Joy Martina explains how traumatic childhood experiences affect our ability to deal with stress and can lead to emotional overeating and obesity.
Did you know that children who go through adverse experiences have a 50% higher risk of being overweight or obese as adults?
Studies show that the following traumas have a significant influence on a person’s risk of becoming severely overweight:
- Physical, verbal and sexual abuse
- Physical and emotional neglect
- Having a parent who was an alcoholic or diagnosed mentally ill
- A family member being in prison
- Having a mother who was being abused
- Losing a parent through abandonment or divorce
As children, we are at our most vulnerable. Without proper help children do not have the know-how or emotional maturity to deal with these difficult life situations. In order to survive, our child minds create behavior patterns to help us overcome these often very scary challenges and we somehow muddle through to adulthood, when we can decide and fend for ourselves. However, as these childhood patterns are stored deep inside our subconscious mind together with our memories of the traumas, we often unknowingly take them with us into adulthood. This is especially true if we are under the age of seven when the events took place. This is when we were at our most susceptible to outside influences and manipulation.
Everything we are told as children about who we are creates our self-image and our self-worth. It also influences how we deal with others and our relationship to food.
So if for example, you suffered from neglect and/or abuse as a child and were brought up to believe you were too dumb, ugly, slow or just plain “bad” then a part of you will still unconsciously believe it, even though you might consciously know otherwise. These beliefs will subconsciously rule your behavior, in particular, your emotions and how you deal with stress.
And how we deal with stress greatly influences our relationship with food and makes us prone to emotional eating.
Emotional eating is when we eat, not because we are hungry but as a way of coping with negative emotions. Here are just a few examples of the subconscious reasons people overeat.
- Poor Self-Image
Some people never liked their self-image and created a pattern of overeating as a way of consoling themselves – they feel their weight doesn’t matter anymore as “they are unattractive anyway”.
Others were never taken seriously and being overweight gives them “more presence”.
Other people create a layer of fat around them to metaphorically protect them from getting the attention they don’t want.
A Case Study: Sybille’s Story
Sybille was an unwanted, 4th child who grew up in an emotionally and verbally abusive environment. Her siblings were the kind of shiny, successful people she would have loved to be herself. The home environment was aggressive and ambitious and she was constantly being compared to her athletic, slim, successful siblings. She felt she could never compete with their “perfection”. Food was the only childhood pleasure she can remember having – it comforted her and numbed the pain of feeling unloved – and so she ate. Due to the years of hearing how ugly, useless, unworthy and unwanted she was, she simply gave up. She confessed that, at times, she wanted to end her life as it didn’t seem worth living. She did not believe she could ever step out of being a victim and have the strength to create a life she loved. She subconsciously used her fat to become invisible and prove how undesirable and unlovable she was. This old programming was still active in her when she came to see us. We helped her release that pattern which, in turn, enabled her to lose weight and feel safe doing so.
But you don’t necessarily need to experience “a big trauma” to fall prey to a destructive subconscious pattern or program, which leads to emotional overeating. Continuously high-stress levels (pressure at work, financial worries, trouble in a close relationship, problems in family life) can have the same effect. It is crucial to recognize the often hidden physical symptoms of stress so you can counteract them and bring your stress levels down.
How to detect hidden stress
Many physical symptoms of stress are often hidden or are not associated with stress so it can be hard to know whether or not you are suffering from stress. Here is a list Roy and I have compiled of the most common symptoms of stress or anxiety – use it to run a check on your own stress levels:
- Weight gain
- Frequent headaches
- Body aches or tension
- Restlessness, tapping your foot or hand
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Increased sweating
- Insomnia, nightmares, sleepwalking, or disturbed sleep
- Frequent illnesses
- Decreased interest in sex, sexual arousal problems, reduced fertility
- Mood swings, difficulties with concentration, decision-making, and memory
If you are experiencing more than 2 of the above symptoms regularly, it is vital you find effective ways of reducing your stress levels.
3 steps to de-stress your life and lose weight
- Take a Power Break
Mind-body practices such as focused deep breathing, guided meditations and yoga can be very helpful. Make a point of taking 15-30 minutes a day for your “downtime” – no matter how much work you still need to do. Switch off all devices and devote this time to yourself. We have prepared a special guided meditation, which allows you to not only relax but also trains your brain to help you lose weight at the same time. I recommend you try listening to it once a day for three weeks. Click here to download.
- Learn the difference between emotional hunger and real hunger
Real hunger develops slowly. It starts with a subtle sensation in your belly and turns into a very tangible feeling. It is often audible –the rumble of your tummy getting louder and louder until it becomes so loud and you get so hungry you feel slightly faint and nauseated. In today’s western world of ever-present snacks and a general abundance of food, not many of us go really hungry very often (unless we consciously chose to because of a diet or fast).
Emotional hunger is very different: it suddenly jumps on you; it feels more like an “attack”. You have a sudden and very overwhelming urge to eat a usually very specific food – and eat it now! There is no slow build-up like with real hunger, no rumble from an empty stomach – and eating something healthy, like an apple, just doesn’t feel enticing.
- Balance your emotions
When you feel stressed or upset, find out what emotion you are feeling exactly and label it. Ask yourself: “What am I feeling? Angry? Anxious? Sad? Worried? Lonely? Bored? Overwhelmed?” Once you have determined what it is that you are feeling, you need to balance this emotion and step back into your power of peace, or at least neutrality. Roy and I are constantly researching the best ways to help people step out of the frenzy of stress and overwhelming emotions. One of our favorites is the Emotional Balance Havening Technique that we use in Sleep your Fat Away. It is a simple, yet powerful exercise you can do any time you feel out of balance. Within minutes it will return you to your neutral, powerful state of being.
If you want to work on this further consider our Sleep Your Fat Away program. Sleep Your Fat Away is based on the revolutionary modern-day science of changing lifestyle habits, eating preferences, and addictions by training your subconscious mind to help you lose weight & achieve your ideal body. In order to make real changes that last, one must make the change at the root with the subconscious; this is fact.
As a Rapid Change Coach, I am devoted to helping my clients achieve profound changes for the better in a quick and lasting way. I’d love to hear your stories about emotional eating and how you deal with stress. Please join our Facebook group to let us know what you experience when you follow the above steps and listen to the Power Break once a day for 3 weeks.
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step guidebook entitled Sleep Your Fat Away (Morgan James) is coming to Amazon in April 2015.