Emotional weight is weight gain put on with the body’s attempts to cope with stress through the intake of unhealthy foods. For most of us this equates to eating ice cream to get over a difficult break up or having fast-food for dinner after a painstaking day at the office. The key here is not to eliminate your stress and anxiety altogether but, rather, learn to identify when your emotional weight gain may be set it motion, to, first, avoid those unhealthy, ‘comfort’ foods and, second, to adapt to a more body-positive approach. Alejandro Chabán, author of Think Skinny, Feel Fit helps you identify emotional weight.
When you swallow your feelings, you’re protecting yourself from pain, trauma, or a frustration you’re carrying inside your heart and mind. I ate to fill a void but I hadn’t realized my emotions played a role in all this. I just thought I was using food to cover my pain.
Even though I was told of all the damage my obesity was doing to me physically, I couldn’t picture all the damage it was doing to my mind and body. It wasn’t tangible. What was tangible was that slice of cake that soothed my anxiety, the chocolate that alleviated my anguish, the ice cream that froze my desire to break down into tears. Eating protected me from my fears. Recently, during psychotherapy sessions, I started to discover that key connection between how I felt and what I ate. I understood it better as I worked on my emotions in the following years, and as I continue to work on it.
Listen to your body. When your body is pushed to extremes, it asks for help, screams for it. It yells out exactly what is unbalanced in your life. But if you don’t stop to listen, the root of the unbalance will never be resolved. First you have to become cognizant of the issue and then act.
Stop for a minute. I want you to give yourself the space to reconnect with your emotions. It’s the best way to discover which one of them is out of balance and why.
The next time you have a ravenous craving for a tres leches cake, nachos slathered in cheese, or a box of donuts, please stop for a second and ask yourself these questions:
• What am I feeling right now?
• Am I anxious?
• Am I frustrated?
• Am I upset?
• Am I sad?
• Am I scared?
• Am I angry?
• Am I actually hungry or is one of these emotions goading me into eating to calm myself?
I want you to ask yourself these questions so you can begin connecting your emotions with your actions. Once you connect the two, it will be easier to identify your emotional weight and to begin taking the steps to unlatch food from your emotions. That way, you can replace the act of eating with a healthier activity that can help you deal with what you’re feeling instead of covering it up.
Once you identify the emotions tied to your eating, you can ask yourself other essential questions:
• Which is the emotion that most prompts me to eat?
• Which is the source of the pain, the toxic emotion, that forces me to act this way?
• Why do I think I have to run to food for reassurance?
• What am I protecting myself from?
It’s fundamental for you to identify your trigger, the gun that goes off in your hand when you open that carton of ice cream or when your mouth opens for that spoonful of cheesecake. Taking stock of your reactions, analyzing the “why” and “when” it happens, will help you identify the root of your problem. And that will give you the chance to find the better path toward healing your emotional weight, once and for all.
Now that you’ve identified the factors that cause weight gain you can dive into your fitness goals. Here are the essential steps to maintaining weight loss in the crucial months after your success.