Emotional eating is still a taboo subject, it can feel embarrassing, shameful and even ridiculous to admit to. So I am laying it out there, straight and honest and logical to help find ways to tackle it.
In my last blog post I started thinking about how good decisions seems to lead to feeling good, which leads to more good decisions, and bad decisions seem to quickly lead to feeling bad, which leads to more bad decisions. I call it the positivity or negativity spiral. For most this week I have continued up on my positivity spiral and even when life got tough and I found myself in some emotionally challenging, stressful situations, I was still able to go on and make good decisions in regards to my diet and lifestyle. It got me thinking more seriously about this positive/ negative spiral and wondering; it can’t just be coincidence, there must be some science behind it. I am a pretty logical person, I am a researcher, I have a PhD, and I am not one for believing in things I can’t see or make sense of. So I set about doing some research, and quickly found that it is indeed a researched area, lots of work has been done in the ‘contagious quality’ of emotions and attitudes.
You only have to google ‘positivity spiral’ or ‘negativity spiral’ and you will be find loads of models and diagrams. One caught my eye: the Abraham-Hicks Emotional Guidance Scale. From my quick bit of digging, I have found that Abraham-Hicks are husband and wife team of authors and inspirational speakers from America. I am not sure how rigorously tested the model is, or exactly how they came to develop it, but I can personally relate to what they are suggesting, so figured some of you might find it useful and interesting too. Abraham-Hicks developed this scale of 22 of the most commonly felt emotions in order from the most positive to the most negative. They describe it as a ‘self-check tool’ that you can use to improve your vibes, and work towards the most positive end of the scale.
4. Positive Expectation/Belief
Abraham- Hicks, Emotional Guidance scale.
OK, so before we get all new age hippy, let’s look at what this has to do with trying to lose weight and follow a healthier lifestyle? Well like I was saying last before; when we are feeling positive we make better decisions, and good decisions lead to more good decisions, then we feel better and we spiral up. In the same way that when we make less healthy decisions we feel bad, we make more unhealthy decisions, we feel worse, and it spiral outs. So if we can start to tune ourselves in to how we are feeling when we start to make unhealthy decisions then maybe we can put a stop on the spiral and work our way back up.
Let’s put this in to practice, I shall use myself as an example. For me two things tend to lead to me making unhealthy decisions, firstly: being tired, secondly being anxious. Often when I am anxious about my business and how it is going, and will it succeed. I am not a business woman, I am not in to marketing plans and business development plans, I just want to help people change their lives, and I love doing it. I love doing one-to-one activity sessions, and I love running my Weight Watchers meetings. I genuinely enjoy doing it, I am passionate about it and it doesn’t even feel like work. But then I have a morning sorting out the admin and the accounts and I am straight away flooded with:
doubt (13 on the Abraham Hicks emotional scale)- I cant do this, I can’t run a business– the biscuit tin is calling.
This can then quickly lead to worry (14) will I pay my mortgage next month– the biscuit tin seems to have found itself in my lap.
I slip straight in to discouragement (16) why bother, I should pack it in now- I will just look in the biscuit tin.
Soon I am feeling angry (17) why can’t I make this work, what is wrong with me– a biscuit will make it feel better.
Quickly I fall to guilt (21) I shouldn’t have eaten that biscuit,
And even powerlessness (22) I can’t resist another biscuit, or two, or three… oh shit the biscuit tin is empty.
I can then sit in that feeling of powerlessness, unable to control the cravings, the biscuit tin is empty, maybe a glass of wine will make it better, no? Let’s crack out the emergency chocolate supply? Feeling sick? Time for something salty, crisps, maybe a few nuts, but now I’ve had something salty I want to finish on something sweet-I will just nip to the shop. I am at the bottom of that negativity spiral.
Somehow the emotions I was feeling towards my business got all mixed in the emotions I was eating. I hear similar stories from my set U free clients and my Weight Watchers members all the time. Obviously not this exact scenario, but the mix up of life emotions and emotional eating and the spiral downwards. Fortunately I have become much more aware of my own emotional spiral, and better able to control it. I haven’t found myself lurking at 22 for a while, and become much better at working myself back up the spiral. So instead of going straight from doubt (13) down, I will try think of it as a bit disappointing (12) OK it is a shame that didn’t take off how I wanted. I don’t entirely agree with Abraham-Hicks here as I would personally feel overwhelment, frustration and pessimism as worse than disappointment, so I might jump straight to:
hopefulness (6)- OK, so that didn’t take off, but there is that new opportunity next week for some new marketing– I think I will have a salad for lunch.
Feeling optimistic (5) yes that thing next week should help things improve, it will get my name out a bit- I don’t think I fancy anything sweet after lunch.
Belief it will work (4) yes, that will definitely help, I could meet some new clients- I think I will make myself a healthy dinner.
Feeling enthusiastic (3) I am pretty awesome, I love this- my business is going to be the bomb and I have made nothing but great, healthy decisions all day.
Here it comes, passion (2) I don’t care about the long hours, not having any money, I get to help people change their lives, how amazing is that! I am going to be a role model to the people I help and plan all my wonderful healthy meals for the week.
Bingo- love (1) I love my job, I love my business, I love eating well, I love life, I love that I am in control and feeling better about myself. Life is great, cue the music, I feel an outburst of song and dance!
Emotional eating is a difficult issue, and it is for some reason still a bit of a taboo subject. Many of us feel ashamed or embarrassed to admit we do it. That is one reason I find that having a support network can really help. A Weight Watchers meeting is a great example, there is a whole group of people in the same situation as you, going through the same journey, and facing similar obstacles. I have seen people be very honest in meetings and admitted things that must have been difficult to confess, things they probably have never told anyone else not even their partner or family, in fact, especially not their partner or family. Sometimes talking to someone who isn’t close to us is easier.
A strange but friendly face can feel less intimidating than trying to admit to someone we love that we have been living a secret life behind their back. I find this a lot with my personal weight loss coaching clients. People will spill their hearts out about the ‘weird’ things they do or eat when finding themselves emotionally challenged, and almost always, somewhere close to tears they will say; “I’ve never admitted this to anyone before, you must think I am crazy, who does that?” And my answer every time: “not at all, you are far from crazy, and there is nothing you can tell me that would shock me, as it’s no worse of more weird than anything I have done myself”.
So know this; you are not alone, know you are not weird, and know that you are able to make a change. Whether you reach out to a support group like Weight Watchers, a professional like myself, a stranger on the internet, the cat, or just a friendly face on the bus, talking it through can help.
I am Jennie, founder of set U free fitness, and Weight Watchers leader in Leeds. I lost 7 stone with Weight Watchers and transformed by body through exercise. I always dreamt that life after goal would be easier, but the reality is- it’s not. This personal blog is my ongoing journey to stay healthy and happy. It is a collection of my thoughts, tips, lessons learnt and mistakes made in trying to create a balanced healthy lifestyle that I can follow for life. I always love to hear your thoughts, and hear from people undergoing similar journeys, so please comment or get in touch.
Week 5 of healthy bikini body challenge. OK so the point of this weekly blog was to keep a track of my 12 week healthy bikini body challenge– but seems I have been learning a lot more along the way! But I am now 5 weeks in, starting week 6. On the scales I have lost just 3.5lbs- doesnt sound much, but I really, really don’t care about that number as the difference in my body and my attitude is just amazing! I will post the half way point before and afters next week- I have had a preview myself and it is amazing, I really am so proud of myself so far.