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Here in the west, one of the most challenging changes many of us undertake is the challenge to practice healthful, conscious eating choices. Bombarded with invitations to indulge our sweet, fat, and salt teeth, we succumb to all manner of foods that may comfort us in the moment but that torment us after the fact. No matter how diligent we are with exercise, we learn fairly early that no one outruns a bad diet. Hence the diet industry’s colossal financial success in the face of it’s equally colossal failures with the majority of folks who do their level best to attain their healthiest body weight through one “guaranteed” diet system or another. EFT can help us to make peace with our food behaviours, not as a magic bullet or with “fool-proof” meal plans, but as an aid to understanding what drives our ability to override our common sense and even our will power regarding what and how we eat.
The Weighting/Waiting Family Connection
Coming from a family of passionate, engaged women, I experienced first-hand the enchantment that befalls so many of us when we are stressed, overworked, or fearful. In our home food was love and it was also punishment. “After I’ve worked so hard to prepare this meal, you’re just going to pick at it?” My mother’s voice attended many meals with me long after I’d grown and moved out of her home. Working through how the desire to please her conflicted with the desire to know and understand myself informed most of the personal work I did in my late teens and twenties. Refusing food, however politely, distressed her visibly, largely because of her own eating behaviours. Once I understood the victim/martyrdom food dynamic at work in our family I became far more conscious of my own eating patterns and far less emotionally driven when it came to food. This conscious approach, while a positive experience in my own life, often meant I was unlikely to please her, at least about what and when I ate.
These days, when I share food with friends and family, I often witness our oldest unconscious patterns emerging, especially as we move into stressful conversations or thoughts about intimacy fears, children’s challenges, money issues, friendship breaches. “I never do this,” says a friend who has lost sight of doing “this” daily for several weeks, months, and or even years. Sometimes “this” is consuming an entire family-sized box of chocolate-covered raisins, or a pound of gummy bears, or a bag of cookies. The specific food (I’ve learned from witnessing my own behaviours as well as the behaviours of relatives, clients, and friends), isn’t nearly as important as the unconscious feeling driving the desire to eat. With me, discomfort comes from a sense of disconnection from a beloved person and even from my work, especially if the disconnect is strong enough to override feelings of fullness and satisfaction regarding wholesome food I’ve just eaten.
Asking the BIG Question . . . and Waiting
Years ago, I began to ask “What am I really hungry for?” when I was hit with the desire to eat emotionally. Once I learned about my need to address my sense of disconnection, I became more proactive and less likely to eat the comfort food that obliterated, temporarily, this sense of isolation. In the waiting period after I asked the first question, a second question served to inspire me. This second question, “What can I do to remedy this sense of disconnection?” was about taking action that did not involve eating something that would play havoc with my blood sugar and increase my risk of depression and serious disease.
Because I am an introvert and a writer, I could usually work things out alone while writing in my journal. Once I learned to tap, I asked my “what am I really hungry for?” question while tapping through the points with special attention to the under-the-eye points, because these points are the beginning of stomach meridian in Traditional Chinese Medicine’s meridian system. We often eat emotionally to ground ourselves in feelings of comfort. In the moment of food indulgence, knee-jerk emotional eating works to help us to temporarily obscure distressing emotions, but after our eating binge shame, recrimination, helplessness, self-disgust and other forms of emotional self abuse kick in, often with a vengeance.
Weighting . . . and Waiting . . . with Love
Approaching our eating behaviours with love as well as with respect for the work they are doing to protect us from unwanted feelings is the key to developing life affirming eating patterns. Separating out our emotional needs from our food needs is important work, but before we undertake this learning adventure, it is helpful to identify our learning strengths. This suggestion often surprises clients who are exclusively focused on the goal of losing weight. Shifting our goal to deep self love and understanding helps us to bring to light the emotions that make any change difficult.
Introverts like me often find it much easier to address “weighty” issues alone, with a journal or even a canvas or dance floor. Introverts tend to recharge alone, and working on the self becomes amazingly invigorating once we understand our need for solitude. Extroverts, on the other hand, often need the cues and conversations that come with group work. Diverse ideas and sensory experiences are grounding to an extrovert, in the same way that food is grounding to both introverts and extroverts.
The other aspects of learning – our visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning channels – are best approached holistically. “Seeing” ourselves as we want to be, “singing” our conversations about conscious, respectful eating, and “dancing” through the world as lovely, healthy beings are great weighting/waiting strategies to practice every day. For example, visualization (seeing) can support healthy food choices in the same way that professional athletes, musicians, dancers, and actors practice all manner of visualization techniques before events to support optimal performance.
“Singing” our intentions is a less well known strategy yet is equally effective in teaching the body about emotional eating and its alternatives. We each have the ability to develop auditory learning strategies, these complementing any visualizations we practice. Singing our intentions in the shower or the bath each day ensures privacy and becomes an anchor for this innovative practice. The song can be as simple as, “I am lovely as I am; I am intelligent and resourceful; I make great food choices except when I don’t; I’m understanding why and I’m okay.” When I create a song to transform a behaviour, I make up my own tunes – as a kind of spirit singing – but using a familiar tune to set your lyrics to is just as effective.
The “Dancing” through life involves every aspect of our learning capabilities. As we move, whether to walk to the kitchen or to the water cooler or to the park, it is useful to think of this journey as something the Higher Self witnesses with great joy. Many of us watched Brazil’s Gisele Bundchen take her final catwalk across the Brazilian Olympic stage, her pleasure in this walk as obvious in her eyes and smile as in her stride. Her sense of confidence is not surprising given her modelling success at fourteen, that age when most western girls are encouraged to catalogue their faults and make unfavourable comparisons with models such as Gisele. In a healthy culture, every girl and every boy would feel encouraged by the loving witness of important adults, but ours is not a healthy culture, and so many of us must learn as adults to be our own mentors regarding who we are and how we might spend our limited time on Earth. Developing a Loving Witness approach as we move through our days with conscious appreciation for our physical incarnation is at the heart of self love, the key to the weighting/waiting conundrum, and the source of lightness and joy even when troubles brew.
The Long-Term Benefits of Self Love
Loving ourselves enough to choose compatible learning environments while using our visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning channels is vitally important in the development of a life affirming relationship with our food – and by extension, with our bodies, and with our beautiful Earth home. Because self love is not a one-size -fits-all life task, becoming aware of our individual extroversion/introversion preferences is one of the most effective strategies we can develop and utilize as we embrace change. While sorting out your Extroversion vs Introversion tendencies, remember that it is not as simple as liking people or not liking people. Introverts like people; in fact, many of us are in the helping professions. Our introversion expresses itself through our need to recharge in solitude, often after very exciting participation in the larger world. Extroversion, by contrast, often requires that we seek out groups in which to recharge, for example, at the kitchen table of a large and busy household.
Because the foods we tend to use to obliterate unwanted emotions are likely to contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer, as well as to food-desert local communities and to global warming, it is not vanity that prompts us to get to the root of our emotional eating. No one wants to be crippled or killed by these diseases; nor do we want to create a larger carbon footprint than absolutely necessary. Tapping on our resistance to developing a weighting/waiting personal learning opportunity will yield many insights. And because tapping is so easy to use in the moment and so effective in shaping long-term changes, I predict we will soon find its techniques employed in our elementary, secondary, and college-level learning environments as part of our efforts to improve learning opportunities and social and environmental conditions for all children and adults..
In the next post, I will continue to explore the waiting opportunities half of the weighting/waiting equation. In the meantime, may we all come to each food we eat with deep love and appreciation. And may we feel the love at the heart of witnessing ourselves as cherished human beings infuse our communities with optimism and the resilience we need to fuel all of life’s opportunities for personal, social, and planetary transformation.
Until next time
Jane Buchan, MA, AAMET Advanced Practitioner, firstname.lastname@example.org, 802-533-9277
Jane is a Learning Coach specializing in neutralizing cultural age, gender, and race constructs to support learners of every age. To engage her coaching services, please contact Jane by phone (802) 533-9277 or email, email@example.com. Be sure to put Coaching Query in the subject line.