Have you ever had a day where you just needed a burger and fries to fill your day with the pleasure you had been seeking? The stressors in your day came rushing suddenly with cravings for a beer and wings. Yet, not just the beer and wings. Also, the attachment to the environment and social acceptance of the local spot your frequent. After such a hard day's work, you deserve it, right? As you eat and digest the food, the chemicals in that food are now psychologically attached to the stress or emotion you have been feeling and ignoring. The relief you get from stress when ingesting that oh-so-deserved meal, alcohol, or whatever vice you choose comes down to one thing. You have been avoiding the feelings that have been pressuring you all day.
How does this look in real life?
It is your brain's response system for pushing away troublesome feelings and sadness/anxiety. Unfortunately, we have not learned how to deal with arguments with our spouse or a boss that projects their power to feel superior. We tend to hold things in or push the feeling aside because "we have other things to worry about."
We can stay on the superficial level and talk about how the food distracts from the pain. The pleasure of the food overrides the neglect of emotion. Anytime you find yourself against the wall or even feeling bored, you may think of food and a situation that takes your mind off the background feelings. So the comfort of a familiar bar or the pleasure of secretly eating while watching one of your favorite series is the go-to. You tell yourself, "it is only one time what's the harm?" While knowing the choice will make you feel physically miserable and battle your ego/thought about how the food is making you fat or you know this is not good for you. So the cycle of the mind chatter is poisoning your consciousness and spirals into talking down to yourself. So you go back to the food for comfort.
What have we created?
We must acknowledge the habitual patterns that we have created. All are learned behavioral patterns based on experience, perspective, and outlook on our circumstances. We have all been treated wrong and told we are not good enough. Some have created false beliefs about ourselves as a self-sabotaging mechanism. We replay this over and over in our minds, building toxic reactions to stress.
Here is how it looks day to day. As we described above, the issues are not just about eating. It is our experience and condition we respond to, which gives us a sense of pleasure to replace that feeling of being emotionally distraught. Let us take a look. The emotion stimulates a chemical reaction within and your conscious is not ready to address it. Now we create avoidance patterns telling ourselves that we are fine, but the reactions in our body are attached to us feeling dissatisfied. The response system releases hormones and bonds to chemicals from the food you have ingested. Here is where our lack of awareness is hindering us. The micro world inside us is unseen and we can't see the importance of chemical interactions. Not having knowledge of how our body works, our emotions and their attachment to thoughts/chemicals dilutes us. Chemical reactions fit like puzzle pieces. As the bonds are formed and emotions become stimulated. We will experience a series of events and circumstances. So we turn to our oh-so-familiar vices to soothe ourselves. Can you see the pattern?
What to do Now?
Here is the challenge. We first must understand that we are addicted to the chemicals we have created as a habit. Even in our food choice and cravings we have. Once the emotion is felt, you will think of the food you love, but the body knows it's not the food craving. It is the chemical absorbed from the food it has attached to for satisfaction.
So how do we break the process? First, you have to change your response system. Which means you must change how you feel and respond to stress. Break the pattern of feasting on the addiction and do deep breathing to calm your body. The breath helps you to stimulate a different system and chemical reactions. Changing the habit is the only way to reprogram your reaction to it.
Next, remember not to be too stubborn with yourself, have a bit of compassion for the part of you that has a hard time with this issue. Respect that, but be disciplined enough to tell yourself, "No, the new me does not respond this way!" Lean more towards compassion when in this practice.
It will not be easy or come with grace. It will be a battle as you reprogram the system you have become addicted to, just like a heroin addict. The addict has withdrawals, and so will you. The point is to change your perspective and do new, healthy things to fill your time. It will help address the emotion that is living deep in your subconscious. You can't ignore feelings and emotions. You have to find pleasure in learning the process of growing into a new you. Stimulate yourself in other ways like going for a walk or a bike ride. You can find an activity that brings you joy and join a group that supports you. Make space daily to do some movement therapy. Stretch, dance, shake, scream, sing, or jump as high as you can. Anytime you think of food or that toxic habit make sure you do one of these things to repattern your actions.
One of the most effective techniques that can really help you is a visualization of the person you want to be. Visualize that you are doing one of the above movements while breathing. It is a key factor for you because your brain does not know the difference between reality and imagination. So if you can see and feel (elicit a positive emotional reaction) the new person you envision in your heart and neuro complex can change the idea of who you are.
Take time to really see a new you and how good they feel. Play with it, don't force it or allow the mind to wonder. See it clearly and create a new reaction. The body will release hormones to help stimulate a more consistent mood. It will not be overnight, be patient with your progress. Find a support group or network of people you trust and can be vulnerable with. Being open about it helps you to let go of any shame or false beliefs you were taught. Remember, it will not be easy. Take baby steps to remove yourself from this habitual response.
Keep telling yourself that you deserve to be free from this toxic reaction. You got this!
Let the process be easy,