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Identifying Subconscious Food Triggers

 

 

 

This week the topic was on subconscious eating and how to address those times when food seems to have all the power and you just can’t stop yourself from losing control. While everyone is feeling more in control with food choices and portions, they are still prone to over indulging and eating when they aren’t hungry from subconscious triggers. By knowing more about them and how to deal with them, they will be better prepared and more easily avoid getting triggered to eat out of control.

Your Behavior is the Tip of the Iceberg
It is so easy to judge your behaviors as good or bad, yet it is never that simple. When you over indulge, for example, the behavior may appear bad but that misrepresents what is going on. It is not a matter of being good or bad, but instead of understanding what drove you to have that behavior. Your behaviors stem from your subconscious thoughts, beliefs and feelings, most of which you aren’t even aware of. All you see is the behavior; not all that lies beneath it. To change your behavior, you need to expose what is driving it, and that is what I spent the session explaining how to do.

The Behavior Chain of Events:

Situation —Beliefs —Thoughts —Feelings —Behavior —Beliefs —Thoughts —Feelings —Behavior —

When something happens during your day, your thoughts about the situation are determined by your beliefs (most of which you absorbed from others you thought knew best as you grew up but may not necessarily be in your best interests) and these thoughts often create feelings about what is happening, whether you realize they are there or not. If you are like most people, the next thing you know after experiencing a trying situation is you are eating something you don’t really even want or losing control around foods you know you shouldn’t have. That then triggers beliefs about your eating behavior, which leads to negative thoughts and emotions, which drives you to eat even more.

For example; if you experience something that you believe is unfair, your thoughts reflect that and you begin to feel annoyed or upset. But seldom is there an opportunity to express those feelings, so you find yourself turning to food to avoid those feelings and to feel better. But you know that isn’t good and you shouldn’t do it, which leads to feeling even worse and continuing to eat out of greater frustration, shame and guilt. This is classic emotional eating, which I refer to as emotional repression since it works to keep you calm and your feelings under control – as in pushed out of consciousness. The problem is the emotions are still there, unresolved and ready to be triggered again.

As I shared with the groups, emotional eating is a term people use to cover many different aspects of subconsciously-driven eating behaviors, and it helps to separate eating driven by beliefs from those driven by emotions or to recognize when it is a combination of both.

Dealing with Beliefs Eating
If you overeat because you subconsciously believe you must finish everything on your plate, this would be a type of beliefs-driven eating behavior. There is no emotional component to it. Another example is eating food because you don’t want to throw it away or you want your money’s worth. Very often the beliefs you carry are those you got from other people or the media, and when you really stop to evaluate those beliefs will find they don’t serve you.

Does it really make sense to eat until you are sick to get your money’s worth or to skip meals to save your calories for dinner, which creates blood sugar lows and usually leads to night-time bingeing? Or does it make sense to overeat or eat food that makes you feel sick to take care of someone else’s feelings? Just because you perceive pressure to eat, doesn’t mean you have to eat or that the other person cares as much as you think.

You can change your beliefs once you identify the ones that don’t work for you. You can decide to create a new belief, like if you are done eating and can’t keep food as leftovers that throwing away food may be the best option.

Dealing with Emotional Eating
There are two primary types of eating that are driven by emotions. One is emotional repression, as I mentioned earlier. The other is when your emotions represent a reaction to having been or currently being deprived of food you want. This I call restrictive rebellion, where one part of you (the inner parent – holder of beliefs) enforces your dietary rules and the other part of you (the inner child – holder of emotions) rebels to get its unmet needs addressed. As most of us know, our emotions usually win one way or another, and often it is by going out of control with food.

The way to address these is to understand what it is you are feeling and what it is you need (to address those feelings) that don’t involve food. So if you are angry about something, determine what needs to be done to address what created that anger and allow yourself to acknowledge the anger, instead of repress it. And determine if there are additional emotions beneath the anger that need to also be addressed. The idea isn’t to dig up the past, but to identify what you feel and need now. In my book that goes along with this program, I go through the exact steps on how to do this.

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Learning about subconscious eating and specific examples of belief- and emotionally-driven eating was eye-opening to people in the groups. As several of them said, they now had greater insight about themselves and their relationship with food, and it all made more sense.

Find out what else the participants learned from this topic, which they usually add the week after this post goes live. Please feel free to add your own comments as you follow along.

To participate on your own or in a group (3 more groups starting soon), check out the contest website for details and tools at www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

  • Maureen

    In a family of 4 girls, I was always the fat one. When I experienced a trying situation (which was pretty often, especially during adolescence), I’d resort to eating a lot of things I knew I shouldn’t have, then feel guilty and think about how bad I was, and then to feel better, eat even more.
    My family wasn’t really into expressing feelings, but turning to food made me feel better for a while. I realize now that the real problems never went away. Funny thing is, when I look back at childhood pictures, I see that I really wasn’t that fat. But I believed I was, and I kept eating, and eventually I made it a reality.

    I’m still working on understanding what I’m really feeling and what I really need to do to address it. It’s not always easy to admit I’m angry or upset or powerless to change many things. Staying mindful of when I’m hungry, and when I’m not, is really helping me to use food for what it’s meant to be, which is really changing that relationship. And staying active is helping me deal with many of those difficult feelings. It seems so logical and practical when I hear Alice talk about it. I’m just not sure I would ever have gotten here on my own.

  • Heather H

    I was looking forward to the topic on subconcious eating hoping that I would find answers why I ate even when I wasn’t physically hungry. I always thought it was just because I was tired. Alice gave me usefully tools and insight on emotional eating and eating based on my beliefs. Having a series of questions to ask myself helps me to identify what I am feeling or thinking and validates both. This is information I refer back to often until it become second nature.


Alice Greene
Healthy Lifestyle Success Coach

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