Like many women, I have always struggled with emotional eating. Especially when I feel anxious, my first instinct is always to eat something. I always thought that I was weak, there was something wrong with me, until I learnt to understand that this is actually a natural reaction.
Emotions such as anxiety and fear are felt in the stomach and because these feelings are uncomfortable and we are wired to always look for comfort, our first instinct is to do something to stop us feeling anxiety and feel better. What better way to numb sensations in the stomach than eating?
People also use other ways to numb their feelings – alcohol, smoking, drugs, gambling, sex, social media, shopping (online shopping), binge watching and so on… Everyone has their preferred method; or a few! I know for me social media is the next best thing after eating! This need to numb uncomfortable emotions is what causes addictions (of course there’s a physical side to addictions too but the emotional element tends to be far stronger).
Even when I became aware of the cause of my desire to binge eat, I still found it hard to control because I did not know how to deal with the uncomfortable emotions, especially when they seemed to come out of nowhere. Then I discovered this simple yet powerful meditation that totally changed the game for me. It taught me not only how to stay present with my anxiety and ‘feel it to heal it’ but it also helped me release years and years of anxiety I had bottled up.
After just a week of starting to practice this daily, I no longer felt the need to eat to numb my anxiety by eating. Here’s how it works.
Belly meditation to stop emotional eating
- Sit down in a comfortable position
- You can put on some nice meditation music if that helps you relax (I always need music)
- Take a few breaths and focus on breathing out fully – this will help you relax
- Close your eyes and put your hand on your lower belly
- Affirm that you are willing to feel what wants to be felt. You are safe. These are only sensations so they cannot hurt you (even if they feel uncomfortable).
- Remember also that you can stop at any time if it feels like too much. Especially with anxiety, you want to take it easy and not overdo it.
- Inhale all the way down to your lower belly, then exhale fully
- Continue with deep breathing but keep your breathing relaxed at the same time
- Keep your full attention on your belly and focus on the sensations you’re feeling. Notice these but don’t get too attached to them. There is no need to try to solve or even label whatever comes up, just observe the sensations.
- Fear, anger, trauma, guilt etc feelings tend to be stored in the lower belly area (sacral chakra/root chakra) – this is a very emotional area and is also connected to our creativity
- Anxiety, insecurities, self-doubt, depression etc tend to be felt in the upper belly area (solar plexus)
- Of course the above is not written in stone, you can feel any emotions anywhere, so go with what your body feels. Notice also if the sensation spreads anywhere else (e.g. I would often feel sensations from my lower stomach spread to my hips).
- There is no need to understand these sensations; just observe them.
- Affirm to yourself that you are willing to let these feelings go. As long as you’re willing, you don’t have to do anything, They’ll slowly evaporate as you allow them to come up but you do ‘have to feel it to heal it‘ as they say.
- Try to do this for at least 10 minutes (though even 5 minutes is good) and try to keep focusing on your belly (you’ll notice your mind wants to wander elsewhere all the time!)
- Do this meditation every day and you will start noticing your desire to numb with food reducing fast. Notice other benefits too, maybe you’ll feel less anxious or more yourself as you connect with your body and emotions.
You will find that as you practice this daily, after a while you stop trying to numb your emotions and instead, the second you feel any anxiety or other strong emotions, you will automatically bring your awareness to your stomach to process those emotions. With that, the need to eat to numb your emotions goes.
NOTE: When I first started practicing this daily, I had an awful lot of stuck anxiety coming up so for the first week or so I felt more anxious than ever. For that reason, it’s important to take it easy, start with just a few minutes a day and make sure you have plenty of time to rest and relax. After about a week I started feeling better than ever so it was worth sticking with it. I would also recommend that anyone suffering from severe anxiety, depression or any other mental health issues, speak to their therapist first before trying this meditation.