Trauma – an emotional wound or shock that causes substantial damage to psychological development.
Whether it be an illness, natural disaster, or a lost sense of safety or security there are many situations in life that can leave an imprint on us.
Any sort of trauma affects our ability to process stress which can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms for dealing with emotions, especially if we were too young to deal with the traumatic event in an effective way. Often the feelings attached to these events will stay in the subconscious part of the mind, and you might not even be aware of this.
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 and, without help, do not have the know-how or emotional maturity to deal with such difficult life situations.
Patterns That Protect Us
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 when we were at our most susceptible to outside influences and manipulation.
Everything we are told as children about who we are, what we can and can’t do creates our self-image and our self-worth. It also influences how we deal with others and our relationship with 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
- 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 a cycle of 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.
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.
Small Traumas Add Up
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. Continuous 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.
Detect Hidden Stress
Many physical symptoms of stress are often hidden or are not typically 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
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Increased sweating
- Restlessness, tapping your foot or hand
- 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
Drs. Note: If you are experiencing more than 2 of the above symptoms regularly, it is vital you find effective ways of reducing your stress levels as soon as possible.
Being in a constant state of stress keeps the nervous system in a state of “fight or flight.”
But it doesn’t have to be this way!
3 Steps To De-Stress Your Life And Shed Unwanted Weight
1. 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 shed weight at the same time.
I recommend you try listening to it once a day for three weeks. Click here to download.
2.Learn The Difference: Emotional Hunger vs. 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 in 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 – 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.
3. Balance Your Emotions
When you feel stressed or upset, find out what emotion you are feeling and label it.
“What am I feeling?
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.
You can release tension and come back into your natural state of health by tapping into the subconscious mind and dissolving the root of your heaviness.
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 on emotional eating and how you deal with stress.
We encourage you to follow the above tips for 3 weeks and look forward to hearing about the changes you notice and the balance you feel!
Do leave us a comment in the box below and subscribe to our blog for more tips on healthy weight management and personal development.
We are Joy and Roy Martina MD, authors and creators of Sleep Your Fat Away. We have trained thousands of people in lifestyle changes and personal development over many years. We are very busy people ourselves and know what it’s like to raise a family and juggle a demanding work life. We have spent a lot of time and resources researching effective ways to help our clients improve their lives and process stress in a self-loving and effective way.
In Boundless Love,
Us National Library of Medicine: http://1.usa.gov/1MnveMZ