Acknowledging feelings is one way of valuing ourselves
Why is it important to acknowledge our feelings? Because our feelings can be helpful tools which allow us to know ourselves better. What we feel is important and our feelings deserve attention. But beware! Sometimes our feelings cause us pain. I know mine have over the years. It takes courage to thoughtfully consider the reasons behind our feelings and ask, “Why do I feel this way?” Of course there may be a simple answer, “I feel tired because I need rest.” Or the answer may be much more complex. Sometimes we discover we have been eating our feelings because we are wounded in some way. At some point, food became our source of comfort. Here is a little exercise you might want to try. It has helped me.
The Imaginary (or real) Dry Erase Board Exercise!
The next time you are tempted to eat when you are not hungry, take a moment to capture what you are feeling by imagining it written out on a white board in front of you. Step back and take a long look at what you wrote on the board. Separating ourselves from our feelings helps us see them more clearly. Now take a deep breath and release that air with a loud whoosh. Take another look at your board and push through the surface of what is written. Probe a little deeper beyond “Why do I feel this way?” Ask questions like, “What, if anything, am I covering up or hiding or ignoring or just putting off?” “Am I afraid of something?”
Many feelings may surface and you may think there is not enough time to look at them all. Just capture those feelings on paper and stick them in a box to address later. Try to commit to looking at just one a day. A good place to do this is in a journal. I have found journaling to be very beneficial. Journaling about our feelings may help us discover the deeply rooted reasons we have been covering them up with food.
Perhaps when you were a child, key people in your life became overly emotional and loud, screaming and out of control with their feelings. Now you are afraid to feel. Perhaps, you were ignored or belittled when you tried to share your feelings. You were to be “seen and not heard.” So you began to pretend, betraying feelings with a smile on your face when on the inside your heart was broken. I know. I have been there. We are taking time to understand ourselves and grow as people.
Next, let’s ask ourselves an outward facing question, “In what way can I be kind to myself and others while gently addressing some of my feelings.” Let’s turn those feelings into something good.
Putting our feelings to good use!
Maybe the dry erase board says, “I feel lonely.” We can ask ourselves, “What can be done about loneliness?” “What does loneliness need?” Get creative and brainstorm some ideas specifically for this feeling. What to do when I feel lonely:
1. Call a friend. Or family member, just to talk.
2. Write a letter to encourage someone else.
3. Do something good for a neighbor (e.g., take them a plant or cut their grass).
4. Take a walk with your pet.
5. Read a book.
6. Journal about loneliness.
Although simplistic, this task puts us in the driver’s seat and helps to replace eating our feelings with the start of a good habit. No more stuffing feelings down with food. We are getting food out of the way and beginning to live more fully. We are nurturing personal growth. We are experiencing freedom as we walk out of binge eating bondage. Freeing ourselves to receive healing and to become a comfort to self and others.
Yesterday I ate because I was truly hungry. I stopped when I was satisfied. I had some feelings I wrote out on my imaginary board. It said, “I feel sad.” I sat with sadness awhile and I cried. I chose to write about being sad in my journal. Then I took a walk outside in the sunshine and prayed about my sadness. After some time, I turned my prayers into thanksgiving. At night, when I laid down to sleep, I was feeling good. I was in charge of my feelings. I ate well too. I enjoyed my food and I was mindful to make some nutritious choices.
The next day, I did it again. I ate because I was truly hungry. I stopped when I was satisfied.
Benefits (Freedom from Binge Eating)
1. Growth as a person.
2. Hidden beauty comes out and impacts others.
3. Depths of character bubble up.
4. Wisdom surfaces.
5. Self-talk is kind and gentle.
6. A lightness and inner peace comes out.
7. Thoughts are clearer.
8. The mind is less cluttered making room for mystery and adventure.
9. Confidence emerges.
10. Sleep is more productive and peaceful.
11. Forgiving ourselves and others.
12. Confronting lies that have kept us stuck.
13. Removing fear and anxiety.
14. Dealing with hurt and anger.
15. Being a better support and encourager to others.
16. Discovering the wonderful person that had disappeared under food.
A Final thought…
Feelings are not right or wrong and not all feelings require action. If we want to, after looking at them, we can simply erase them from the board. The important thing is we got them out and away from us and we did not eat them.
Most feelings come and go. But some bad feelings return again and again to beat us up. Sometimes feelings need to be expressed to others. This takes thought, prayer and a temperament that is kind and considerate. If you are stuck and not able to get in touch with your feelings or your feelings are coming out in an unhealthy manner, please seek help. Contact a therapist or counselor that can help you work through your feelings and support you on your life journey.