I recently created an introductory, do at home course on creating emotional healing with food, The Heart of Food. The understanding that grounds this course is that healing begins in the heart.
People often ask me, “Why do you start there? What does the heart have to do with my overeating?”
It’s a great question and understandable. The heart can feel a long way off from things like stopping a binge or overeating less!
Here’s why this step is so crucial: one of the primary keys to getting unstuck from binge eating, overeating, or any food compulsion is healing your relationship with food.
This is especially true with the tricky, frustrating, or painful aspects of this relationship – those things that you’re really struggling with.
Fight, flight and freeze
When we struggle with something – and struggle with something chronically – we tend to get stuck in some painful emotions, moving into primal states of fight, flight and freeze. (Or as I’ve also heard it said, fight, flight, freeze and feed!)
We may feel frustrated, frightened, overwhelmed, or angry – blaming ourselves for not doing better (“Why can’t you get yourself together?!!”)
Or, we may feel caught in a ‘freeze’ state where we feel powerless, helpless, and hopeless. You can also have a mix of both. For example, I tend to go to both ends when I feel really afraid – self blame/aggression, and freezing.
Ouch, these emotions can feel so painful and discouraging, especially when we feel stuck in them.
How relationship heals
In a very simplified nutshell, that’s why it’s important to start with relationship – for relationship can soften and temper these emotional reactions.
This change in relationship supports the outer transformation (changes in how and what you eat) and even the skills that you may need to learn to create new habits and patterns with food.
Here are two ways that a change in relationship can foster healing and different habits with food:
You work with your emotional reactions rather than against them. One of the most helpful ideas I learned from my mentor in developmental science, Dr. Gordon Neufeld, is that emotions have ‘jobs’ to do.
When we change how we relate to our emotions, these emotions can ‘fulfill their role’ and move us to inspired action. We become their ally and midwife, working alongside, stewarding and steering our limbic wiring.
You foster compassion and a space for growth. When we move into the heart, there’s a warm space for our experience, and our emotions. Judgment and blame softens. Our tenderness arises and we feel more merciful towards our vulnerability.
Our relationship with food becomes infused with more compassion, ease, insight, and levity. Food transforms into something you’re relating to, rather than stuck in.
This lays the foundation for outward behavioral change – differences in what and how you eat, in how you use food to self soothe or to care for stress, in how you respond to cravings and impulses, and in how you relate to your emotional, physical and spiritual needs.
You feel more resilient and capable, and less stuck in the ‘freeze’ of helplessness or despair.
You also relate differently to the growth process itself. For it’s not just all ‘heart’ – there may be skills that you need to learn, patterns that need different kinds of support, or structures that you need to implement. Like a fence around a garden, you may need more structured meal times, emotional support for those times when you typically binge, or practice in setting loving limits with yourself.
Healing your relationship with your food struggles is what softens the shame, guilt, or frustration of not knowing how to do something and opens the door to curiosity, humility, and a willingness to learn. We feel safe to grow! We’re more apt to ask for help, to reach out, and to see our growth with food as an opportunity to stretch ourselves, not a punishment.
Wanting more hands on help?
If this resonates with you, you can learn more about The Heart of Food and see the course details here, including a short video where I talk about the course. You can also see the course curriculum and exactly what’s included.
If you have any questions about this course and if it’s the right fit for you, kindly send us an email. We want you to get the support that meets your needs.