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Sugar and Dealing with Emotions

Sugar and Dealing with EmotionsIt’s so easy when I’m on a cleanse not to eat any sugar.

It’s a welcome reminder of how great I feel without it. I feel clearer, calmer and way more energetic. It’s not that I eat a lot of sugar either – especially not refined sugar. But when I don’t have a strong boundary around it, I have to admit that it sneaks it’s way in. A little raw honey in my tea here, maple syrup in my oatmeal there and then before you know it I’m treating myself to a cookie just because… it’s been one of those days :).

Dealing with Emotions when comfort food is off the menu.

One of the big things that comes up in the cleanse groups that I lead is how to deal with emotions when you can’t eat your normal comfort food to soothe those scary emotions away. The cleansing process tends to bring up emotions, so I give my cleansers lots of self-care tools they can use to make the process easier. These are the tools that I’ve learned that have helped me stop using food and substances to numb out and distract myself from my emotions.

Old Habits of Self-medicating with Sugar.

There are times that I still find myself turning to a chocolate chip cookie or ice-cream or some other sweet treat to help me feel better. Last week was one of those weeks. The death of a client as well as another tragic death in my community sent me reeling. I was having a hard time managing my emotions. I had a heavy work schedule and I couldn’t just completely lose it, so I found myself retreating back to my old ways of self-medicating in the form of sweets.

It can feel so comforting to bite into that chocolate chip cookie or fudge brownie ice-cream… and yet, when I finished it I didn’t feel better. Instead I felt worse – after the ice-cream I had a tummy ache, the chocolate chip cookie led to brain fog and the next day I found myself craving another chocolaty sugary treat. This went on for a few days… (5 to be exact). Sound familiar?

Slow Down and Pay Attention.

I decided to slow down and really pay attention to what was going on in my head before the craving occurred. I paid attention to my feelings and realized that I wasn’t just trying to numb out. I was trying to shift my emotional state. I was feeling upset and I was trying to relax – by eating sugar. Unfortunately it wasn’t having the desired effect. Really, it was only relaxing for the amount of time it took me to chew it (2 minutes max).

So in order to feel more relaxed, what else could I do? Just because I know what to do (and teach it to others) doesn’t mean I don’t need a reminder sometimes! Deep belly breathing was definitely helpful – when I caught myself in time! And yet – the grief was still there and I couldn’t quite access it – I felt dissociated from it, numbly going through the motions of my day.

Facing those Scary Emotions.

Night-time baths are my favorite place to feel and release emotions. In the bath, I began using the tonglen meditation which I learned from Pema Chodron in her brilliant book, “Start Where You Are.”

Tonglen is a practice where you breath in suffering and pain and breath out love and acceptance. It brings you right to the heart of your own pain. While this can seem scary, I knew it was exactly what I needed.

So I…

Breathed in the suffering of the women who died (and their families) and Breathed out Love and Acceptance.

Breathed in my own grief and loss and Breathed out Love and Acceptance.

Breathed in my own fears of death and loneliness and Breathed out Love and Acceptance.

Soon enough, I went from feeling numb to smack dab in my emotions. The tears came flooding forth. I kept breathing and filling my heart with love and sure enough the love became even stronger than the tears – or pain.

Allowing myself to Feel…

Sometimes when it seems too hard to feel my emotions, I need the reminder: when I allow myself to feel and release my emotions I can safely move through them without numbing or distracting myself. I don’t need the sugar (or any other substance) to feel better.

Want to know more about tonglen? http://www.shambhala.org/teachers/pema/tonglen1.php

Do you find yourself trying to numb out or relax with sugar? How do you deal with your emotions?

10 Responses to Sugar and Dealing with Emotions

  1. Thank you for this Liz. Being a part of your cleanse is really teaching me how to feel. I notice the worst cravings into the evening and night that I just want to numb my emotions. It makes me ask myself why is feeling so scary anyways?

    • That is a good question Angela – one I ask myself a lot! Most of the time I don’t think it’s as scary as we build it up in our minds to be :).

  2. I notice I tend to lean on food cravings when I’m stressed or anxious. While difficult at times, I’m trying to find alternative ways to get out that frustration…whether it’s dancing crazy in my office (I work at home so, that is an option for me!), going out for a run (and I’m no runner!) or some other type of physical activity (even doing pushups helps…maybe that’s the military in me) seem to help stop the craving and release some of the emotion underneath.

  3. I love this connection to emotions and eating comfort foods because it seems obvious but I think we forget that eating can be an emotional act. I admire your own ability Liz to look inside and see what’s going on and pay attention to those feelings that you were keeping tucked way down under. Releasing emotions is so powerful and such a fundamental path to take for our own well being but it’s overlooked. Our own hearts need clearing from all the emotions that have been patted down over the years. I have never tried this Pema Chodron meditation but now I will!

  4. Great post Liz!
    I admit that turning to sugar is my default. I’m all about feeling my emotions and then I still turn to the cupcakes.

    For me sugar is more of a reward or celebration, although I know that my sweetie bring me cupcakes when i’m in a bad mood. This is something we’ve talked about working through together.

    I’ve done my fait of cleanses and i know how good i feel once i take the sugar (and caffeine) out of my diet, but it creeps back in so easily. All it takes is one morning where I didn’t get enough sleep to lead to lots of coffee and then a big craving for carbs and sweets.
    One on the sugar train it’s hard to step off.

    • That is interesting that your partner brings you cupcakes when you’re in a bad mood – he is rewarding bad behavior! Haha. Someone told me recently that sugar is 7x as addictive as heroin – it is hard to step off indeed :).

  5. Beautiful! I love the sound of the tonglen meditation, and how you used it to tap into your emotions. What a great example, Liz, thank you for sharing such a personal experience! 🙂

  6. Liz, first, I’m sorry to hear about your losses. Allowing yourself to FEEL is huge. Keep letting those tears flow when they need to sistah! As for your question, I think I turn towards sugar as a comfort. If I’m trying to concentrate on something, or I’m feeling overwhelmed, I turn to a piece of chocolate to help “get me back on track.” Really all it does is make me want more chocolate.

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Love Notes...
Jennifer Carey, Beverly, MA
Jennifer Carey, Beverly, MA
I worked with Liz for 6 months on a plan for me to have a healthy relationship with food and to make eating well and exercising an automatic habit in my life. The plan, the work and the outcome were all a success! Liz combined her knowledge of food, nutrition and holistic health with her genuine passion to help others make positive changes. This was all done in such an authentic fashion that I finished the program with the self-awareness and knowledge of food that I needed to be an intuitive eater with healthy habits. I'm cooking more, eating better and exercise is a routine that I don't think twice about incorporating.  I look and feel better.  I know that Liz's support, clear and applicable exercises and tools helped me make these changes and that these changes will be long lasting. I am and will be forever grateful to her. 
Clara M., Madrid, Spain
Clara M., Madrid, Spain
Liz is phenomenal! I love how close and warm she is while giving support. She has motivated and helped me change some of my unhealthy habits. I am getting great results and would be getting them for the rest of my life! I admire and respect you enormously, THANKS LIZ!
Ryck L.
Ryck L.
Plagued by stiffness, chronic joint and back pain and other concerns, I first became a client of Liz Vequist over three years ago. While I've gotten older since then, I've also gotten better. Liz offers an intense, therapeutic shiatsu which has been very effective at reducing pain and stiffness while increasing flexibility. It works! Liz Vequist is now a key partner for my personal health and well-being.
Amy, Cape Cod, MA
Amy, Cape Cod, MA
I've never lost this much weight so easily and without feeling deprived or starved. Really! Plus I now have a whole new arsenal of food that keeps me full AND fit!
Michael Kirk, Producer/Director/Writer
Michael Kirk, Producer/Director/Writer

In my busy, bicoastal life I work hard to find centers of calm. Liz Vequist's careful and sensitive work is one of those centers--restful and rejuvenating.

Adina Rose, MFT, East Bay California
Adina Rose, MFT, East Bay California
I am a busy mom of two and have been wanting to lose those extra few pounds for years now. On my own, I lacked the motivation to stick to a healthier eating plan for more than a few weeks. After completing Liz's 6-week plan I feel confident that I can maintain better eating habits as a lifestyle choice, in way that I have been wanting to for years. Not only did I loose 5 pounds in the six weeks, but I also lost 2 inches each from my hips and thighs; 1.5 inches from my waist! I learned new yummy recipes, and so much more. Thank you, Liz!  
Katie Hazard, Project Manager, Burning Man, San Francisco
Katie Hazard, Project Manager, Burning Man, San Francisco
Wow, what an amazing program! I went from feeling sluggish & self-conscious to feeling healthy & ready to rock my bikini in just 6 weeks. Liz's knowledge and deep care really guided me through this process beautifully, and having the fantastic group support motivated me to eat well, move my body, and feel good about myself. Thank you!
Nancy McLinskey, M.D.
Nancy McLinskey, M.D.
The food involved in this cleanse was so good and nourishing that after the 5 days were up, I found myself actually turned off of sugary treats and instead craving roasted root vegetables! Liz is very knowledgeable and was very supportive throughout the cleanse.
C. Coleman, Cambridge, MA
C. Coleman, Cambridge, MA

Liz Vequist is a true healer--insightful, caring, and committed to supporting wellbeing on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels. I feel fortunate that our paths have crossed.”

 
Svetlana Howard
Svetlana Howard
The Slim, Fit and Sexy program with Liz gave me a huge jump on getting closer to my ideal body looks and weight. I have gain a certainty that I can get to my goal by sticking to the healthy lifestyle that I have learned on this program. I was very impressed with the group motivation, recipes, and well-structured weekly diet/tasks that was doable to follow even with my busy lifestyle. Thank you, Liz, for being such a passionate coach.
Inez N., Brighton, MA
Inez N., Brighton, MA
Liz is my therapist. She's soft-spoken. But don't let that fool you because she has Ninja fingers! In 60 minutes, she bends and folds, twists and pulls at my comatose body. Shiatsu kind of feels like someone is putting me in yoga poses while simultaneously working my pressure points. The result, for me, is leaving "the shop" feeling loose and better aligned.
Helaine Unger, Early Special Educator
Helaine Unger, Early Special Educator
Doing this program with Liz has changed my relationship with food. I have fewer cravings, enjoy cooking more and have more energy. I lost weight and inches and feel so much better in my clothing. I have developed new habits and feel confident that they will continue.
Loretta M., Watertown, MA
Loretta M., Watertown, MA
I have found Liz's work extremely beneficial and have improved my overall well-being since I have seen her. Liz is very knowledgeable on self-care and holistic health and practices it herself. She is very accommodating and trustworthy. Someone you can count on to find the imbalances and try to help alleviate them. From the moment you walk in her space it is calm, safe, and inviting to start the healing process. I can't say enough good things :)
Cora Poage, NY, NY
Cora Poage, NY, NY
Before I started working with Liz, I thought I was "healthy". Boy, was I in for a surprise.  With Liz's guidance I was able to "crowd out" most processed foods.  What a huge difference!  I eat more fruits and veggies than ever before and I notice a difference in my skin, my mood, and my body.  Liz also helped me face up to and conquer a major Diet Addiction and deal with a negative body image.  For the first time in my life, I truly love my body, AS IS! Thanks so much Liz! You truly changed my life for the better! 

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