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I talk a lot—I mean a lot—with clients about understanding how painful memories get triggered in the present. So many clients don’t realize they’re feeling anything distressing, yet find themselves in the midst of unrelenting binges. If you want to know how to prevent and stop emotional eating, here’s a brief review of the paradigm I use to stop mindless eating, overeating and binges due to painful emotions.
The truth is that most of the time we are not filled with surging, intense, raw feelings. Sure, things often go wrong—in small ways every day and in large ways occasionally. And sometimes stress or distress enters our lives through rarer yet events such as grave medical problems happening to us or our loved ones, evictions, firings, grave, serious accidents, natural disasters, or occurrences beyond our control. However, these may not be the events that cause people to eat emotionally. Think about the more common situations that trigger your mindless eating: upset at your partner or spouse, the kids, your boss, a co-worker, neighbor, or parent. Many people brush, shrug, or laugh off these low-level conflict situations, but they may upset you greatly—and, then, you’re off and running to the refrigerator.
You can stop this behavior by following these three steps:
In sum, use the I-A-C (Identify, Attach, Comfort) process whenever you have a strong feeling that is out of proportion to the current situation. How do you know it’s out of proportion? Any time you are seriously upset. Specifically, watch for the emotions listed above. Comfort yourself with the phrases I listed and use your senses to pin yourself to the present. Take three deep, long breaths and do whatever else calms you down.
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