Mr Darcy & The Feelgood Factory
AKA Replacing Emotional Eating - Part 1
One unexpected and frankly unwelcome side effect you may be experiencing coming off sugar or not using food to regulate your feelings is that emotionally you feel more raw than usual.
Ways this can surface:
“I miss sugar”
Feeling more reactive to triggers than usual
Mulling over injustices
A powerful feeling of upset that has no seeming cause you can pinpoint
It is important to understand how to navigate these experiences. Understand that sugar has been your emotional manager - for years probably.
There is a process of learning how to deal with your emotions that needs conscious effort. The good news is that it is incredibly liberating.
In the meantime, you can get a healthy feelgood replacement hit with no downside by opening your inner Feelgood Factory.
The Feelgood Factory
The Feelgood Factory in your head is the numerous instant hits of pleasure we can give ourselves that - unlike sugar - have no hideous pricetag.
A 20 second hug releases oxytocin, the bonding neurochemical which makes us feel loved
Planning a holiday or new career or home improvements releases dopamine, which gives us natural motivation and the desire to succeed
Exercise releases endorphins, which are a natural pain relief - but they also make you feel amazing.
So, oddly enough, do chillis!
Decluttering makes you feel amazing (not sure why, answers on a postcard please!)
The idea behind The Feelgood Factory as a replacement for compulsive eating and sugar etc addiction is that you don't have to somehow 'solve' all your difficult feelings, make everything right in your life or suffer endlessly because you no longer have the fools' gold that the sugar spike or dopamine hit from crisps used to provide.
You tap into your natural sources of pleasure instead.
Wait A Minute! Why Aren't We All Using Our Feelgood Factories All The Time Anyway?
Sugar has probably been your emotional manager for years.
Imagine you work under this manager in an office called your emotions.
Like every manager, this one has good points and bad points.
Actually, it only has one good point. The sugar manager gives you a quick escape from your feelings - think of being allowed out of a difficult office training session if you are under pressure.
In return, you are expected to do unpaid overtime and accept your manager’s continual put downs and snide remarks (this is the huge price you pay in terms of mood swings, PMT if you are a woman, weight gain, brain fog and of course the feeling of being a willpower weakling/addict).
Working with an eating coach is like getting rid of the sugar manager. You have to attend every training session. That is to say, you have to cope with managing your emotions yourself.
Whereas some trainings can be a waste of time, managing your emotions is one of the greatest skills you can learn.
When you stop using sugar to regulate emotional discomfort, you are replacing your terrible sugar manager with a new one: Mr Darcy.
Who Is Mr Darcy?
If you ever read or watched Pride and Prejudice, you will remember that Mr Darcy, while appearing aloof and unkind, was actually a very good man - but the pride of Elizabeth Bennet blinded her to his better qualities.
Mr Darcy comes across as rude and aloof...
...but turns out to be a decent and honourable man
You have a (sort of) Mr Darcy living in your head, but your sugar addiction, much like Elizabeth’s pride, has blinded you to it.
At the risk of mixing my metaphors....
This Mr Darcy is your natural feelgood factory.
There’s The Rub
Why do I call The Feelgood Factory Mr Darcy?
Because it takes an effort to appreciate it. Feelgood Factory activities, like exercise, are all essential to (our cavedweller perception of) survival (even decluttering? Yes - if you had seen my garage, you wouldn’t question this!), but in today’s world where instant gratification is biting at your heels in the form of not only sugar but TV, social media, cars, consumerism in general and 1001 other velvet cages of modern life, getting an endorphin hit from a 20 minute speedwalk requires the work of actually going on the speedwalk!
Decluttering requires that you actually open your garage door and face the horrors within.
Eating chillis requires....well, setting fire to your taste buds.
When Mr Darcy takes over the office (ie you go for a speedwalk when you crave sugar), he is not particularly chummy (ie you feel awful starting the exercise). But he is very fair. He negotiates a payrise for you and gets someone in to do all your photocopying (ie you feel good after the walk, and after a while, it is much easier to get your trainers on or clear out that drawer of crap in the kitchen you have been ignoring).
You reach the point where you realise life is much better with Mr Darcy around.
Start by making a list of Mr Darcy activities to set off your feelgood neurochemicals. Of the above, planning a holiday or some exciting change is probably the easiest. You could collect some materials such as material samples if you are overhauling a room, or have a list of websites to visit reserved only for emotionally low times.
Exercise is I think the most powerful of all the feelgood triggers.
If it helps, name your sugar cravings after the worst manager you have ever had.
When you feel a need to eat emotionally, say to yourself “Who do I choose? Sugar manager (insert name) or Mr Darcy?”
You may not be able to go do the feelgood activity straightaway, in which case can you at least plan to buy new trainers, a new box for the decluttering, a new paint sample to try on the wall?
Play around with accessing your feelgood factory in a preventative way too. A 20 minute speedwalk 3 times a week.
What small rewards can you give yourself for doing your Mr Darcy activities?