For many years I snacked to self soothe. It didn’t even occur to me to prioritize health over habit and food grew more and more important in my life. Stress in my jobs and relationships threw me off and I turned to food. Over time this habit packed on unnecessary then unhealthy pounds.
I grew up using food to blunt the edge of strong emotion, but my habit of emotional eating became more ingrained as a working adult. The manufacturing plant and office building I worked at were a few miles apart. I spent 60-70 hours each week in an environment full of conflict and hostility and often felt exhausted and overwhelmed. On my way between buildings, I passed a couple of fast food joints on the drive, bad meeting have a snack to take the edge off. No surprise I gained more weight.
Years later, eating to soothe was a deeply ingrained habit, I ate on the way to teach yoga, not from hunger but to calm down before class. I munched when I was tired, bored or unhappy. It got so that I knew where every fast food drive-thru was on my common routes.
This habit had to go; excess weight was hurting me, but somehow emotional eating stayed and became my primary coping mechanism. I was eating way more than my body could digest and use. The bad news was that I had stopped listening to my body and normalized eating food without hunger or physical need.
Lyme triggered the need for Change
My need to prioritize health over habit became really important when I began to architect habit change for my health. Really sick from Lyme disease, my go to habit of emotional eating became an immediate liability. The why for change was crystal clear. I had a huge opportunity to help myself modify my eating habits for thrive. Kick allergens and junk food out of my diet, but I needed to dig into my motivation to prioritize new habits to heal.
My first priority was to treat my illness then repair my digestion and my relationship with food. Self care replaced food to cope and soothe. I lost 120+ pounds and maintained that loss.
Then this old pattern of eating, using food to cope came back with a vengeance when my Mom had a steep decline in health then died. She passed a little over a year ago. I am grateful she is not in suffering and I feel the support of her spirit in my life. But coping with her loss knocked me off track. I feel a little lost. In default mode I lapsed back into old unhealthy emotional eating patterns that I have yet to completely arrest.
I don’t like what I am doing and I know it is not good for my health. Facing the reality of your own issues is a tough nut. Being honest and working the newer healthier habits into default position is my way back to a healthier weight and way of being.
Re-anchor into Healthier Default Habits
Old patterns can be heavy and sticky, hard to shake off. For years I used food to cope without much conscious thought. With my life at stake I had to work harder.
“If people who’ve faced a life-threatening illness can’t prioritize their own self-care, we have a real problem in our society.” Michelle Segar author of No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness. This is my current struggle. How can I remember and prioritize health over habit.
My life and the quality of my life is still at stake. Making myself overweight will burden my body and impede healing. It won’t fill the hole left by my Mom’s passing . Remembering her fondly and continuing to learn from her is a much better approach.
Help to Prioritize Health over Habit
I admit I need a little help to get back on track and prioritize health over habit. Two books I am working with are Body Thrive by Cate Stillman and 50 more ways to soothe yourself without food by Susan Albers. The first book is about building habits and structure in your life for health. Check out the Healthier Eating Guidelines. The second book is all about awareness moment to moment, recognizing and soothing emotions in the moment, and skipping the snack.
This is where I am in the work. Schedule realistically and set boundries, and prevent overwhelm. I have to honor my own capacity for life. Soothe with Mudra and Mantra. These yogic hand gestures and repeated phrases are two techniques that fit with me. I use them and love them. If I am at the refrigerator door and it is not time for a meal, I say the mantra and do the mudra.
Why not apply these techniquesto self soothe. Mantra works, so post it on the door and use it.
- Breathe into my body in this moment, I am present.
- I am calm and aware
- I am enough, loveable and worth loving
- No fear I am here now is my time.
I know I will keep working my habits to maintain a healthy weight and build wellness and resiliency. For me it is a gateway to a full rich life. How about you?
What do you do to help self soothe? Go below and share your best suggestions to support eating to meet the needs of the body and techniques to soothe the mind and emotions. Share how you prioritize health over habit.