Personal growth has given me a lot. And I’ll never be thankful enough for its existence. It helped me solve issues I thought were impossible to overcome, and made my life much more beautiful & enjoyable. One of the most life-changing steps self improvement helped me with has been to fight my emotional eating habits.
And emotional eating was for me just another way to avoid my negative thoughts and feelings and numb myself instead. It could have been shopping, excessive exercising, or even an eating disorder. They say we all have our own special drug of choice — and drugs are nothing more than a mean to escape. I think as a society we don’t learn how to properly manage our thoughts and feelings, so we tend to see them how something that just ‘happens’ to us.
Brooke Castillo is the woman that changed it all for me. And for completely free, may I add. By simply listening to her podcast episodes on the topic and implementing a few baby steps in my everyday life, I’ve finally been able to conquer something that I had lost hope for. I thought I would have needed years of therapy to get to this point, something I couldn’t afford.
She taught me how thoughts and emotions are actually processed in a well-defined process. They’re not due to random factors. Brooke introduced me to CTFAR which is in simple a process that your brain follows every time it has to process a thought. She didn’t invent it, but she did make it famous by developing her own system ‘the module’ around it.
We’ll explain it step by step in the next session, but the main point is this: the way you think & feel directly influences your actions & results.
The Step-by-Step Process aka ‘The Module’
I used to think that feelings were things that simply ‘happened’ in my brain and body. Like some tornados that would present themselves from time to time and that I couldn’t avoid. I knew I was eating my 10th cupcake because I was sad, but this wouldn’t stop me from grabbing the 11th. And then Brooke introduced me to ‘the module’ (I also read her book “Self-coaching 101” which explains the whole concept & process in even more details — you can find it here if you’re interested).
This is the step-by-step process she uses to change the negative thoughts that are causing a negative result in her life (because as mentioned in the quick scheme above: certain thoughts cause certain feelings that cause our actions & results). In my case, the negative behaviour I wanted to change was emotional eating, but to do so I needed to investigate the thoughts at the base of it first.
- What do you feel right before [insert bad habit here]? Usually, the feelings that would trigger my emotional eating the most were anxiety and boredom.
- What do you think right before feeling this way? e.g. I would think: “I had a long day, I deserve this piece of chocolate” or “this person has really been a bitch to me today”
- What action do you take as a consequence and what are the results of this behaviour? e.g. I feel anxious and I grab a piece of chocolate to help me feel better, or some other comfort food at my reach. Then I don’t feel better, I feel guilty, this causes even more anxiety, and the circle keeps repeating itself until I feel physically sick — or the food is over.
- Does it work? Does it meet your goal(s)? This is not a step Brooke mentions in her original system, but it’s an extra step I’ve added to help me further reflect on why I’m doing what I’m doing. I’ve realised that highlighting why that thought is not giving me the results I’m expecting is key in seeing why I need to change my habit. For example, in my case, what I hoped by eating that extra piece of chocolate or by grabbing that cupcake is to feel better. But then I don’t actually reach this goal, because eating only makes me feel guiltier & more anxious. This was the most game-changing step of the process for me.
One Last Thought: Allow Yourself to ‘Just Feel’
Allowing myself to feel was something I had to learn how to do. Day by day. And it certainly wasn’t easy. Because feeling was exactly what I was trying to avoid through my emotional eating habits. The thought of ‘feeling’ a certain way (sad, angry, anxious or nervous) felt SO scary to me that I hadn’t even stopped a second to wonder how it would have been be like. So I tried. And it was awful. I cried, punched a pillow, cried again. But then it was it.
Facing my issues everyday was hard and hurtful, don’t get me wrong, but that moment lasted way less than I expected and allowed me to establish a much healthier relationships with myself that didn’t involve any escaping. Plus emotional eating wasn’t solving anything anyway, it was just causing another problem on its own. And that was the key lesson I had to learn to finally move away from it.
**For further information on the topic I really recommend checking out Brooke’s podcast The Life Coach School. She has some really great episodes on emotional eating there. As well as some other pretty great stuff, too.