Why Catharsis Doesn’t Stop Emotional Eating and What Will

Why Catharsis Doesn’t Stop Emotional Eating and What Will

Webster’s Medical Definition: Catharsis


2: elimination of a complex by bringing it to consciousness and affording it expression — compare abreaction

Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me. Carol Burnett

Sometimes you just gotta  get it out ‘cause the need for emotional eating is screaming in your head!

The overwhelming drive to express yourself and be heard circles around and around again in your head.

The greatest hope is that if you get “it” out you won’t be bothered by the feeling and the emotional eating that results from feeling uncomfortable. The feeling will be gone-resolved.

The hope of catharsis is that by giving expression to your feelings things will change.

We are encouraged to “get it out and you’ll feel better” and this is true much of the time. Getting out pent-up feelings does give a sense of relief. A weight is lifted off your shoulders. There’s a lightness.

Sometimes an epiphany, spark, insight, etc. will happen, but this is rare.

Understanding the “why” of emotional eating rarely stops emotional eating.

Waiting and hoping for this to happen is wasting your time and energy. Energy you can use to create the change you need so badly.

The feeling provides the energy for you to take action and get moving.

Instead of spinning around in circles, re-experiencing the emotion over and over, harness that energy and use it to transform your relationship with your food and your body.

Propel yourself into the future life you’re creating for yourself where you treat yourself with kindness, self-compassion and grace. You can change your relationship with yourself as you heal emotional eating.

The process requires focus to become more in tune with your internal experience of the emotion. Only when you can you will know what you need to take action on to get where you want to be.

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward. Amelia Earhart

The decision to change emotional eating and become a Conscious Eater is one of the most important in your life. The knowledge you gain about yourself and what you need to give yourself your best is where transformation takes place.

The Stages of Change Model is a great framework to understand the process of change. Carlo C. DiClemente and J. O. Prochaska, conceptualized these changes based on their research about how people are able to move out of addiction. Many studies since have shown that the process is the same regardless if it’s addiction, job, an organization, or emotional eating.

There are five stages, pre-contemplation – not ready or not aware that there’s a problem, contemplation – know that there’s a problem and you want to do something about it, but not ready yet, determination – you make a plan on how to solve the problem, action – you take action on your plan to solve the problem and maintenance – you do what you need to do to maintain your solution.

Since you’re reading this article I’m guessing that you’re somewhere in the contemplation stage. You know there’s a problem. It’s getting to you and you want to change it, but you’re not sure how or you don’t know if the solution will be better than the current trouble emotional eating is giving you or you’re just not ready to give it up yet.

The next stage of determination is when you’re making the plan. Using the tools below to help you develop your plan to stop emotional eating. Your hopefulness is growing that life will be better without emotional eating.

Action is the stage where you implement your plan. Make adjustment to it as needed. As you move along in this stage you’ll begin to experience relief from emotional eating and the peace of Conscious Eating.

Below is a plan to help you move through these three middle stages of change. Becoming a Conscious Eater is worth the effort to move through the stages and get to the other side.

Here is a 5-step process to use your feelings to drive positive action forward in your life.

1. Getting the feeling out.

This is where it’s all about catharsis. Get the feeling out of your head and on paper through journaling, in conversation with someone, in art work, etc.  Just get it outside of yourself so you can get a little distance from it living inside you.

Go outside and let yourself experience the feeling while you also get fresh air and a fresh perspective.

Focus on how you experience the feeling and any new insight you have about it.

Allow yourself the time you need to understand the feeling as you experience relief. It’s a simultaneous event-the more you consciously experience the more awareness of what can help increases too.

2. Specifically identify the feeling.

The next step is to increase your knowledge of the feeling you’re experiencing.

What sense do you have of the feeling?

What does it feel like in your body?

Does the feeling increase anxiety, anger, impatience or something else?

This will help you figure out what you need to calm the feeling.

When you listen to what your mind, body and heart are communicating to you, you’ll have the info you need to make it better.

3. Specifically identify the surrounding feelings.

Take note of the smaller feelings, the feelings that pop up as you spin around the feeling that’s got your attention.

What other aspects of the feeling are you noticing? These may be, sub-feelings. Maybe think of them in terms of percentages. It might be 10 percent of one feeling, 30 percent of another, 70 percent of a different one.

These feelings add to the quality of the main feeling you’re experiencing. They will help you understand more fully your relationship with yourself.

They will help you to define what you need from yourself, your body and others.

4. Specifically define what you need.

Now that you have a pretty good idea of the qualities of the feeling you’re experiencing and the smaller feelings that help to shape your experience.

Take a step back and look at the big picture.

What is it that you wish you could have to make it better?

What seems like it would calm or soothe the feeling?

What will get you closer to your goal?

5. Now take a few minutes and think about a variety of choices you can make to move you closer to living your life more fully, more consciously.

This can even include “not yet.”  It’s okay to take time for planning. The challenge is to increase your awareness of when you’re scared and procrastinating. You’ll know when it’s time to take the leap and get moving.

What are three actions you can take, no matter how small, that will help you make the change you need to make to become a Conscious Eater?

Just thinking about the changes you can make is engaging in the process. It will help you take action feeling by feeling.

You can leave emotional eating behind!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top