Learning to honor your feelings is an important step to becoming attuned to your body's needs, which is the ultimate goal of intuitive eating. (Emily Gonçalves)
Learning to honor your feelings is an important step to becoming attuned to your body's needs, which is the ultimate goal of intuitive eating.

Emily Gonçalves

Intuitive Eating with Mimi: Honoring your feelings

How to move through your emotions without food

November 13, 2019

(Photo courtesy Mimi Cole)

Our emotions deserve to be attended to and are an important part of connecting with our bodies. The seventh principle of intuitive eating is to honor your feelings without using food. Sometimes, we turn to food to numb our emotions or to distract us from feeling. As I mentioned in my previous article, eating is just one of many coping skills. It does not replace the importance of dealing with our emotions. It is important that we sit with our feelings and learn from them. This can come in the form of therapy, journaling about different emotions and internal reflection. 

Therapy can be helpful for everyone, not just those with diagnosed mental illnesses. Therapy is for people who want a trained professional to listen to them in a non-judgemental space. It is for those who want to learn more about themselves and grow as individuals. Therapy can help us learn how to best cope as interdependent and relational beings who can’t help being affected by those around us. Therapy can also help  people who want to discover more about how they relate to others and who are seeking connection.

Our emotions give us information. They are our body’s way of signaling that something needs to be attuned to. This can come in the form of sadness such as from a breakup or failing an exam, which may tell us that we need to pay special attention to ourselves ourselves during a difficult time. This can come in the form of anger, which reflects a passion that we have for a subject or people group. Honoring our feelings actually helps us be more attuned to our bodies as a whole, as we learn how to listen, pay attention and respond accordingly to our body and brain’s needs. 

One of my favorite therapists Tiffany Roe talks often about a concept wrapped up in three words feel, deal, heal. We have to feel our emotions in order to grapple and deal with them, so that we can heal. Think for example of a stressful time where emotions are heightened, such as with final exams coming up soon, figuring out summer plans and planning courses for next semester. Emotions like fear may come up for those of us who are figuring out post-graduate plans, homesickness may come into swing with the end of the semester or some people may have anxiety about going home. When we don’t feel our emotions, they build up and become overwhelming. When we take the time to pay attention to and learn from our emotions, however, they teach us and help us to grow. As we listen to our bodies, they are better able to support us because they trust us to come through. We become more connected with our bodies as we attend to its needs. 

Intuitive eating is about healing your relationship with food and restoring it to normalcy, so that you can focus on living a full life of engagement and listening to your body and self. Dealing with our emotions and facing them head on is also a key part of values-based living, one of the ultimate goals of intuitive eating.

Here are a few tools for feeling your emotions this season:

  1. Practice sharing your true and precise emotions with your people: Instead of a bland, “I’m fine,” try something like, “I’m feeling excited about…” or “I’m feeling sad about…” Precision of emotions helps us to be attuned to what we are really feeling and work through those emotions.
  2. Journal about your emotions: Maybe sharing them honestly feels too heavy right now, but you can always write down how you are feeling and reflect on it. 
  3. Try therapy: As I mentioned before, therapy is for everyone, and is a great tool for self-growth. Check out our therapists at the UCC, or in our local community
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