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Compassionate Invitation for Stress-eating

Stress-eating. It's a phrase in our common vernacular that has been showing up a lot this year. In my personal and professional passings, the phrase keeps surfacing and I'm noticing a common feeling that comes along for the ride: SHAME.

Shame that I'm eating unhealthy.

Shame that I'm eating too much.

Shame that I'm eating to procrastinate.

Shame ________________________

Shame and fear often work together, casting a shadow over our true nature. This may cause us to believe that we are flawed or "bad" in some way. When I work with people on stress eating, I actually spend little time on food. It's shame that demands attention. Shame is the subject to sit with, to notice, feel and engage with.

May you see what is hidden in you

as a place of hospitality and shadowed shelter,

may that hidden darkness be your gift to give,

-David Whyte

There are deeper feelings behind shame: fear, anxiety, loneliness, anger, and sadness. If we can get in touch with those feelings, we shift the spotlight away from food, which is just the grasping. We get in touch with an honest and vulnerable side of our suffering.

A way of positively coping with stress eating is to ask "what invitation is my body

making for me"? What am I being invited to look at? We can turn away from the self in these uncomfortable moments, or turn inward and see what shows up. Stress eating does not disappear once an election is decided or a disagreement is dodged, or a presentation is completed. It shows up again and again to wake us up, to confront our nature and be more compassionate to ourselves.

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

-Mary Oliver

If you find yourself struggling with stress eating there are a few mindful practices to bring into your practice:

1. Meditation

If you're new to meditation, or find it difficult to stay with a practice, a very simple place to start is with the breath. The breath is a measure of your presence. As you train the mind to be quiet, distractions fall away.

2. Journal

Spend some time first thing in the morning asking yourself how you feel about your relationship to food. In this inquiry, write about your food choices, the way you eat, how food makes you feel. If there are any negative thoughts about your relationship to food, take a minute to imagine being more compassionate and forgiving of yourself. Then write another way you might rephrase the negative thoughts.

3. Sip instead of chew

When we are stressed we can forget to stay hydrated. Taking in fluids can help emotions move through the body. Fluid deprivation has actually been shown to negatively impact mood. Instead of grabbing for something to chew, try sipping on something soothing and cozy like a warm cup of tea, broth or blended soup.


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