EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS: Identifying the root cause for impulsive or overeating

I remember a day well over a year ago that was incredibly stressful and while eating a dark chocolate bar my oldest son asked, “Are you stress eating, Mom!?” I couldn’t help but laugh. He was 11 at the time and I had no idea he knew what that was, nor had I ever labeled that behaviour before! Especially for myself.

A couple weeks ago I took a deeper look into my own patterns around the need to emotionally eat and as I looked back to all those times, I noticed the pattern started in my early 20’s. I took inventory about the following, which has helped to put more pieces of my own puzzle together:

  1. What was going on at the time
  2. Who was around me 
  3. What was I feeling

I’ve never been someone to eat thousands of excess calories in one sitting, but rather bigger portions of baked goods or comfort foods which would cause me to gain weight over time. It’s easy to say we crave carbs or sugar when we’re sad, angry, stressed etc., but our emotional triggers go MUCH deeper.

Here’s what I unraveled are my deep emotional triggers for emotional eating…

Feeling helpless
Feeling unsupported (abandoned)

For me and like so many others who grew up emotionally neglected (because our parents likely were as well!), I have an abandonment wound that when triggered, can cause me to feel unsupported and helpless. This is from my subconscious programming, and the abandonment wound can be triggered when someone isn’t listening (not present), not following through with their words (inconsistency), ignoring (dismissive), doing the opposite of what I’ve expressed as a need (not feeling heard), etc.

Of course the beautiful part about being human is also how complex we are, so in addition to the childhood programming there were events throughout my life that caused me to feel certain ways and prevented me from taking care of myself fully. Based out of fear.

A couple weeks ago during my yoga practice, I had some memories surface which helped to identify why there’s some nervousness about becoming fit and look the way I know I’d feel comfortable. Without getting into specifics, there were instances which started as a child where I received unwanted attention and times where boys would say and do things that I didn’t ask for or really want. It wasn’t as severe as rape, but it didn’t need to be in order to leave a wound. As a teenager at a part time job, I asked for a manager’s help to stop a coworker from harassing me and eventually overtime in adulthood, my self esteem became so low where I became afraid of conflict and stopped speaking up for myself.

When we don’t love ourselves first, we are magnets for people who will take advantage of us, taking a mile when we give an inch.

When I read the book, You Can Heal Your Life a few years ago by Louise Hay, she wrote about people keeping a heavier weight subconsciously to protect themselves. It was a major a-ha moment for me at that time. If we’re heavier, we no longer receive unwanted attention, or perhaps abusers will leave us alone. Our survival instincts are smart to unconsciously do this when we’re in fear consciousness.

Though I became aware of this years ago, it was still an a-ha moment for me a couple weeks ago when I had some lingering trauma come into my awareness about the fear of getting unwanted attention and possibly feeling helpless if I do. So many layers to unravel!

Healing all the various layers of wounds has and continues to help me feel more myself in my own body, which is why I’m not looking to be healthy and look fit FOR anyone but myself. I want to live fully NOW and feel my best regardless of what anybody else thinks. Feeling our best and taking care of our bodies is truly an act of SELF love and once we practice that, speaking up becomes easier too.

While I’m healing every day, I’ve come to realize healing can be messy and there are still going to be times where something triggers a memory or feeling. Difference now is the intensity seems to be less and less. It no longer takes over and it’s easier to acknowledge it, feel it and move on.

OVERWEIGHT represents a need for protection. We seek protection from hurts, slights, criticism, abuse, sexuality, and sexual advances; from a fear of life in general and also specifically.

I have learned over the years that when I am feeling insecure and not at ease, I will put on a few pounds. When the threat is gone, excess weight goes away by itself.

Louise Hay from You Can Heal Your Life

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