Do you find yourself mindlessly reaching for comfort food when you’re feeling fed up, lonely or bored? Can you remember what you ate the last time you felt that way?
Your brain has messages going to and from two main centres – the limbic system, which is the seat of your emotions, and the pre frontal cortex, which is your thinking brain.
When you’re feeling anxious, stressed, tired, bored, lonely or just downright fed up, the same part of your brain that creates those emotions will look for comfort by way of instant gratification. That part of your brain is the primitive part, the part that doesn’t have logic attached to it, just instinctual, habitual behaviour. Think about a baby – when she is hungry she will cry, and food and comfort are given. The baby’s natural urges and instincts are satisfied, the brain knows there is no threat to survival and the baby is ( hopefully !) placated.
The same process occurs when you feel negative emotions as an adult. Your primitive brain wants to stop the negative feelings, and as food is plentiful in our modern western world, it provides an instant calming effect. It does this not only because it’s an intake of something tasty ( usually high in sugar and/or fat), but also because by putting it in your mouth you are gaining additional comfort.
Once this cycle starts, the weight piles on, the anxiety increases and you may get to the point of saying “what the heck, I may as well just eat it all”. You’re not thinking with your thinking brain!
The next time you find yourself reaching for that sugar rush, take a moment to draw in a deep breath, as you say the word STOP! Ask yourself if you’re eating with your head or your stomach – chances are it will be with your head, and by using this thinking process, you are engaging the prefrontal cortex, and quietening the emotional limbic system. The moment will pass, as the urgency melts away. Physically move to a different place/chair/room, and be very proud of yourself for taking a step towards healthy choices.
Lynda Roberts Cert Ed. SQHP (GHR. CNHC
Lynda is an established Hypnotherapy Consultant, working from her busy practice in Colchester, Essex. Lynda specialises in helping clients overcome emotional eating habits, and to lose weight naturally and permanently without the need for dietary restrictions.
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