I am a meditation teacher and I work one-on-one with clients around the world to help them release stuck patterns and learn to move energy. Recently Dr. Berzin – the founder of Parsley Health – and I were discussing some of her patients with emotional eating habits they just can’t break. She asked if I thought I could help, so I offered this story…
I had a client a few years ago who came to me because she was overweight.
As we dove into her meditation and counseling session, we started to peel back some of the layers of what she was going through, and she immediately began to sob. I don’t mean like someone left the faucet open—I mean like a waterfall of emotion. It was clear from our interaction that there was some kind of correlation between her emotional state and her body weight. In an intuitive way I got the sense that her emotional body was also overweight—with energy.
I asked her what she did for a living, and she said she was a healer. Which surprised me given the deep layers of sadness she was holding onto. I asked her to explain what she meant by healer, and how her sessions with her clients worked—and this was her response:
“Well, basically I sit across from my clients, they tell me all the stuff that’s going wrong in their lives, and I kind of energetically absorb it. I take on their pain for them. And they always leave feeling better! But I feel worse.”
She was essentially taking on the mental/emotional pain of all of her clients. She was energetically eating pain—all day long. It was clear from spending more time with her that that pattern worsened her emotional eating habits.
Now most of us aren’t eating that much pain all day long, but on a micro level, many of us do absorb the pain and energy of the people around us, not being aware how much emotion we are becoming the effect of. It slowly accumulates like snow flakes—one after the other, and packs in. Before we know it, we are a foot deep in someone else’s emotions—not to mention our own unprocessed experiences.
What does this all have to do with eating?
When we are affected by the negative energy of the world, we can find ourselves reacting by pushing back with resentment, falling into depression, or seeing ourselves as victims—and when we lose control of our emotional body we can lose control of our eating habits.
The need to feel fulfilled, to fill that place in us that feels empty, pulls on us, and the only thing we can find to fill it is food. Our short term desire to mitigate pain, and to get a shot of immediate pleasure, overshadows the more rational part of ourselves that looks out for our long-term well being.
So how do we mitigate emotional eating with meditation? We use these 7 steps to develop a personal practice of energy awareness.
When negative energy from the world hits us, rather than becoming aware that someone else’s pain is affecting us, we often begin to feel stress—essentially experiencing the energy of the world in the first-person. Studies show excessive stress on the body can lead to changes in dietary behaviors, which can lead to weight gain—or even weight loss. Eventually, if we don’t mitigate stress it will mitigate us—from living full purposeful lives. Anxiety and stress have become epidemics in that they’ve become the worst possible thing in our society—normal.
So the first step to energy awareness is to step back and notice how much stress or anxiety we are in. If you had to rate your average daily stress and anxiety levels from 1 – 10, where would you find yourself?
2. Meditation & Emotional Awareness
Find a consistent meditation practice. If you meditate everyday, you will naturally build a foundation of emotional awareness. If you are an emotional eater, over time you can learn to maintain enough awareness to calm the seas of emotion when they arise, rather than wake up out of an unconscious stupor in the kitchen an hour later with chocolate on your face.
Meditating daily won’t solve all your problems, but 15-20 minutes a day can help reset your attention and release the negativity you may have soaked up from the world, giving you mental and emotional space to process before you get triggered to eat.
Meditation has been proven to mitigate depression—and depression can lead to emotional eating. From an energy awareness standpoint, it’s important to become aware of the environmental factors contributing to your depression.
For example: are you surrounded by negative or stress-out people whose energy rubs off on you in some way? Are you unconsciously healing someone else’s broken life by feeling their pain with them in an attempt to fix it? Or are you beginning to see the world through someone else’s negative lens that you respect or trust?
As we begin to un-match from some of the negative energies around us – first by sitting in meditation and recognizing them, and then by being aware of the energy in the moment with the person, we break the energetic chain that has added to our depressive state.
It’s important to be aware that depression can also be biochemical, or genetic, so meditation and energy awareness should be used along side conventional approaches such as therapy or medication, and not as a substitute.
4. Emotional Hunger
Sometimes we are not physically hungry, but actually emotionally hungry. When we are in need of validation, love, or affection, but don’t get it—we look to find it in other ways—one of which is sometimes food. When emotional eating becomes second nature, when it solidifies as a pattern, it can be difficult to tell the difference between true hunger and emotional hunger. Before eating pause for a moment—take 3 to 4 deep breaths, drink a glass of water, and reflect on whether you’re truly hungry or just feeling empty or anxious.
5. Mindful Eating
Eating mindfully has become a movement in an of itself, but simply put—as you’re eating put your attention on your food. Become aware of the color, taste, texture, uniqueness, and even blessing that food is. What a miracle that a colorful object grows off a tree, is harvested, makes it to the store, lands on your plate, tastes good, and sustains your life. Make love to your food with true awareness.
When you find yourself going particularly for carbs or sugary food, (more so than normal) train yourself to be mindful—take a moment, step back, and really check in with yourself, and see if it’s what you really want.
6. Time Travel
Energy flows where our attention goes. The body is incapable of being in the past or the future. For better or worse, no matter what day, time, or year it is, for the body, it’s always now. But for most of us, mentally, we time travel into the past and future incessantly—almost using the present moment as a stop-over to the next mental destination. As you sit for meditation, become aware of all the places you’re wandering to, and slowly but intently call yourself back into your body by feeling the aliveness of your body, and the energy that sustains it. The more present you are, the less you’ll find yourself unconsciously eating.
7. Self Love
Ahh, the golden ticket. One of the reasons we emotionally eat is because we feel that we don’t truly love who we are. If we did, we wouldn’t go so unconscious to our patterns and lose ourselves in something that ultimately doesn’t fulfill us. Self-love is the balm that heals our emotional wounds.
One meditation visualization that works great is imagining a beautiful gold ball of light above your head full of the energy of self love. Take a moment to experience the energy and the feeling-tone of self love the way you would listen to a single music note. Then, watch the golden light as it pours down through your head, and fills in your entire body, healing all those empty places with love and compassion.
Whether you are a total novice meditator or advanced yogi, you can take control of your emotional eating habits. The coolest part is that it doesn’t take extra exercise – just sitting still. Meditation is just one tool in the toolbox to combat emotional eating—it’s a self-awareness cultivator, but it’s not the only tool. Seeing a counselor, having your hormones checked, and seeing a health coach are all important steps to combat emotional eating.
Parsley Health doctors don't only heal through medication. Meditation is prescribed as frequently.
My client, the healer, eventually began using meditation tools, and learned to be more aware of that energy. She learned to recognize the energy was hers, and the energy that really belonged to others. With that awareness she eventually started shedding some of her energetic, emotional, and physical weight.
I agree that we should celebrate our emotions. They are what give color and depth to life. But having worked with thousands of people over the years, I have learned it’s essential not to allow them to become a runaway train, invalidating your true purpose on this planet.
Sit down, quiet your mind, recognize you are in control, and shed the energetic weight that’s been holding you down. If you have physical weight you would like to lose, perhaps that will follow.
David Gandelman is the founder of GroundedMind.com, host of the Energy Matters podcast, & teaches meditation at Cornell University. He connects energetic experience, ancient wisdom traditions, and humor, to create a safe atmosphere for people interested in developing their natural meditative abilities, and tap into their creative potential through meditation.