Finding Balance ⎮ Overcoming Emotional Eating ⎮ Part 3
This is the third and final blog in my mini blog series about overcoming emotional eating. You can find the first to blogs here:
Triggers & Habits
If you followed me back in the good old bikini fitness days, you might have felt the change happen. For a while, it was like I was all over the place since I moved to Dubai.
I hope that you understand why I had to take a step back from being 100% about fitness. Recovery was my main focus for a while, and to really recover, I had to focus less on my own fitness & nutrition as the constant focus was feeding my binge eating and food obsession. I was looking for balance in the middle of my obsession. When what I REALLY needed was free myself completely from the old patterns keeping me stuck.
To break free from something that’s causing you to self-sabotage is difficult. But there are ways to do it. I found avoiding my “trigger” helped me establish a better and healthier relationship with food.
There’s always a trigger to our behavior. We are creatures of habit, and certain things in our environment prompt us to act in certain ways without us even realizing it.
In short: If you want to break free from a negative habit, the easiest way to do that is by avoiding the negative behavior trigger and putting a positive behavior trigger in its place.
I found that it works something like this:
Trigger → Feeling→ Habit
To stop unwanted behavior, you need to break the cycle. I found that it’s easier to break the cycle before it starts. By avoiding the trigger, I was able to avoid the behavior. In my experience, emotional state is a common trigger for bad habits.
I had a habit of eating comfort foods when I felt a strong emotion: Depressed, stressed, happy, anxious, bored. All of those emotions were triggers for me to eat.
To change my behavior, I had to learn to get very aware of my emotional state at all times. Analyze the feeling, and attach it to a more positive habit.
Food used to be my way of reducing feelings stress, my way of seeking comfort from feelings I wasn’t ready to feel and didn’t know how to handle. I used food to cope with my low self-esteem, anxiety, stress, and frustration. And for a while I still allowed myself to do that while trying to change these patterns. It didn’t happen overnight!
And I realized that first, before anything else, my brain and body needed to realize that food would always be there for me. In combination with my emotional eating, I had developed a scarcity mindset around foods that I liked. Every time I overindulged I was telling myself that this was the last time ever. And when I was being “good” I considered all the foods that I love “forbidden” which only made me crave them even more.
Step 1 was to release all rules and restrictions around food. I had to go “all-in”.
Step 2 required working through my past emotional traumas and allowing myself to feel my feelings. To build myself up, to take back control of my life and who was in it.
Both those steps demanded me to focus a lot less on my fitness and diet for a while. I couldn’t release all my food restrictions while still being attached to how fit I looked. And I needed to grow my self-confidence without connecting it to my physical appearance.
I did all of this based on how I felt and my intuition. I didn’t know if it would work. It went against everything I knew up until that point. I’d always been told to just follow the diet plan, follow the workout plan, push yourself. And it had always felt kinda wrong to be, but I didnøt know what else to do.
But, slowly, my mind wasn’t obsessed with food 24/7. I started craving things that were better for me. Healthier food. Rest. Yoga and meditation. I decided to become a yoga teacher, and even though I was still full of resistance at that time, it taught me so much about what’s really important in life.
I Didn’t Find Balance Where I Thought I Would
Since going “all in” it’s been my main goal to reach some sort of balance in my life.
I want you to know that I actually did find that balance. I’m on the other side now. I’m doing great. I have no desire to binge and purge and haven’t had an episode of uncontrolled binge eating for almost 3 years. In late 2017 my weight suddenly dropped 7 kilos by itself and has now been stable around 78-80 kilos for 2-3 years.
It’s funny how I didn’t find balance where I thought I would.
Finding balance didn’t come from focusing on food and working out. It didn’t come from restriction or detoxing. Quite the opposite.
It came from giving myself the opportunity to build that inner confidence. I have learned to honestly and truly love myself and prioritize my happiness above all else. In the most loving and caring way possible. Do no harm, but take no sh*t. This journey has taught me so so so much. It has pushed me to evolve and learn.
I truly believe everything that life’s placed on my shoulders, has been put there because I was supposed to learn from it and do good with it.
And moving forward, I plan to do just that. I am here to share what I learned on my journey. I’m here to help others who find themselves in the same situation I was in, overcome their current circumstances and thrive.
Overcoming Emotional Eating Helped Me Become A Better Coach
From my own experience, I knew pretty early on that my coaching clients will need more support than what they get from being given a plan and told to check in once per week.
Because as mentioned above, I’ve personally never had success working with a fitness coach for very long. Even when I was given the best workout plans & diet plans tailored to me, I would “fail”. I would secretly binge eat when I was stressed or upset. I would feel like a failure and most of the time, I would make up for it by making myself sick after. Or I would just not check in with my coach if I’d been “bad” to avoid the confrontation and disappointment. I recognized that same pattern in many of my clients, and for years I felt frustrated about not being able to help them overcome it.
In the very beginning, I did what most coaches do: I gave my clients training plans and diet plans and expected them to follow the prescribed protocols to see results.
But as every health and fitness coach knows, people rarely follow their plans for very long. Or, sometimes they do, just like I was able to follow a plan very strictly for 6 months to compete at Loaded Cup in my best shape ever. But after a while, without the proper focus on habits and overcoming mental roadblocks, people bounce back to their old habits and starting weight. Most people who seek out a coach, actually need just that: Coaching.
And coaching isn’t just: Do as I say and don’t ask questions.
Coaching isn’t even: Do as I say and feel free to ask questions.
Coaching is closer to something like: What have you tried that didn’t work? Why? What do you think would work for you instead? Why?
I am thankful for my own personal experiences because they have taught me that.