Emotional Eating & The Pandemic

Painting by Katie Schuessler at Inner Visions Studios

Hi beloved fans and followers,

What strange and challenging times. I’ve been watching myself and others swing between emotional extremes, and marveling at how unstable humanity is right now. Some days feel normal, joyful and elated even. Other days all we can do is lie on the floor in the fetal position. It’s so up and down.

I’ve noticed that as the novelty and initial adrenaline rush of the pandemic wears off, there seems to be a collective sorrow we’re finding ourselves in. I’ve found myself unusually susceptible to negative thoughts and mental stories, and I am strangely volatile, bursting into tears at seemingly silly small things. My negative body thoughts are also on the rise.

And then there’s our food and eating. Wow, that’s a thing.

I’m hearing pretty mixed things about how the pandemic is affecting people’s eating. Some people are doing great, developing healthy food prep habits, cooking a lot, and feeling great about the time at home to focus on their well being. Others are a hot mess, eating (sometimes to a point of self-harm) to ease difficult emotions such as stress, anxiety, fear, boredom, and sadness. Me, I’m somewhere in the middle. I’ve found myself turning to food for entertainment and comfort, sometimes in a way that feels healthy and good, and sometimes in a way that feels unskillful.

I love this word unskillful. For me, it doesn’t carry any of the judgement and baggage associated with the labels we typically apply to our eating behaviors.

My heart feels so much lighter when I notice that I am eating unskillfully than when I label my behavior with highly charged words like unhealthy, off the rails, out of control, stress eating, comfort eating, off plan, lazy, etc. The word unskillful carries with it a gentle and kind invitation- to become more skilled. No shame, blame, or judgement in the idea of becoming more skilled at something. It emphasizes the process of growth and learning.

So, how do we become more skilled at navigating highly emotional times while also treating our bodies well?

Personally, the two things have been essential for me in keeping my head on straight lately have been mindfulness tools and regular connection

Mindfulness gives us the superpower of being able to simply ride the waves of experience, letting everything all flow and pass, without resistance, grasping, clinging, or attachment.

Mindfulness teaches us how to be with things as they are.

With mindfulness we become more comfortable with strong emotional experiences (both positive and negative), and are able to feel them fully, watching them come and go as sensory experiences in the body, without feeding them with mental stories.

This is exactly why my good friend Annette and I started the Conscious Eating Community – to give others powerful mindfulness tools for shifting their relationship to food, body, and emotions, and develop more awareness, empowered choice, flexibility, and skill when it comes to their eating. 

Having both come from Bright Line Eating and benefited immeasurably from their focus on healthy habits, meal prep, weight management, and meals full of produce, we saw a major missing piece in the program – there was no longer-term path for growth toward a more empowered and self-compassionate relationship with food and eating, a path that honors the individuality of each person’s unique struggles, truths, and journeys, and helps people to gradually develop trust in their own intuition. 

So, we created that path. 

We’ve developed a fabulous foundations course and framework consisting of eight core practices that we’ve found to be the most powerful in our own transformations with food, body, and emotions. I’ve by no means mastered them (people spend a lifetime focusing on each one) but I continue to work with them and feel their impact every single day. They are quite the potent personal growth cocktail.

This sort of gentle, self-compassionate approach to viewing ourselves and our eating is so valuable, especially in times of emotional upheaval.   

Each week, our regular offerings in the community reflect these eight core practices. Exactly how each person applies each practice to their life is deeply unique, ever-changing, and personal. Some people connect with a few of them, some with all of them. We’ve watched in amazement as our community members have used these practices to explore nuanced and complex questions such as:

  • When can eating an indulgent food be a form of self care, and when is it harmful?
  • How can fun things like Netflix and social media be used in a way that supports our well being? 
  • How could you shift your experience of a food craving to a relatively peaceful state despite the same feeling of craving being present? 
  • How can you envision yourself leading your best life in a way that actually leads you to making choices that build towards it? 
  • How could you love your difficult emotions as much as the positive ones?
  • What is your heart really hungry for right now?

We’ve been astounded at how the members of our community have shown up to support each other and share their vulnerabilities, and the existence of this nurturing and supportive space couldn’t be any more timely. I too have been leaning heavily on this community to get my own support, and am so grateful to have such a loving network to lift me up each day.

So if you’re finding yourself needing more support and connection, and struggling with your eating and self-aggressive thoughts and judgements toward yourself about it, I hope you’ll check us out. It’s free to join for a week, and you get full access to our foundations course and community during that time.

Click Here to Learn More About the Conscious Eating Community

Wishing you the support and courage to ride the waves of instability.

Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to be of greater support to you right now, whether it’s pandemic-friendly recipes and food prep tips, or just somebody to talk to. You can reach me at katiesbrightkitchen@gmail.com. 💜

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