• on July 5, 2017

Why we overeat in times of transition and change

By Emily Holden

Overeating literally immobilises me. This is convenient, because our unconscious minds are desperately trying to give us what we need.

Life is always moving. A constant, relentless tide from this to that. We may say we want change, we need change. But we are habitual creatures. Our brains are wired to create the illusion of homeostasis, of stability. There is a sense of safety in what is familiar.

Habit is when we settle on something, and it sticks to us. A pattern we’ve learnt by heart, and can repeat without thinking. The way I eat. The way I move. The way I breathe. The way I relate to others. The way I meet the world. The way I meet my inner world – my feelings, my thoughts.

We desire change when we become aware of how uncomfortable this current pattern is making us feel. The current pattern was only ever trying to help. Protecting us from feeling too much, too soon. Protecting us from knowing too much, too soon. Protecting us from something we had not yet grown a capacity to hold.

I am growing my capacity to hold my own experience.

The body loves incremental and gentle change. Beware the overnight transformation, the instant awakening. There’s nothing more traumatic than a deep release without warning.

I notice the sensations that overeating brings to my body. The felt sense gives me feedback, if I care to listen. A heaviness at my centre. A resistance to movement. It makes perfect physiological sense – I’m busy digesting. This is a complex and time-consuming process that takes energy and resources. So go and lie down if you want to feel more comfortable, my beloved.

It is all well and good for us to rest, digest, and experience slowness.

And I find it so interesting that my stronger patterns of overeating almost always correlate with periods of change, times of transition. Times when my life is taking me from this to that, and I reside in the space in between. The currents of my life are shifting, and within my human nature I am conflicted. I want change. I want safety, familiarity, stability.

My unconscious drives kick into gear to protect myself. When I overeat, I’m creating the somatic experience of inertia, of groundedness. Food becomes something to hold onto, in the dark waters of change. In my depths I know what awaits me – big unknowns, instability, a letting go of the safety of what had become familiar.

Perhaps I’m no longer a language teacher.

Perhaps I’m no longer a vegetarian.

Perhaps I’m no longer a people pleaser.

Perhaps I’m no longer steering my own ship.

Perhaps I’m no longer a disordered eater.

Perhaps I’m no longer a body-apologiser.

Perhaps I’m no longer a pretender.

And yet…

Perhaps I’m not yet sure how my new business will unfold, will sustain me.

Perhaps I’m not yet sure if I can be vegan all of the time, with all of the people, in all the ways.

Perhaps I’m still attached to how others perceive me, to their approval and validation.

Perhaps I need the illusion of control, a sense of my own agency and power.

Perhaps I’m not yet fully able to let go of the ways I use food to process my life.

Perhaps I still identify with being small and slim as good, better, desirable.

Perhaps I find my own truth hard to swallow, painful to share.

Perhaps this shift from this to that is more nuanced, more subtle, and more complex than any ‘easy to follow 5-step plan’ could handle?

This much I do know.

I am committed to growing my capacity to stay with my own experience. Turn over the mossy rock, set the wood louse wriggling free from the dark places. We start with feeling. Feeling what it is to eat, digest, slow down, be heavy. Feeling what it is to not eat, move more freely, be light. Both experiences are good and right. You determine your own ratios. You get to carry out you own experiments. Your trials and your errors. Except there are no errors, just a mirroring of something you need to see, to get a wider perspective you need to move forward. Trust me on that one. I’m practising too.

There is wisdom here, within my own experience. Yes there are blogs and books and podcasts and courses and workshops and teachers. But they count for nothing if we don’t explore the practices ourselves in order to access our own deeper wisdom. That’s all any healer ever offers.

My bodymind knows the life she wants to lead. From my unconscious, my intuition bubbles up to the surface, laced with uncompromising truths and a sense of unease. She knows her needs. She doesn’t care if it’s impractical, improper, unconventional. All she knows is how to be a full and messy human.

Fully willing to be here, now, just as I am.

Fully able to meet what has not yet been met, incrementally and to the best of my ability.

Fully able to forgive that I did not have the capacity to hold my own pain, or yours, in the most healthy way.

I can wriggle and squirm and avoid and repress but ultimately, I come home to this still and fluid place of knowing that I don’t know and it’s OK that it’s not OK.

In love and truth, we meet our human selves.

If what you believe to be true about yourself has no space for kindness, then it isn’t fully truthful.

From a fishing pier, in Huelva, Spain, wishing you an interesting and gentle day today xxxx