Self-compassion: Eat what you love, love what you eat!

Dr. Trishala Chopra is an alternative medicine specialist commanding a decade of success in managing Diabetes, Obesity, PCOD/PCOS, Metabolic Disorders, Gut-health and Sleep-disorders. As a Health Coach, Dr. Trishala empowers your body’s potential to heal itself through a balanced ‘Gut-Mind-Body’ approach to help you achieve your wellness goals. [To connect with Dr. Trishala, Call/Message: (+91) 9930831317 or Email ID:]

Do you love to eat? Do you feel deprived when you don’t get to eat what you want? Are you confused about what you are supposed to eat? Do you feel the need to eat food when you are happy or upset or stressed? What is your first impulse when you eat for emotional reasons – guilt? Anger?

Have you ever thought about being compassionate towards yourself while you eat for emotional reasons? If you’re wondering how being self-compassionate helps as a response to emotional eating, remember that forgiving yourself for overeating helps you take the next step to finding ways that meet your emotional needs more effectively.

Eating for emotional reasons gives us temporary pleasures. It’s like an instant hug to ourselves for everything that we’ve been going through. Emotional eating is common, even natural. Food is an integral part of everything – be it celebrations, socialising, relaxing, etc. Often, we also resort to food while dealing with uncomfortable emotions which are not easy to process. When you’re feeling sad or mad or stressed or lonely, your first impulse is to eat to feel better, because eating works! It works… temporarily.

Eating provides instant gratification. Unfortunately, the aftermath leaves you feeling worse, emotionally and physically. I hear this quite often, “I was stressed last night so I finished a packet of chips and this morning I woke up with cramps, I could not walk, I felt bloated… I feel terrible.” Truth is, whichever emotion / situation triggered you to resort to food in that moment, comes right back at you in a short while, and what’s worse, it brings along physical discomfort!

This physical discomfort makes you want to beat yourself up – the guilt, shame and self-criticism after the emotional eating cycle, ends up becoming another trigger for emotional eating! And you find yourself stuck in this vicious cycle of eating and repenting.

What if I told you that you could break this cycle of emotional eating by using Self-compassion instead of self-criticism? It all starts with being understanding and forgiving towards yourself for overeating as this will lead you deeper into understanding your emotional needs.

Look at it this way – if your child is trying to learn how to ride a cycle falls while riding, do we start criticizing the child for making a mistake? Do we talk down to a friend who has failed in a project? No. We encourage and motivate them to continue giving their best. If we do this so easily with others, why can’t we extend this kindness to ourselves?

When you resort to emotional eating, you do so because this is what works for you at the time – it’s all you know to relieve the emotional discomfort or pain. Blaming, shaming, criticizing and finding fault for attempting to care for yourself only backfires. How you speak to yourself or self-talk holds great power. All you might need is a shift in your way or thinking or self-talk to make things better.

The following are three main steps of inculcating and nurturing Self-compassion for those of you stuck in this emotional-eating cycle:

Step I: Acknowledge!

  • The first step is to acknowledge and accept that you did what you thought best in that moment. It’s not about right and wrong. First, learn to understand and validate your thoughts and actions in the given circumstances.
  • Rewind and observe what happened. You ate. You ate to feel better and relieved from the emotion in that moment. The moment you accept this, it creates a safe environment for experimenting new ideas and further understanding your feelings and actions.
  • Acceptance will open up doors for different possibilities and help you see things more clearly. It helps you decide upon things that you can do differently in the same situation, the next time it arises.

 Step II: Be Non-Judgmental

  • Mindful eating is about bringing a non-judgmental awareness to your choices and experiences when you eat. Without the negativity of judgement, you get a more objective understanding of your need for emotional eating.
  • When I interact with my patients, I keenly catch the words they use. I understand when they start judging themselves. I make a note of these words and when I replay it back to them, they realise they’re being too harsh on themselves. This is important. You need to monitor your self-talk and bring yourself back to the present.

 Step II: Develop Your Own ‘Self-Care Voice’:

  • When you zoom out, you realize that your ‘Self-Care Voice’ – or the self-talk which understands and accepts you – wants the best for you. It is unconditional and full of self-compassion.
  • Your Self-Care Voice is the voice of kindness and wisdom. It’s like a loving parent or a partner or friend who helps you learn from your mistakes. It guides you to face your emotional challenges by teaching you to love yourself unconditionally.
  • When you bring in your Self-Care Voice after your emotional-eating binge, it soothes you and guides your instead of criticizing you. The following is how your Self-Care Voice communicates:

“What you are feeling right now is uncomfortable, it might also be overwhelming… You chose to eat because you wanted to feel better… It made you feel better in the present moment… Be in the present moment and enjoy… Now let’s think about what you needed in the moment apart from food and what else could make you feel better… Maybe stepping away from your computer or phone for a little while? Taking a break for a while, take a walk and come back? Maybe making a list and prioritizing what needs to be done? Take a few deep breaths or practice a breathing exercise?”

 You need to take baby steps for yourself. Take the first step to decide where you want to start – it’s not about becoming perfect, it’s about taking the first step in the right direction. When you eat for emotional reasons, guilt and shame only add fuel to the fire. Self-compassion is a gentle way to calm yourself so you can step back and consider your emotional needs, which is crucial as it helps you get to the root of understanding your emotions, instead of just covering them up, temporarily, with food!

Saal Mubarak!

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