Feeling Swirly? Mindfulness for Emotional Eating

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Within the Conscious Eating Community we frequently emphasize the importance of turning towards difficult emotions, or what we like to call “feeling swirly.”

Perhaps the number one, most powerful practice for healing your relationship with food, eating, and body is shifting how you work with your “swirly” moments.

“Swirly” refers to those moments of emotional difficulty when you might not want to feel. Or if you do allow yourself to feel, you do it with aggression, or the hope of getting rid of or pushing away the emotion. Unfortunately, this often only fuels our confusion.

What I invite you to consider instead is turning toward your swirliness with a lens of authenticity. Notice how genuine it is to feel difficult emotions, not as something to avoid but as something that is part of the wholeness of being a human.

Physical and emotional discomfort are inevitable. The human body is fussy and messy, and no matter how hard we try, we can’t avoid the suffering that comes with it.

But we have a choice in how we respond to our suffering, which can open us up to insight or continue to feed confusion.

In the context of Conscious Eating, I’m talking about moments when we want to meet emotional difficulty with eating, whether it’s to numb an emotion we don’t want to feel, or induce an emotion that will make us feel better.

Everyone in our community shares a tendency of turning to food not because we enjoy it or because it brings well being to our body, but rather to meet an emotional need or avoid difficulty. That cycle often continues to feed our habit energy, and usually creates more confusion about what it is we really need.

For example, imagine that you’ve just overeaten and don’t want to think about it or look at it. You’ve got loud negative self-talk, physical discomfort, and are feeling emotions of guilt or shame. Instead of feeding your mental stories and beliefs about who you are around food, what you can and can’t eat… etc… what would happen if instead you simply sit with the swirly experience that’s there? Without feeding it with story?

In our community, we teach and practice infusing swirly moments with awareness and equanimity in a way thats meaningful, and that carries into the next similar situation. We focus on opening ourselves to what is, dropping our labels about how we feel, getting curious, and investigating what our swirly experience is actually made of.

What thoughts are there? What emotions show up in the body? Where do they show up? What adjectives would you use to describe the sensations in the body that your thoughts and emotions produce? How does bringing your attention there and softening around it change it? What is the shape of the emotional energy or physical discomfort in the body? Does it have a depth? Is it flat? Is it static? Is it moving?

Tuning into the cascade of sensory experience that happens around difficult emotions has a way of bringing insight into them and loosening their grip on us. It really allows us to embrace the wholeness of life, and has the power to change our behaviors around food, even when the external circumstances haven’t changed.

Next time you’re in a swirly moment, we invite you to turn toward it and get curious about it. See what happens.

For inspiration and free guided practices to support your Conscious Eating path, join my e-mail list below!

Until next week!

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