The Stream

Dealing With Emotional Eating - Part 2

In part 1 (The Feelgood Factory) we looked at how we can regulate our emotions in the moment by tapping into some healthy feelgood neurochemicals in the brain.


In the following exercise, we go deeper. Managing difficult emotions is more than just finding (pricetag-free) ways to feel good in the moment.


The following exercise - The Stream - will help you pivot in how you relate to those emotions.

There are 2 ways to do this exercise. You can follow this audio or go through the text and video instructions below.

The Stream: Text and Video Exercise

This is a 30 second process you can use to divert your desire to eat junk. There is an optional video included below, but once you have been through this a few times you can use it without the video anytime, anywhere.

It works with sugar urges, or any other kind of craving as well as the urge to binge or eat compulsively. NOTE: It will not work for mindless overeating.

STEP 1: Rate your desire to eat junk out of 10.

STEP 2: Find your trigger. Every time you feel that compulsive urge to eat not as a response to hunger, you are responding to a trigger. This is not necessarily the root cause of your compulsion, but that is not important for this exercise. Just ask yourself: What is my immediate trigger? What feeling do I want to escape right now? Anger, frustration, sadness, anxiety, your boss, credit card balance or just boredom?

STEP 3: If your trigger is something outside yourself (such as your credit card debt, girlfriend or  boss' behaviour) then rephrase it to be your feeling about your debt, boss, girlfriend etc. (I have yet to see a credit card hold someone down and force junk into their mouth). You cannot control external events and other people, but you can work with your feelings about them. We are staying in the here and now, not ruminating on how X has ruined Y for you. If it helps, say "In this moment I feel A about B".

STEP 4: Imagine this trigger emotion as a stream. Just as the stream is always flowing, you cannot in this moment stop this feeling you have right now. Watch this 30 second video, breathe deeply, and see your negative feeling as the water flowing. Let your emotion just be in the same way you accept the flow of the stream. It might be helpful to say "My anxiety/boredom/fear is what it is" or you might try "My girlfriend/boss is who she is".


STEP 5: Now check in. Has your desire to eat junk reduced? What number out of 10 is it now?


Do This Thought Exercise:

Imagine someone placed a huge boulder right in the middle of the stream. What would happen to the water?

And what happens to the water if we leave the stream as it is?

In this metaphor the stream is the emotion that triggers your desire to eat junk, and the act of compulsive eating is the boulder: your attempt to block out your negative feelings.

The boulder will only make the water run around it, and all over the riverbank.

The riverbank is your quality of life. The overflow onto the bank is all the negative effects of the compulsive eating: the guilt, the feeling of failure, the weight gain, the mood swings.

Which is more painful: feeling the negative feeling in the moment, and saying "It is what it is" - or trying to block it out and paying the price in terms of your self esteem?

Now let's look at what happens to the stream if we leave it alone. It will flow into a river, which will flow into an ocean.

We are very aware of the water as it babbles down the stream, just as we cannot ignore those uncomfortable triggers.

But once it reaches the river, then the ocean, that water becomes invisible, unnoticeable.

The river and the ocean is your life, your purpose, your bigger goals.

Everyday experience is always going to create some degree of discomfort. You can either try and stop it up in the moment with the useless boulder of a binge, or you can accept the flow of your discomfort and let it flow into invisibility, where it has no effect on your dreams and goals.

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