How to Redirect Emotional Food Cravings in 3 Steps and Improve your Intended Relationship with Food

Recovery is an Act of Remembering Who You Are on an Individual Soul Level

This is one of my core messages when it comes to being in recovery.  Most of us spend half of our lives downloading a message, the model of how to relate to ourselves and the outer world, and we spend the second half of our life recovering a sense of who we truly are on a soul level.  We struggle to align with our new standards, beliefs, and lifestyle on a daily basis until this new way of being becomes our new self.

I specialize in helping others in their adaption with recovering who they are within their essence.  I am specialized in my training with a number of modalities and certified as a specialist in eating disorders; and even with all the knowledge I have; I occasionally forget to eat, don’t take the time to eat a balanced meal, rush through my meal, and grab anything I can carry with a pinky grip as I am rushing out the door.  With the best intentions, occasionally I goof and rush past one of the things I preach—

You have got to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you can help anyone else.

Self-care is vital to recovery success.

If we don’t have fuel for our bodies…

We can’t connect to our bodies and won’t be able to align with our intuitive soulful nature.  That doesn’t mean we failed, it just means we got derailed and we:

Realign to the Intended Path.

In order to be in our center, and have all the energy we need to speak and listen and love from the core of who we are—

We need food, nourishment, balance…

We need to be satiated to be able to give… We need to be in self-care.

The funny thing about walking my talk when it comes to self-care is that I also give myself permission to forget and fall into old ways of being without shaming myself.

For me in those forgetful, rushed, all-consuming human moments where food is an afterthought, I get really, really foggy and tired.  Eventually, my hunger cues will come into play, but they aren’t the first red flag for me that it is time to refuel.

When I recognize my fog and feel as though I might have to prop my eyelids open with toothpicks, I remember, “holy moly (or other expletives of expression), I have got to eat.”

Here is the thing with true hunger, it doesn’t pass with time.  My fog won’t lift if I don’t eat; my alignment to myself and my energy will take even longer to roll back into my sense of being.

In my active self-care, I plan around feeling like this.  I have a daily practice of self-care rituals, i.e. behaviors that I anchor my energy to in order to set-up my day.

I pack my lunch for work, I have snacks, I am mindful to nourish myself and then despite the best intentions, I forget to eat or put it off too long and then; I crave sweets, any kind, doesn’t matter, just sugar, processed, unrefined preferred.

This is left over from the days I used to hide in the pantry as a kid and eat Nesquik with a spoon. It wasn’t so much that I wanted the chalky chocolate-ish substance in my mouth, for me it was the rebellious act of maybe not getting caught.

Craving red flag for me, “eat alone, and eat sweets when no one is looking.” This is at the expense of my energy levels getting imbalanced due to unhealthy eating habits.

 

Food Cravings

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Learning to Identify your Red Flags

When you turn to food habitually, the feel-good hormone/neurotransmitter called dopamine releases and a brain pathway, a superhighway, is built as the neurological connection between food and feeling good.  This becomes a lightning fast response as a way to increase your level of joy…for a little bit…until it wears off, plummeting your energy levels and your sense of joy.

If you do this on a regular basis…

Your Habitual Behavior Becomes a Lifestyle and…

You end up wondering how food takes up so much of your feeling reality throughout your day.  In order to rewire your brain’s response to a different pathway, and make choices to off-ramp your old ways of being with food, you have to engage in other behaviors to stimulate joy.

Emotional food cravings are shaped over time and can become habitual and lead to binging.  They can be born out of boredom, emotional self-soothing, stress, resistance, or hormonal fluctuations such as when you are pregnant or about to start your menstrual cycle.

Emotional cravings will dissipate with time and are specific.

If you find yourself on the super highway of Emotional Eating through Cravings, you need to know how to get over into the lane that leads you to the off-ramp.  That way, you can slow down, get into your breath and begin to learn how your cravings are not as much about the food but are an emotional craving for something more deeply meaningful.

 

Step One: Five Questions to Off-Ramp and Redirect an Emotional Craving

 Are you eating to soothe feelings or are you taking time to express your feelings with another person, through journaling, or with the help of a therapist or coach?

 Are you procrastinating or resisting something you feel pressured to do or are you eating to accomplish the goals and tasks you have set for yourself?

 Are you eating in a mindless, dissociated way that leaves you feeling detached or are you nourishing your body–mindfully?

 Do you have a reactive mentality driving your desire to eat such as:  rebellion, competitiveness, scarcity, victim-consciousness, self-sabotage, or loneliness or are you allowing yourself to pause and allow yourself the opportunity to respond to your emotional food cravings by utilizing your boundaries and being active in self-care?

Are you allowing the inner child that lives inside of you to make decisions about when and what you eat or are you setting limits from a moderate stance within your functional adult?

Keep a journal to help you keep track of all the ways you are allowing yourself to engage in food cravings.  Continue to ask yourself the Off-Ramp Choice Questions to see if you can steer yourself away from engaging in emotional cravings.

If you have spent the better part of your life allowing food to be the marker of how well your day has gone, and food has clearly defined good and bad rules that you follow, chances are you are going to be confused about when to eat.

 

Step Two: Allow the Hunger Scale to be Your New BFF

Using the free downloadable hunger scale to help you recognize whether or not you are emotionally eating or are truly hungry is a great way to further your awareness IN THE MOMENT on the distinction between what is driving you to eat.  Not only do you learn the difference between hunger and cravings but if you utilize the scale with the practice of asking yourself the Off-Ramp Choice questions above, you will have a better understanding of what precipitates the craving.  This will further your ability to get your needs and wants met by what it is you’re truly craving.

Know that by utilizing the hunger scale you are:

Giving up hard rules as to WHEN you eat, as you engage in tuning into your body and recovering your intuitive sense of self, as you relate to your internal body.

Healthy eating habits are flexible and giving into a craving every once in a while, is healthy eating.

When you align to living life from a moderate place you allow space for there to be days where you are hungry and eat more because you have a relationship based in self-care and honoring your internal messaging.

Food Cravings

 

Step Three: Distract and Delay Emotional Eating

The moment you recognize your red flags; and how quickly auto-piloting on the super highway of emotional eating is engaged within yourself, give yourself a moment to breathe with a:

Sacred Pause   

I consider this pause sacred because you are re engaging with yourself on an intuitive level by having an internal dialogue that sounds like, “Hey, I am engaging or about to engage in emotional eating out of following a craving that doesn’t have anything to do with being hungry.  What do I want or need to do next?”  This allows you the space to ask, “what is it I am really craving?”  This is an opportunity for you to create sacred space for yourself through the permission you give yourself to do life differently in the moment.”

Predicting the Future vs. Living Where Your Feet Are

Don’t get into trying to predict whether or not this will happen again in an hour, all you have is now.

With the moment that you give yourself, you can choose behavior that will lay the path for a new super-highway.  The more you engage in other types of behavior that don’t use food as a solution, eventually you will build an entirely new way of living.

The resources below offer a link to a list for fending off emotional food cravings.  These are new responses that will ultimately create your new neural pathway. Reference this list, build your own, but use a coping skills list to help guide you towards new behavior.

For me, I tend to get a craving when I am bored.

I find doing an activity that involves my hands tends to keep me out of the pantry. I have this wacky appreciation for the magic erasers made by Mr. Clean.  I get a bucket of soapy water and clean the walls where my mastiff has slept with her feet propped against the walls as she lays upside down…. sounds weird, but it is a dopamine lunch snack for me when I need one.  Your welcome to put it on your list to give it a try.

Remember recovering from using food to solve soul cravings and stepping into your intended relationship with food is an intentionally driven lifestyle choice. Some days are easier than others.  Be patient, be kind, and allow yourself the gift of being in an imperfect process as you learn what works for you.

Resources:

Here is a list of 101 things you can do to distract yourself when you are fighting the emotional food craving urge: http://bingeeatingtherapy.com/tag/things-to-do-when-youre-bored/

If you have a difficult time controlling your emotional eating and find the little kiddo that lives inside you has their sticky fingers on the wheel of your decisions surrounding food; you might enjoy reading my blog on boundaries.  It might help to conceptualize the experiential difference between the little versions of you and the functional adult that lives from a moderate and contained place within her internal boundaries or:

Read about my morning magic practices to begin your own daily anchoring to further help with emotional eating.

 

Lorri Lancashire is the founder of High Vibe Soul, LLC. a coaching program for women that struggle with recovery from food related issues and negative body image. Lorri works as a mindset coach and is also a Masters clinician as a Licensed Professional Counselor in Texas. She has a private practice working with individuals and couples. Lorri is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist through IAEDP (International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals).  She has trained with Pia Mellody, the Beck Institute, and Terrance Real and is completing her training as an RLT therapist.

 

Click here to download Lorri’s free “I Am Solution” and begin to recover your joy!

 

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