Is Mindfulness Enough to Beat Emotional Eating? [Podcast Episode #096]
You know that you're an emotional eater...
You're sad. You eat.
You're lonely. You eat.
You're angry. You eat.
But, knowing that this pattern exists in your life is completely different from being able to change it. Knowledge is only the first step. Now what?
The concept of "mindful eating" is very popular in health circles today, but practically speaking, is being mindful of what you put in your mouth actually enough to break longstanding emotional eating habits?
Do you need something more?
Make Your Body Work Podcast: Episode #096
Is Mindfulness Enough to Beat Emotional Eating? [Full Text]
Dave Smith: Hey, thanks so much for joining me in this episode of Make Your Body Work podcast. As you know this show is all about helping you live a healthier and happier life. Today we're talking about emotional eating. If I asked you, "Would you consider yourself an emotional eater," what would you say?
Just based on the sheer volumes that I get that either specifically mention emotional eating or they allude to that practice of emotional eating, I'd suggest that probably all of us are to some degree, myself included as I will talk about. You'll hear me sort of talk about why I'm an emotional eater in this episode of the podcast.
Lacy wrote in and she had a really great way of phrasing her emotional eating and some frustration she has surrounding feeding that emotional eating. Here's what she said.
Lacy wrote in, she said, "Hey Dave, I've been listening to your podcast for a long time now and one of the talks that keeps up is mindfulness. I'm on board with the benefits of being mindful, but in practicality it's not always helpful. I have powerful food cravings, and I know I'm an emotional eater, so being mindful sometimes isn't enough. I know you're big on building habits, so maybe you can share some tips on home to start."
Lacy, thanks for writing and thanks for that question. Like I said, so many of us, our eating is dictated by our life circumstance, things that are going on in our lives, relationships, work, all these different factors, and then we end up eating as a result.
Your physical health depends deeply on your emotional health. How are you caring for yourself emotionally?
I know there's all kinds of tricks out there and strategies to stop eating when we go to reach for that cookie or reach for that ice cream or whatever it is, but as you're going to hear in this interview, when we get to that point where we're actually reaching for food, it's too late or it's almost too late. There are things that we need to do far before that instance actually occurs.
I'm not going to go into any more details here because my guest, she is such an expert and so full of information about be your best self and then specifically in the realm of emotional eating. This is one of the interviews that I absolutely loved. We talked for a long time before and afterwards about how much we have in common and how much each other's messages really resonate with one another, but she really, really knows what she's talking about when it comes to changing these symptoms of emotional eating. That word is key. It's a symptom. Well, what's the actual root cause? I'll let my guest explain. I'm excited to introduce to you Celes Chua.
Meet Celes Chua
Dave: Hey, Celes, thanks so much for joining us on the show.
Celes Chua: Hey Dave, thanks so much for having me here.
Dave Smith: You know, we were just talking before we started recording here, and I was telling you about how I found out about you through a recommendation who apparently I can't remember who it was, but someone raved about you. I was checking out your website, so Personal Excellence, and I was just saying to you about how you when you speak have such a nice way about yourself and speak with such positivity and encouragement.
I was really excited for us to connect because I feel as though we kind of share maybe like a similar life mantra or maybe life purpose. I don't know. I was wondering if you could just start off by maybe telling us a little bit about why you're so focused on helping people the way that you do.
Celes Chua: Sure. I guess I can share a little bit about my back story. I'm from Singapore, grew up born and raised here, and growing up I've just always been implicitly and explicitly taught that your goal in life is to get great grades, like A's, and then get a great career, great job, and a lot of money.
That is just like what I've been taught since young. Growing up, these were the goals that I just relentlessly pursued as with all the peers and everyone around me, so in school I went to one of the top business schools in Asia, the NUS Business School. I graduated as the top student in my specialization and also got a job in the Fortune 100 company and against about a thousand applicants.
That was during my last year of university when I really started thinking about what I wanted to do in life. This was not just about what I wanted to do in my 20s or 30s but I really wanted to think about what do I want to do in my 40s, 50s, 60s, beyond, all the way through the rest of my life.
This was when, through this deep reflection and thinking, I realized that all the goals that I was pursuing, all these things about material possessions, wealth, status symbols, sure they are important in a way and they help us through life to a certain extent, but when I realized when I got to the point of death, like after death, none of these things are things that we can take with us after death. These are not permanent things.
This really shook up my whole worldview because all these things that I was taught to focus on and to base myself on and my goals on and my life on basically they were just impermanent objects that would dissipate through time.
So, then I thought about what is the one thing that is permanent, that's the most meaningful thing that I can ever do, and I realized it's developing my own consciousness and helping others to raise their consciousness, just helping others to grow. That was when I discovered my own life purpose, which is to grow and help others grow.
A purposeful life: Grow and help others grow
After two years of working in the company, I then quit to start my own business, Personal Excellence, which a personal development company and a website as well, so that was in 2008. Since then, been almost 10 years, so I have been doing this and coaching and speaking and just helping others to grow.
Dave Smith: That's amazing. I want to get a little more specific about how you had this light-bulb moment because you talked about being raised in a culture that values grades and careers and money and all these different signs of success, and then you said you realized that you can't take that with you. Was there something specific that made you realize that or was it just sort of like a growing feeling over time or how did that come about?
A Self-Induced "Aha!" Moment
Celes Chua: I think previously leading up to that I've just always been focused on achieving every single goal and putting my whole self into every goal that I was pursuing and achieving great results with that, so along with that came then with this intention to make the most out of my life and from there just deep reflection.
I think our mind is a very powerful tool. When we just think about where our goals will take us ... Say if you have this goal to earn a lot of money and be working in a corporate job and climbing up the corporate ladder, just mentally thinking, "Okay, so where would these directions take me 20, 30, 50 years from now?" You don't even have to wait 50 years to happen.
You can just mentally put yourself in those shoes, so by thinking that I realized that okay, let's say when I'm in my 40s or 50s maybe I'll have that nice house with a picket fence and everything, but then when I talk about my 60s, 70s, 80s, when I pass away, sure I'll have all this wealth and maybe great material possessions, car, whatever it is, but these are things that ... They're not going to last, and that really then got me thinking so what is that thing that will last. That's when I realized it's our consciousness and just helping people to grow.
Dave Smith: It's so interesting hearing you say that because a number of the guests that I've interviewed on this podcast have a similar story of pursuing wealth, pursuing career, and then realizing ... Usually it would be a sickness of someone in their family or maybe their own poor health caught up with them or a death or something like that.
Something really kicked them in the face to say, "Hold up. What are you actually investing your life in, and is this purposeful?" Celes, when you talk, I think you're so fortunate to have realized that without, it sounds like, a really harsh moment like that.
Celes Chua: Yeah, and I think that sometimes it can be life kicking us in the balls just with this tragedy, which I hope doesn't happen to anybody at all. It can be that and then we get aha moment, but this aha moment can also be induced by ourselves, just really thinking about what do we want to make of our life? What do we want to create with our life?
This can be self-induced just by asking ourselves this question or just by listening to this podcast right now and really thinking, "Is my life going the way I want it to go? If I pursue my current path 10, 20, 30 years from now, am I going to be closer to where I want to be?”
“What are the actions that I need to take now to just change that and start to live my life in the way that I can be proudest of? Even if things are to crumble and leave me now, that I would be proud knowing that I've lived my life the best way it can be."
Think about where you want to be tomorrow. What's one thing you can do today to lead you there?
Dave Smith: You know I relate so strongly to your message. Maybe 10 years ago I was on the fast track in the fitness world, basically to growing my brand and making more money and having more clients. Admittedly, I of course cared about my client's success, but so much of it was focused on me.
A number of things happened in my life that sort of opened my eyes to exactly what you said. I can't take this with me. Where am I going to be, what kind of person will I become in 20, 30, 40, 50 years? As I looked, projected down the path that I was headed, I didn't like that person. It was a huge wake-up call saying, "Okay, if I don't like that person that I'm becoming, what can I do right now to make that change?"
Maybe you could continue by telling us ... How do you help people when maybe they come in to you and they haven't had that realization for themselves yet? What do you do or what sort of questions would you ask to help someone understand do they need to make a change?
Change Begins on the Inside
Celes Chua: The most important thing is to recognize that the change has to start from you, and so when my clients come to me or my course participants come to me, the most important part of this interaction is actually recognizing that I'm not telling them that there's something wrong with their life or they need to change their life, but that they actually recognize, either consciously or subconsciously, that something is amiss, and that's why they're approaching someone.
This is when I can then start asking some questions like what do you feel is missing or off that is making you approach me? So then asking these questions, we can then get to a point where we can identify, okay, there are these one to two potential gaps in your life. Maybe they've just not been working in the job that they love. Maybe they are already in the direction that they love ...
For example, when you shared your story with growing your business and you are already in the direction that you love but maybe there are certain elements that's not really in sync with your identity.
Then from there building up, extrapolating, okay so if you pursue this path for another 10, 20, 30 years, is it going to bring you to where you want to be, and if not then this is the time when you can start changing by identifying what is your life purpose. What will give you that highest meaning in life?
The three key things that I always talk about ... life purpose. The second thing would be identifying your core values, your three to five core values that make up who you are and then thirdly then what would be the highest life goal space on this life purpose and your values that when you pursue will give you that highest satisfaction in life?
The most important thing about change is to recognize that it has to start from within yourself
Dave Smith: Can you give some examples of what those core values might be?
How to Discover Your Own Core Values in Life
Celes Chua: Sure, for example for myself, my values are excellence, love, and truth. It started out being five values and there were variations of these three and then over time, I then narrowed down and distilled with these three core essence.
So, excellence would be because I'm passionate about growth and just achieving the highest I can be, so, that will be excellence. Love would be because I just believe that everyone in this world deserves love, both from others and most importantly from ourselves, and thirdly, truth would be because I believe in all communications that we should always be open and transparent and just treat each other openly.
These three values ... Maybe you'll be wondering then how can we then discover our values. One way is to think about what makes you the highest person you can be. Another way, which really resonates with a lot of my course participants would be to think about the incidences where you feel annoyed or irritated or even pissed off, because that would be when your values or one of your values was violated.
For example, in the past, what made me realize truth as my value is because I realized that I just consistently don't like people who are fake or hypocrites, so when I really dug deep into that I realized, oh, it's because I really value truth very highly, just the highest truth. In the world one of the root causes of issues and working on this truth and that's that.
Then another way is to think about what excites and motivates you in life and what is the underlying theme of each of these instances. Then that would bring you to your values.
Dave Smith: I love that. That's so practical. Those are very great ways to boil down those core values. Celes, I love the three that you've chosen because even though they're specific and different, they are very all-encompassing. If you really nail those three down, you're going to be a very good version of yourself.
Celes Chua: Definitely. Using those as compasses in your daily life, even in your decision making, asking yourself, "Is this the best decision I can make?" Then for each of the listeners your value can be something else like say honesty, integrity, openness, passion, and so on, so there are all these different values. Then each of us discovering these values can start to live a life that's more authentic and true to who we are.
Dave Smith: Now, Celes, we're going to get into Lacy's question in a second, but you've really sparked a number of thoughts. One of the thoughts I have is with clients who I've worked with in the past, and I'm sure this is true for clients you've worked with as well, they may identify a core value or something that they would say is a priority in their life, and they can say that, they can write it on paper, they can identify that, but when it comes to actually playing that out in their life, there's a bit of a cognitive dissonance.
They don't see that playing out in life. What do you do with someone who's stuck in that position? "I want to be loving, I want to have high integrity, I want to be truthful, but these are the things that I'm seeing in my life that aren't there yet."
What Blockages are You Facing?
Celes Chua: My underlying belief in life is that all of us have the highest goodness inside us. If at any point we are not living that, it's usually because of some blockages or some barriers that are preventing us from being that as opposed to, "Oh, I'm not inherently this," that I need to change myself. It's more that I'm actually this person but there's something preventing me from releasing this and being this to the world.
What I would recommend is to identify what are the things in your life that's blocking or stopping you from being true to that core value, whichever it is, be it loving or truthful. Identifying what the blockage is in your life that's preventing you from say being loving or being truthful or being honest.
For example, let's say your value is loving and you want to be loving to your husband or your family members, but you find that you're often frustrated or even losing temper at them. So then understanding is there a certain blockage that's preventing you from just being that loving person to your loved ones?
Identifying that can then make that hazy problem concrete, because rather than just fighting with this very arbitrary notion, "Oh, I'm not loving enough. I need to be more loving." You are now identifying what the problem is, and from there you can then identify, "Okay, what's causing this problem, and what are the steps I can do to address that?"
For a problem to be solved, the underlying cause must first be identified
Then when these blocks are removed, you will then naturally exude these values, loving, truthful, excellence, whatever they are, because they are just part of who you are, and perhaps you are not expressing them 100% right now because they are just certain blocks.
Dave Smith: I love that. For the listeners, I feel like that's so encouraging for all of us to hear is that it's not us inherently that are missing something that prevents us from being how we want to be. It's exactly, Celes, like you said there are things that are blocking that inherent goodness or those inherent good qualities in us from coming out.
Celes Chua: Exactly.
Dave Smith: Now I do want to transition. Lacy, she wrote about mindfulness, and it sort of sounds like you were speaking a little bit there about being mindful, watching for blockages in our life and paying closer attention to the choices we make or the actions we take. She specifically is talking about being mindful when it comes to health. She's right on.
She says that, "I've been listening to your podcast for a long time," and she keeps hearing about mindfulness come up, and it does all the time. Basically her question boils down to, I get it. I need to be mindful in my life, specifically in my health, but being mindful doesn't always translate into action. Celes, do you work with people specifically regarding their health?
Emotional Eating Points to the Underlying Problem
Celes Chua: Definitely. If I may share, I used to be a heavy emotional eater so I can definitely relate to Lacy's situation. I was born in Singapore and my ethnicity is Chinese, so in the Chinese culture, it is quite a high context culture in that, unlike in the Western countries or the Western culture, typically in my parents' generation, they don't really express themselves through words or just saying, "I love you," or giving you a hug or through physical actions, but rather they express their intentions through several acts, and in the case of my parents, it was through food.
For example, when they were raising me they would always be asking me questions like, "Are you hungry? Should I cook something for you?" Not just asking once or twice a day, but repeatedly throughout the day. I think part of it is because they were born in the post-war era in the 1940s, so that was when I think for many parts of the world food was a huge scarcity.
They were born in that climate, and because of that, food to them is something that is important in terms of just nourishment, of expressing love because they didn't really have that. So then food became this agent of expressing love and it became this symbol of love for me growing up. I spent throughout my teenage years just constantly being given food as a way of my mom or my dad expressing their love for me.
Subconsciously what was embedded in my consciousness is that oh food is love. When I eat, I'm expressing love to myself. When I accept someone's offer or gift for food then I'm receiving love. Consequently, in my late teens to early 20s and mid-20s, I realized a lot of the behavior exhibited was that when I was stressed or frustrated or just having a lot of workload, I would automatically turn to food.
I will say a large chunk of my years battling with emotional eating, I wasn't aware that I was an emotional eater until later on when I wanted to lose weight as part of being healthy, I realized that despite being able to achieve almost every goal in my life from studies to career to income and so on, weight loss was that consistent one goal that I couldn't achieve at that point.
When I really drilled down, I realized it was because of these weird, bizarre uncontrollable eating habits. I realized that I was actually an emotional eater, so I definitely relate to Lacy's situation because she's saying that she's on board with the benefits of being mindful, but in practicality it's not always helpful.
This is something I tell all my course participants. I run an emotional eating program ... which is that emotional eating, despite what ... I think many people would think, "Oh when I'm emotional eating, I have committed a sin or it's bad. This is the problem. How can I solve the problem?"
I think here it's important to recognize that when emotional eating happens, it is actually the end of the problem. When emotional eating happens is when the problem is manifesting itself in the physical world by way of our actions or weird, bizarre food cravings at night.
What is really the start of the problem is say way before that, say way earlier in the day or several days ago when there was certain void or emotional need or other things that we were not really meeting in our life that we didn't attend to at the time and then we sort of let that build up over time and I think this is true for other kinds of behavior.
Say for ... Not trying to trivialize smoking but I think for certain addictive behaviors, it is true to a certain extent that usually when you're trying to quit and then you successfully quit for several days but then you suddenly feel this urge ... That is the end of that problem and it's just the problem revealing itself in the physical world, but rather the start of the problem was way before that when certain things were not met.
Dave Smith: I love that explanation. As you were describing that, I was just thinking about how that plays out in my own life because I would say I'm an emotional eater as well. To be honest, I think everyone is to some degree, and I-
Celes Chua: Totally. Totally.
Dave Smith: I notice that the times when I'm most susceptible to eating emotionally would be when I'm lonely, and so if I'm not out with friends or with family and I'm not working and if I'm just home by myself, I don't like watching TV so much or maybe I read a book and I'm sick of reading and ... What is it? It's to fill that gap.
You talked about it could have started a day or two days earlier. I do notice if I was socially deprived or got less social interaction than I would typically like for a day or two, that emotional eating urge is much, much stronger. Would you say that's similar for you as well?
Remember, Emotional Eating is a Symptom!
Celes Chua: That is definitely true. So, at the point when the emotional eating urge is extremely strong, I think a lot of people tend to then beat themselves up. "Oh, I must discipline myself not to eat this, and if I don't it's my fault."
I think here it is important to recognize that when that happens, it is actually at the point when it's very difficult to reverse it because you're already dealing with all these different cues and emotional eating indicators or things that you have been ignoring before, be it say loneliness or social need or self-love and so on, so when it builds up to the point when you're actually mentally thinking, "Oh, I need to reach out for that cookie or that chocolate." Usually it is very difficult to resolve that because you're already in the state of a low consciousness
That's where Lacy's point comes in because she's saying she recognized the benefits of being mindful, but it's difficult. It is true because if you're at the point when you're already at a low consciousness, it is very difficult and unrealistic to be talking about mindfulness.
Rather, what we should be doing is actually firstly not to beat ourselves up over any kinds of emotional eating behavior that we have, but to start distancing ourselves from the problem and recognizing that this is actually objectively a symptom.
Emotional eating is a symptom, and I tell this to all my course participants. It is not the problem. The problem is something else, and we are here to find out what that is. This problem can be, say, certain loneliness, not addressing our social needs, lack of self-love or a frustration with our current career path.
So here it is important to identify, say ... I'll recommend to my course participants, two to three situations when you observe this emotional eating behavior surfacing and for example, Dave your example is fantastic about you ... and you're already extremely mindful and conscious to actually be able to pinpoint and say, "Oh, actually I've observed that it's two to three days before I have that desire that perhaps I've not really been tending to social meetups or social activities." You're actually extremely conscious to be able to identify that.
I think for many emotional eater, perhaps firstly identifying what are these two to three situations. Maybe it is at night, 10:00 p.m., I just got back from work, and I suddenly feel this need to reach out and grab that pack of biscuits even though I just met my friends and had a full dinner, which truly that doesn't make any sense at all, and you notice that happening every single day, so that could be one type of scenario.
Another type of scenario that my course participants share would be, say at work a customer is rude to them and suddenly they will ... They will deal with the situation fine and very professionally, but after that for some reason they will think, "Oh, I need to eat something."
When you really pinpoint to understand what is that thinking, perhaps a thought pattern could be, "Oh I just dealt with this difficult customer, and I feel nasty about myself, so I need to get food as a reward."
Identifying what are these two to three key incidences or situations when you observe that emotional eating behavior happening, and this can be an exercise that you do when you are in a more conscious state, and then trying to understand, okay what is this thinking pattern that's causing this unexplainable urge to eat or desire to eat and understanding is there certain gap or voids or issues in these situations and how can you address them…
Because obviously food isn't a solution because if food is the solution, we wouldn't be here talking about this topic, and Lacy wouldn't be sending in the question. If food is the solution then everyone would just be eating themselves and solving their problems, but obviously it's not.
There are issues of all this emotional baggage like people feeling self-hate or feeling angry at themselves when eating when they don't want to, so removing food from the equation because it's just been so deeply tangled and interweave from growing up.
Our childhood stories all tangle up, so we want to first objectify the situation and remove food from the issue because somehow food got trapped in the problem. Maybe the problem is all this pervasive advertising that tells us that you need to eat this ... All this advertising for example in McDonald's you see adverts of happy families together eating.
For someone seeing an advertisement like this, maybe you're thinking, "Oh when I eat McDonald's I can be happy, and I can have a happy family life." So, removing food from this equation so that you can then really deal and tackle with that problem directly itself.
Dave Smith: There's so much wisdom in there. One thing that I was thinking as you were speaking about identifying some of the triggers or the causes, the initial root of this emotional eating as opposed to just looking at the symptoms. An analogy that I can use is quite often I'll have people write in.
I've done a number of shows about digestive poor health. So for example, someone might eat something for breakfast one morning and for some people they might have a symptom an hour later or even shorter than that. 10 minutes later they could feel well, whereas some people might react to a food and might not feel that poor health or that discomfort for 12 hours or even a day later.
I've talked to clients many times about how that's a difficult link to connect because the action happened so far before the result, to sort of backtrack in your mind and say, "Oh, that was caused by what I ate yesterday for breakfast," is tough.
I guess my question for you is, to link these triggers and say, "Okay, my emotional eating is caused by a grumpy customer that I saw this morning," when there's a big-time gap in between, how is someone able to do that?
Finding Your Emotional Eating Resolution
Celes Chua: Definitely one step at a time. I remember back when I was an emotional eater, so I would say it was my mid-20s when I really started addressing my emotional eating issues and that went on for at least maybe one to ... a few years before I really fully resolved it, so I'm in my 30s now. I would categorize the resolution of emotional eating as a spectrum.
The very beginning point is when people are totally not conscious that they are emotional eaters. I totally agree with you Dave, I think actually many people in the society are emotional eaters. They just don't know especially because food is such a pervasive part of our culture, so Lacy, by sending in this question she already recognizes that so she's already past that stage.
The next part would be recognizing the points when emotional eating happens. When I was an emotional eater what I would observe is late at night just uncontrollably reaching out for food. Like I said, at this point usually it's really kind of past that point so trying to use discipline or beat yourself up is quite difficult because there's already all this compounded thoughts that's leading to you reaching out for the food.
What you can do at this stage is don't beat yourself up over it but be aware of what's happening. Be aware that does this behavior happening right now that's not really what you want. Then the next day you can start to just consciously process the events that is happening.
I believe humans are all intelligent animals and when certain problems start happening too often we start to recognize this is not what we want. This is not what we want at all, and that is what was happening to me. It was happening over and over again.
I was really fed up of it that at night I was so angry at this whole situation. I felt powerless. I just felt like I wanted to stop eating. I couldn't control myself. Sometimes I would just eat myself so full and just go to bed because I just didn't want to face the world anymore.
But then the next day just continuing to chip away at this problem, and what I realized after a period was that I was actually putting a lot of stress on myself so then the reaching out of food was sort of my way of dealing with all this stress and negativity that I was piling on myself.
It may seem un-intuitive because I think for a lot of people maybe when they see, "Oh I'm an emotional eater and I must control my eating habits. I must lock the food in the cabinet," which are all practical steps, but here recognizing that there's actually this link you'll see when we establish eating in response to stress or even loneliness and this could be a few weeks later of actually reflecting on a situation, but here you want to then after identifying this gap say stress.
For me it was ... I then started to think about, okay, what are the ways that I can deal with my stress instead? Now the funny thing is that in the past I never thought of myself as someone who feels stress, and that actually makes sense because I was using food as this agent to deal with the stress, and that's why I never felt stress, but when I started removing food from the equation, that was when I really felt like there were times when I feel stress.
So then understanding, okay then what's causing the stress, and from there realizing I actually have ... I continuously put all this to-do's every day for myself and I feel like I need to do everything and if I don't then I'm not living up to my goals or the things I want to live up to.
Obviously it's a very ... Now it sounds more and more complex, but I think it's understanding that emotional eating didn't develop overnight, but it's something that usually is tied to how we were raised with food and obviously with the advertising in the media about food and how I think food is often very unhealthily associated with a set of emotions as marketers try to play it up, but being able to just take a step back and start to break down the problem one by one and identifying ways to tackle that, say stress.
Okay then what are other ways that you can tackle stress? Why are you giving yourself so much stress? Then understanding, okay, can I then remove some parts of the stress? Can I identify other stress-dealing mechanisms? For example, journaling, taking a walk in the park every other day, cutting down on my to-do list but not compromising on my results by just focusing on the key [inaudible 00:35:01] tasks and so on.
Dave Smith: Celes, I agree with everything you're saying here, and you used the word, "it's counterintuitive," and I do believe that's so true because I imagine someone like Lacy ... Actually, I won't put words into Lacy's mouth, but just from so many clients in Lacy's position who I've worked with, they will say, "Okay, I ate this big bowl of ice cream. I was feeling down. I had a rough day, and I came home and I ate it. I felt terrible, and I told myself never again."
That's them addressing that symptom and saying, "Bad," like slapping themselves on the wrist. "I was bad for doing that and I will never do it again," but they're never actually addressing what caused that situation in the first place.
Everything that you've described is just so clear that we really need to take inventory of our lives and figure out what are these triggers, what are these situations, what are these habits, what are these mind-sets that perhaps we've been developing, we've been cultivating ever since we were children. Once we start to understand some of those points, then it becomes much more clear as to why we're even choosing to eat in the first place.
Case Study: Beating Emotional Eating
Celes Chua: Exactly. If I may share an example with one of my course participants, she was just getting all these cookie attacks was the way she framed it, and emotional eating and she noticed that from working through the problem, she started becoming conscious of times when she would actually reach out for a cookie and then finish off the whole jar.
This is actually good in a sense that she became aware of the problem, so then when we dug deeper, "Okay, so why were you reaching out for that first cookie to begin with?" Without blaming whatsoever because there's no blame here. Nobody's at fault.
This is just an objective occurrence in reality that was certain eating behaviors you didn't agree with this behavior. It's not in line with your desire to be healthy. Okay, let's understand what happened right there.
So from digging deeper into that behavior, okay, why did I ... At that point when I reach out for my first cookie, let's not talk about the second or the third, but the first cookie, what happened? What went through your mind? Why did you reach out for that first cookie?
She then realized that actually her erratic eating behaviors came from a certain sense of resentfulness, so then when we started digging deeper ... Resentfulness? Why is there this resentfulness? She realized that there was this part of her, and she wasn't even aware of this.
This was just all happening subconsciously and it was only through the question that she [inaudible 00:37:35] realized she was actually resentful at her husband, and she loved her husband to bits. They had been married for a long time. She loves him.
They are childhood sweethearts, but she realized that part of her was resentful at her husband because she felt she was giving up so much of herself for the family, giving up even pursuing her ideal career, just for the household and the kids, and then when we then identify okay so the problem is that she wasn't living up to her ideal version of herself.
She was giving up so much of herself for family and kids, which she loves doing, but she wished that her husband can also be helping her out in this issue.
So upon realizing this then I ask, did her husband know that? She said no. She has actually never talked to her husband about this, and how could she? She wasn't even aware of this before.
What I recommend to her was to talk to her husband, and she did, and they had a very open conversation that really relieved her emotionally.
They agreed to identify steps to share more of the responsibilities, and to work on these issues knowing that it's not an overnight thing but it will take time and more conversations and subsequently in the next three weeks, she just lost six kg, which is 13 pounds.
And this was without forcing herself not to eat and all this mumbo jumbo behavior that I think a lot of weight loss programs tend to focus on which is the actions, but not the emotions like what's happening underneath that's causing all this emotional eating behavior or erratic eating.
Make Your Body Work Takeaway
Dave Smith: That's an impressive story. I really appreciate though how you said when she started speaking with her husband, they knew that it wasn't going to be just one conversation. This would be a series of conversations.
For anyone who's listening right now, it's probably not going to be one realization and all the sudden things are going to get easy, but that realization will be the first step in changing your thought patterns, changing your behaviors, changing your approach and your relationship with food.
Celes, I want to wrap up this show with what we call a Make Your Body Work takeaway and this is just sort of one key action step that people like Lacy who are struggling with emotional eating can take today. What would you say is that one first step?
Celes Chua: I think the first thing would be recognizing, definitely Lacy and to all of you listening, that this, if you have been experiencing emotional eating, that you're not alone in this problem.
Back when I was emotional eating, I really felt like I was alone in the issue, and that often caused me to feel trapped, even say in the very few times when I did talk to someone about it, the friend wouldn't be able to identify with that and said that it was a problem that I was [inaudible 00:40:23] and so on, but I want you to know that you're not alone in this problem.
There are many people out there who experience emotional eating like I myself did too, and it's possible to overcome this. The next would be then recognizing you're not alone, to know that emotional eating is a symptom, not a problem, so stop putting pressure on yourself or blaming yourself. You don't deserve any of that.
Food is fuel. Food is also enjoyment. Where's your balance?
The easiest way is to just be more conscious. The next time if you have this urge to eat beyond what you deserve or you need nutritionally, just be more conscious of that and try to understand and trace back when did this desire start.
Maybe you'll find that oh this thought to reach out for a donut or a chocolate cake and so on, it was happening right when I was working, I was in my seat, and I was thinking about all the work I had to do later on for the next three hours.
So, then that could be a certain point to then go deeper. Why is this thought surfacing? Why do I feel the need to eat when I'm thinking about work? Then perhaps you realize perhaps there's certain stress or certain heavy load that you feel you have in your life.
If you define the problem you can then identify okay, how can I start to break it down step-by-step, knowing that it doesn't have to be resolved overnight because I took ... From the point when I consciously started working on my emotional eating, it was definitely one year of very, very concentrated action and reflection on this and then subsequently for the next couple of years dealing with any remnants of that behavior and finally overcoming it. Know that you're not alone.
I actually have a six-part emotional eating series, which I guess Dave you can link in the show notes where I share my story of emotional eating and advice on how to overcome that so you can check that out on my blog.
Get in Touch with Celes
Dave Smith: I will do that. So, for the listeners if you go to makeyourbodywork.com/95, I'll have a link to that resource as well as Celes' website. Celes, if people want to contact you, is your website, is that sort of the best place to reach you?
Celes Chua: Definitely. My website is Personal Excellence, so that's personalexcellence.co, which is dot co, so there there's a contact page and you can also subscribe to my newsletter. That's where I share free tips on how to live your best life. I have an emotional eating program and that's only open when the enrollment starts, which will be in time to come, so if you're on the newsletter you can get exclusive offers and notifications when the course opens so you can then check it out when the time happens.
Dave Smith: Awesome. Celes, thanks so much. I personally feel really inspired. Hopefully Lacey, hopefully you're listening and you do as well, and to all the other listeners who have struggled with emotional eating or are right now, I know that everyone's going to come away with a lot of great action steps from what you shared so Celes, thanks so much for your time today.
Celes Chua: Thanks so much for having me, Dave.
Dave Smith: Celes, thanks again. I just absolutely loved that interview and loved the positive message that you shared. When we make those decisions to eat something that we really don't want to eat, it's not that we're bad. It's not that we're a failure. That's a symptom of some habits or some things that are going on in our lives. It's really important that we remember that. We're not bad. We just want to work on figuring out what the symptom is that caused that action.
Thanks for that message and all the strategies you shared. Thanks to everyone who tuned in. Lacey, hopefully you listened to this as well and learned something from it. Thanks for everyone who maybe is dealing with your own emotional eating, I too would sort of challenge you as I always do to think about what was the one thing that you learned today from Celes’s talk, from what she shared, that applies to you? Then how are you going to implement that in your life?
I'd just like to say if you need help with that, email me. That's what I'm here for. That's the reason that this podcast is here, or you can contact Celes. I know she'd be willing to help you as well. She'd love to help you make those transformational steps.
If you would like some help from me or you have a question for the show, you can reach me anytime at [email protected], and that's sort of like ... I always say that's my favorite thing in my job is hearing from you, and it's true. I would love to hear your questions and just as importantly, I'd love to hear about the successes in your life because that's really what gets me going when I hear from someone who says, "I listened to this podcast episode. Here's what I did, and here's the result. This is what I'm seeing changed in my life." If that's you, I would absolutely love to hear from you. Please, please write to me.
I do have a favor. If you enjoy this show, I just ask that you go to iTunes and give it a rating or give it a comment. That really helps other people find it as well and hopefully myself and the guests on this show can impact their lives as well, so it's really simple to do. All you need to do is go to makeyourbodywork.com/iTunes, and that will take you to the iTunes store and you can just give it a rating and like I said or a comment and that would be really, really helpful to hear your feedback and to help other people find the show.
That's it for today. I'll be back here again with a new question and a new expert guest again next week, so I can't wait to see you here again next week.