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NL: Hi everyone! My name is Natalie Ledwell and this is the Inspiration Show. Today on the show, I have a special guest who’s going to be talking to us about “When Food Is Comfort.” She has a new book that’s coming out and she’s going to be addressing the issue of emotional eating. What that is and what we can do to combat it. But before I introduce my special guest, I just want to remind you that after the show is over, if you’d like to click the link below this video you can actually go through and download a free version, the ebook version of my book Never In Your Wildest Dreams. So make sure you do that once the show is finished. So please let me introduce my special guest today, Julie M. Simon. Hi Julie, how are you?
JS: Hey there. How are you? Thank you for having me.
NL: Yeah, it's a pleasure to have you here. So tell us a little bit about your background and how you got to be so knowledgeable when it comes to emotional eating.
JS: Well, you know, I spent a good fortune of my life stuck in a cycle of overeating comfort foods, gaining weight, and dieting. And I was never very good at sticking to diet plans and throughout my, I'd say late teens and into my 20s, I was kind of on a quest to figure out why it was that I couldn't maintain my weight in an optimum range. And so, during my journey, I uncovered many different pieces of the over-eating and weight gain puzzle. And a very important one was that I was an emotional eater. So I turned to food for soothing and comfort, I turned to food to quiet my thoughts, quiet my mind. I turned to food for excitement and pleasure and because the food is so mind-altering it was a great distraction, it altered my brain chemistry. So for many years, I was struggling with emotional eating and I began to piece together self-care skills that I was missing from childhood, body balancing principles that I have never known about like paying attention to hunger and fullness cues and eating nutrient-dense foods. I learned about food allergies, I learned about brain chemistry and balances. And so as I was piecing all of these together, I was getting recovery, I was getting a handle on my emotional eating and my body and brain were in better balance than they had ever been and I knew I wanted to teach this to other people. I was always so passionate about it and today I'm very passionate about recovery, full 100% recovery, from emotional eating.
NL: Yeah. And so what is the definition of emotional eating? Like how would you describe what that is in case someone is watching this show and they’re like “Is that me?”
JS: Yeah. I think there a lot of pieces to emotional eating so for example, if you use food as a tranquilizer to dull emotions that are difficult to cope with like sadness, anger, loneliness, shame, frustration, hopelessness, and even excitement and pleasure and joy. If you turn to food for soothing and comfort, if you turn to food to help you cope with unpleasant bodily sensations like tension and agitation, they’re difficult to handle. If you turn to food for pleasure and excitement, maybe you use food to cope with, what we call, low arousal states like boredom, low motivation, apathy, perhaps you’re turning to food to procrastinate, maybe you’re turning to food to rebel against someone or something, maybe you use food to punish yourself, maybe you use food to reward yourself, when you’re stressed out. All of these are examples of emotional eating.
NL: Yeah, but don’t we all did that to some extent? Like I’m thinking, I identify with a few of those things.
JS: Yes, so we all do a little bit of emotional eating and there’s really nothing wrong with doing a little bit of emotional eating. Certainly, food enhances our personal and our social experiences. So the problem has to be defined by each and every individual whether it’s a problem for you. Are you struggling with your weight, are you having fear of health consequences. So if your emotional eating is causing problems for you then it’s a problem.
NL: Right. So I know in your book you address how we can rewire our brain. So I think, my question is, what’s going on in our brain when we do emotionally eat and how do we get to a place of rewiring it so that we make healthier choices for ourselves?
JS: Yeah, so the great news is now years of neuroscience have helped us understand how the brain gets wired in the first place. And so, what we know now is that in our infancy, in our early childhood years, the consistency and sufficiency of the nutrients that we receive is really critical for the way our brain structures and our brain chemistry form. So if we don't quite get sufficient and consistent nurturance, our brain is going to get wired in a particular way for a little bit higher emotionality, a little bit higher emotional reactivity. And by the way, I'm never blaming caregivers. This isn't about blaming caregivers. Most parents and caregivers do the best job they can and parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. But even well-intentioned caregivers can miss the mark a little bit if they themselves are missing some of these skills or they don't quite know how to handle their children's emotional issues and needs. So if we don't get quite the consistent and sufficient nurturance when we're young, as I said, our brain gets wired for a higher level of emotional reactivity and what happens is that when we're under stress, when we are tired, we tend to be under the influence of an emotionally dominant part of the brain and this part of the brain doesn't respond to reason and logic. So this is why when you come home, you've had a really hard day at work and you just want that cheesy noodle dish and you had promised yourself day in day out that you're going to eat more cleanly, you're going to eat salads, and you grab the cheesy noodle dish and you have 3 glasses of wine and you say to yourself, "Why? Why do I keep doing this? I keep telling myself I'm not going to do it and then I come home and I do it". It's because you're under the influence of that emotionally dominant part of the brain. It doesn't respond to reason and logic and we're going to have to work on rewiring the brain. Making connections between the top upstairs part of the brain, the logical part of the brain, the self-regulating part of the brain, the soothing and comforting part of the brain, and that emotional part of the brain that wants what she wants when she wants it. So how are we going to create those connections, or strengthen the connections that are already there? What research is showing us now is that a mindfulness practice can actually wake up those connections and strengthen those connections. So it's really the experience, either the experiences we have with nurturing caregivers that kind of fire up the brain and wire the brain or later in life, experiences we have with ourselves and we can do this with a mindfulness practice. So this book is all about teaching you a 7 skill mindfulness practice that will help kind of wake up those parts of the brain and connect those integrative structures in the brain and ultimately rewire the brain. So that's exciting news.
NL: It is! Great! So when you're talking mindfulness and we're talking about when we sit down to eat, we've all had those moments where you've had the packet of chips or you've had the tub of ice cream and you look down and went "Oh my God! There must be a hole on the bottom of the packet because I don't know where that all went." So we are not being mindful obviously on those situations but being present or actually preparing and eating our food.
JS: Yes. But you know, I think when people think of mindfulness in the food they think of mindful eating practices. So being mindful that you're having the ice cream and perhaps rather than standing and eating it out of the container, you know, taking a serving size and putting it in a dish and enjoying it. And that's all really important part of practicing mindfulness. But I'm really kind of talking about a different kind of mindfulness and that's the mindfulness of what's going on inside of you that's causing you to want more than that serving size of the ice cream. So let's say you are mindful, you do take a serving size out in a dish and then when you are done with that, you go back to the carton and you actually stand at the carton and you eat from the carton until you finish it off. So I'm talking about being mindful of what's motivating that behavior and the very first skill in the book is called Pop the Hood because we're going to pop the hood like a master mechanic and we're going to look under the hood and find out "Why is it that I said I was going to have just a serving size and I actually just finished the whole carton?" So I want to become mindful of what I'm feeling and hopefully, we do this maybe before we polish off the carton but we can also do it after we've eaten too. What am I feeling, what emotions am I experiencing, what bodily sensations am I experiencing that maybe are unpleasant for me to deal with? So that's where we begin the mindfulness is what is motivating my behavior.
NL: Right. And it also says that we know that without programming, that often comes from childhood experiences or observations or things that have been told to us. So, and we also know that the programs that stick the hardest or that are there the most are the ones that have the most intense emotional attachment to it. So do you find that sometimes that people that are going through emotional eating is because they are chasing that emotion or avoiding that emotion that they experienced when they were a child?
JS: Yes, and I don't even know that most people are kind of associating that with something from their childhood. I think what happens is that people are having emotions all day long, they're having bodily sensations all day long, they're uncomfortable, they're having unpleasant self-defeating critical judgmental thoughts during the day. So there's kind of a storm for many people, there's a storm of unpleasant emotions, sensations, and thoughts that are going on and what really drives emotional eating is that we're disconnecting from all of that. Our internal world is full of precious messages about our journey here on earth and if we disconnect and we don't pay attention to any of those precious signals, we really can't guide ourselves in the right direction so, I think what's happening for most emotional eaters is that they're just disconnecting, they never learn how to pay attention to all those signals, their mind, body, and spirit signals, and respond with love and care and curiosity. So there is just a disconnection going on so, in all the work I do, I teach you how to reconnect. Connect to yourself in a loving, kind, gentle, and curious way and compassionate way. So that you can move your life forward in the way that you would like.
NL: Yeah. And you also touch a lot on nurturing, not just yourself, but nurturing your relationships around you as well. So why is that so important when we’re looking at, you know, dealing with emotional eating?
JS: Well, it's so interesting because when many times when people have learned my 7 skill practice on inner nurturing, they come back and they say to me "You know, it's so great that I'm learning to nurture myself but I'm noticing 2 things. Number 1, most of the people in my life are not very nurturing and I wish they had this skills and number 2, I'm realizing that I haven't been that nurturing to the people around me and so I would like to practice inner nurturing on everyone else but I can't do that. So how can I learn to nurture those around me and in the book, in the third part of the book, I teach you how to attract nurturing connections into your life. If you feel like you don't have enough of those. And also how to nurture those closest to you.
NL: Right. Yeah, because I mean, I think that’s the thing, often you find that the way that we react or respond or behave with people around us is a reflection of what we’re feeling about ourselves. And so, what are some of the ways that people can really nurture themselves more and care for themselves more in any situation?
JS: Well, I think in terms of learning to nurture yourself, you're going to want to learn how to practice these skills, so you're going to Pop the Hood, you're going to be finding out what you're feeling, what bodily sensations you're experiencing. You're going to be learning how to validate those kinds of experiences, that's a very nurturing thing and it calms our emotional system and our nervous system down when we learn how to validate what we're feeling. You're going to learn in these skills how to address your needs and get clear on your needs. You're going to learn how to access and strengthen and build an inner supportive voice. It's capable of comforting and soothing you and helping you meet your needs. You're going to learn how to catch and refrain any self-defeating thoughts you have. You're going to learn how to identify your strengths and resources and hold hope for the future. You're going to learn how to set nurturing limits with your self and boundaries with others. So there are 7 skills there that are going to really help you learn how to properly nurture yourself.
NL: Yeah. And you also talk about the 4 skills of the highly empathetic people as well.
JS: Yes and so again, when we have learned how to nurture ourselves and we want to begin to nurture other people, we're going to learn to practice some skills that highly empathic people have learned like learning how to listen reflectively, we're going to learn how to not give advice so much. And there's a whole set of skills there that we want to learn how we need to get clear on our own boundaries. So in the book, there are skills and habits for you to practice there in terms of nurturing others.
NL: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I think the book is amazing and I think it's going to help so many people. So where can we send people that if we want them to connect with you or if we want them to get their hands on the book?
JS: Yes, you can go to my website, overeatingrecovery.com, and you can start reading either of my books right away. You can download 2-3 chapters from either of the books. You can sign up for my blog, get blog articles delivered to your inbox monthly. And also, I have, for anybody wanting a deeper dive, really wanting to work with me closely, I have a 12-week emotional eating recovery program where we use both the books. We do a deeper dive and that’s starting back up at the end of April and I run those programs myself so you’ll be working directly with me and you can do it, if you’re outside of the Los Angeles area, I have the program is in a telecoaching format so you can join us from anywhere in the world.
NL: Right, wonderful. Julie, thank you so much for joining us today and for sharing your wisdom with us. And I encourage you that if you actually are watching the show if you click the banner to the side or the link underneath here, you can go straight through to Julie's website to connect with her. So thanks again, Julie. It's been amazing chatting with you today.
JS: Thank you so much for having me today.
NL: Wonderful. Now guys, if you're watching the video, I encourage you to share it. You can do that by clicking the Facebook and the Twitter share buttons on the page. Don't forget to click on the banner or the link to go through to Julie's website. And after the show's over, click the link below that so you can download the ebook version of my book Never In Your Wildest Dreams. So until next time, remember to live large, choose courageously, and love without limits. Thanks, guys! We'll see you soon.