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Food for Emotional Hunger – Learning to say NO!!

– Posted in: Personal Growth

Me and Emotional Hunger go a long way back – all the way to my teenage years when I started using peanut butter and honey to feed my hunger for love, for close relationships.  I’ve known for quite some time that I don’t have to look outside of me for love and close relationships, that my first step is to learn to love myself and to build close relationships with my body and with my emotions.  Intellectually, that’s a no-brainer, but putting it into practice is an ongoing journey of seeing the light, falling down, discovering a new piece of the puzzle, and learning to be patient with the process.

Quite recently, I’ve found a fascinating piece of my puzzle…

One of my reasons for overeating, or snacking when I’m not physically hungry, has to do with my lack of personal boundaries and my inability to say NO.  

It has to do with interactions with others and not setting boundaries that allow me to take care of my own needs first.  And when I don’t take care of my own needs because I’m not saying NO, a part of me rebels and turns to food as a way to soothe myself, as a way of compensating for the lack of my own attention.

What makes it even more complicated is that I have a little voice telling me that I’m being virtuous by agreeing to everything that others ask of me.  The truth is that these things I keep agreeing to, end up sucking up my time and energy and instead of doing my work, (getting to know my body and my emotions) not saying NO to outside requests has given me an excuse to keep ignoring my body and my emotions.  And that in turn keeps me stuck in emotional eating.

It’s awfully tempting to blame others for this, but the truth is that I’m the one in charge of conducting this orchestra and my symphony doesn’t come out right when I allow the strings to set their own pace, the cellos to join in whenever it suits them, and the bassoon to improvise notes that don’t blend in.  This is the symphony of my life and my job is to get everything blended together in magnificent harmony that pleases me.  I can only make that happen when I wield my conductor’s baton with confidence.  One way to do that is by setting boundaries that work for me, boundaries that protect my intentions to care for myself.  It means choosing when to say YES and learning how to say NO!!

Though all this might sound awfully self-centered and selfish, the results are surprising.  Not only do I end up taking care of me and learning to get to know who I am, and what I need, but I also end up being more present for others and having more to give them.

Let’s illustrate with an example.  One of my goals is to give my body the gift of regular exercise. Yoga connects me to my body, to my emotions, and to the present moment.  It makes me feel amazing and leads me back to connecting to my purpose and reason for being.  So I’ll schedule a yoga class on my calendar.  Then a friend calls for a chat and when the alarm on my laptop goes off letting me know it’s time to get ready for yoga, I can’t bring myself to tell her I need to end the conversation so I can take care of me.  My little voice tells me that I can’t hurt her feelings and that I need to be there for her.  Instead of giving her my full attention, I’m listening with half an ear while I mutter to myself about having to give up my yoga class – again! Everyone loses:  I miss my exercise and my friend doesn’t get my focused attention.

Who would have thought that learning to say NO!!, helps me say YES to myself and YES to my people!  And here’s the exciting part.  Saying NO!! tunes down my emotional hunger because I’m feeding that hunger with what it really wants – my care and attention.  Fascinating!!

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