness. It’s all up and down – and what do you do? You just notice that it’s there. There it is! Some pain, some joy. Daily pains. Daily joys. All the stitches that make up the fabric of your existence. So just feel them, there they are – no need to be scared. We all have them. Little bits can be handled, so accept them now when they are small before they become emotional rollercoasters.
This is how you self-soothe, constantly! It’s the practice of self-kindness.
Because what have we learned from being young kids?
“Oh you feel scared – here; do this, take this, have this, eat this.”
“Oh dear, you’re in pain – do this, take this, have this eat this.”
“I don’t care that you are hurting child – go away, and you CAN’T have this, you CAN’T take this, you CAN’T eat this.”
Basically – don’t feel it, go, move, away! Bad feelings, run run run!
These are probably the voices we heard. When did we ever hear?
“You seem upset, let me sit with you.”
“You’re angry you say? That can feel a bit uncomfortable can’t it? I feel that way sometimes too.”
Or a hug, or a letting be. A “I’m here if you need me, solid and kind.”
A simple presence, of yup, this what be. YOU CAN HANDLE IT.
That’s what we need now, ourselves – always there, solid and kind. A constant presence of kindness that so many of us missed out on from adults who were so well-meaning and from those who had so much of their own pain it spilled over onto us.
Not anymore, you can be that constant presence to yourself now. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it will grow every day the more you tend to it.
I wish you all the love and kindness that you can create for yourself.