What people get wrong when they try to stop emotional eating

Coronavirus is the world’s greatest emotional eating storm.

From food shortages to being quarantined at home, Coronavirus has given us all an existential scare.

To top things off, we’re bored from not seeing our friends, and mentally fatigued from all the uncertainties of contagion.

Put simply, coronavirus is making people emotionally eat

As a result of coronavirus, we are seeing people change their behaviors. Amazon is seeing record profits as people shift their behavior online, and people are shifting their behavior at home as well.

People are emphasizing self-care more than ever.

Partly as a way to boost the immune system and prevent coronavirus, people have become more interested in self care activities like meditation, journaling, and sleep than perhaps at any other time in history.

Of course, people are also interested in self care to stop emotional eating, right? Why not prevent coronavirus and stop emotional eating at the same time by harnessing the power of self care?

After all, there’s no commute to work, so why not devote the extra time to taking care of yourself?

We all know that ‘eating our feelings’ is not ideal

We all know that instead of coping with stress through food, we should go on a walk outside in nature. Or take a hot bath. There are a thousand different forms of self care, and we all know we should do self care instead of stress eating.

Many people try to stop stress eating by using self-activities. However, unfortunately people often find themselves right back where they started – staring at the remnants of a pizza crust or the last few crumbs at the bottom of a bag of chips.

We try to take care of ourselves; but self care doesn’t quite work for some reason. Why is that? What are we missing?

The short answer is mindset. We lack the right mindset

We have all the self-care actions to take with our body, like the actions of going on a walk, journaling, or meditating.

But as you study personal development, you realize that body and mind must go together. Without the right emotional eating mindsets, the actions will fall short.

And the mindset that many people lack is the mindset of the ‘reptilian’ brain.

About The Reptilian Brain

What many people don’t realize is that deep within their brain, they have a ‘reptilian’ brain.

This reptilian brain can actually shut down the thinking mind if there is danger.

For example, if you were attacked by a tiger, your reptilian brain would shut down your thinking mind and make you run away.

Another example, one time I was cooking and set my hand on the stove. Instantly my hand had zoomed back up to my ear! I was flabbergasted. What happened?

But then my hand started to sting and burn. The electric burner was scorching hot!

My hand had moved before I even realized it!

My reptilian brain had moved my hand before I even ‘thought’ about it.

How To Use Reptilian Brain Awareness To Stop Emotional Eating

If you are in danger, your reptilian brain can overtake you and make you emotionally eat.

That’s what most people don’t realize, it’s the mindset they are missing.

Let’s say you are feeling stressed one evening, and you journal or go on a walk instead of giving into food cravings.

You feel proud of yourself.

But then you hear some news about the coronavirus, and all of a sudden your reptilian brain has overtaken you and made you emotionally eat.

Because you didn’t know about the reptilian brain, you mistakenly think that ‘you’ lost control.

You think that you ‘thought’ to emotionally eat. So you blame yourself, and stop engaging in self care behaviors like journaling.

After all, why journal or go on a walk if you are going to lose control out of the blue? Generally humans will stick to behaviors and routines that are predictable, but this reptilian brain throws everything out the window!

However, with awareness of the reptilian brain and how it functions, you can change your behaviors.

How To Deal With The Reptilian Brain

For starters, a critical part of ending emotional eating is ‘meta awareness’. Meta awareness is the awareness of your different brain functions.

As you become aware of the mindset of the reptilian brain, you can become more aware of when the reptilian brain is going to take over your thinking brain.

For example, you might notice yourself getting ‘tunnel vision’ where all you can think about is food. That’s your reptilian brain taking over.

You might find yourself feeling very foggy headed or like you can’t think at all. Again, that’s your reptilian brain.

By being able to sense with meta awareness that your reptilian brain is starting to act up, you can more easily resist the reptilian brain.

Previously, if someone had lacked the awareness of their reptilian brain, they wouldn’t be able to comprehend the anxiety, tunnel vision or inability to think.

But now this person has the language, the mental schema, to process the information of the reptilian brain and take different actions.

Plus, a person can more easily forgive themselves and not fall into dark spirals of negative rumination.

If your reptilian brain is the one to blame, you can more easily release guilt and shame around eating. After all, you aren’t ‘deciding’ to eat. It’s your reptilian brain!

About the Author: Jared Levenson lived as a Zen Monk for 13 months. After studying yoga and mindfulness, he shifted to the application of yoga and mindfulness to food. Jared discovered Intuitive Eating, the intersection of food and mindfulness, and went on to get his Master’s in counseling and start Eating Enlightenment, a blog focusing on Intuitive Eating, Mindfulness and Nutrition.