When I became hyper-aware of what I was eating, when, and why, I experienced a LOT of emotions.
I had always known I was an emotional eater, but I never realized to what extent.
When I thought about emotional eating, I thought about the times I dove into a tub of Ben & Jerry’s after a breakup or the day after the 2016 presidential election when I called out of work and ate an entire bag of bite-sized Snickers.
What I didn’t realize was that it had become a daily occurrence as a way to distract myself from feeling normal every-day emotions like boredom
Having been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder means that there’s always a baseline of anxious and repetitive thinking going on.
Once I started looking at the clock when I started getting hungry to monitor whether I was hungry, bored, avoiding a task, or avoiding a feeling—rather than immediately reaching for a snack—I began realizing how much of those hunger pangs were false alarms for emotional needs.
If it had only been two hours after a meal, I learned how to tune into my emotional state and address THAT need instead. If I was bored, I switched gears at work or started a new project. If I was avoiding chores, I either got to work or actively decided to ignore them.
I learned to say to myself, “This is just an emotion and this alone can’t hurt you.”
The result is that I grew familiar with discomfort. I started to truly feel my emotions and learn that power exists in the ability to be truly present in negative feelings. I was numbing myself to the world with food. Why? Because I was afraid to feel bored, worried, annoyed?
Talk about silly!
And now I’ve started seeing improvements in other areas of my life where emotions have kept me from having fuller experiences.
My main example has been bouldering. While I’ve climbed top rope for about three years now, I only started bouldering about half that time. It’s a completely different game for me.
While the walls are much lower at 10-15 feet, I don’t have the safety net of a rope and a partner to catch me if I call. All I have is a fat mat 10-15 feet below me and muscle memory on how to fall the right way.
Fear has held me back from advancing. Despite climbing more confidently in top rope, I hit a mental wall with bouldering. I held myself back from going for moves because I was afraid I would fall or that my grip would give out.
But because I’ve been practicing the ability to sit in discomfort and know that emotions alone can’t hurt me, feeling fear on the bouldering wall hasn’t hindered me nearly as much.
I find myself going through the same steps as I do when I feel any negative emotion. I tell myself, “It’s OK to feel fear, but the emotion can’t hurt you. Take a breath and make one more move and then you can stop.”
Turns out, if you say that enough times, you’ll eventually send the climb.
I’ve still had plenty of points when I drop down early or don’t make a move I know I could if I were tied into a rope, but the point is that those moments are slowly becoming a rarity.
It’s incredible how richer life gets when you learn to sit with your discomfort.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid to feel?