Tammy Steele of Fully Present Living joined Susie to talk about emotional eating and what we’re really hungry for when grabbing snacks. Please enjoy this excerpted interview from the Radiantly You! radio show! If you want to listen to or download the show podcast, just follow this link.
Susie: Tammy is the founder of Fully Present Living. She is an energy intuitive and- I absolutely love this – a heart whisperer. That is beautiful. Tammy is also a Reiki master. She is a Chopra Center certified instructor, a hypnotherapist and Ayurvedic coach, and I should probably stop now because the list kinda goes on. And her passion is to help people sparkle by connecting or should I maybe say reconnecting them to themselves and today she is going to be focusing on connecting us with what our hunger is really telling us. So welcome, Tammy.
Tammy: Thank you, Susie, it’s great to be here.
Susie: I’m so glad you’re able to be here. You have quite an amazing story to tell about how you came to be where you are right now. I’d love if you could share that.
Tammy: It is a diverse story. I started out out of school with a computer science and math degree. I worked in technology for 10 years and I also have three boys, and two of them are in college now and one is a sophomore in high school. So somewhere around the time when I started having babies, I left technology and started to stay home and be a mom. And once they went off to school, I started studying some of the other things in my life that I was interested in and alternative healing, energy, all of those types of things were so interesting to me and I found a curriculum around those and I attended a four-year program at the Northwest School of Healing, became a Reiki master, and learned energy healing, personality types, all kinds of things like that. And then I later became certified to teach Ayurvedic lifestyle from the Chopra Center, and these were just things I was really interested in, not that I thought I was going out to share them around.
Susie: You were blossoming.
Tammy: I was just, yeah, exploring and adding all these great tools. And at some point during our messy lives, I found myself really all of a sudden needing to reach for these tools. It was no longer theoretical and found out that they were so incredibly useful at really getting me back in touch with who I really was. I’m not just a mom. I’m not just somebody who worked in technology and I was really, really found myself lost and found myself creating big problems in my life from being disconnected in that way. And some of the things you talk about when we are disconnected that you get… You reach for things and so often when people have emotional, any kind of emotional need that’s not being met, most of us reach for food. Some of us reach for, sometimes there’s alcohol or drugs or attention or any of those kinds of things. But predominantly, especially in the United States, people reach for food. And so that leads us to the topic today. Why do we eat when we’re not really hungry?
Susie: In this country, I think very few of us ever actually experience true hunger.
Tammy: Right, exactly. We are very blessed.
Susie: But we think we experience hunger because you’ll actually have that feeling in your stomach. So you’re reaching for something either in between a meal or after a meal or in the middle of the night sometimes, that midnight refrigerator raid, what’s happening there?
Tammy: That is such a great question because that is really at the heart of it. People feel powerless to change their emotional eating even if they’ve identified that they have it because they’re actually feeling physically hungry. And what has happened is that we associate food with comfort, and when we eat, we feel full. And so we can get our brain, sweat that hunger mechanism, to start functioning improperly so that when we have an emotional need that’s not met, it triggers a hunger need because we’re associating that so closely with food.
Susie: Right. The brain is going to do whatever it can to take you to a place of pleasure and safety.
Tammy: And yet what happens is, you feel comfortable for a moment and then you aren’t satisfied because you didn’t actually meet the need that you were experiencing a lack of. And so you reach for more food because you wanna get that comfort again. And this reinforces the trigger that food is… This is why we overeat, essentially. You’re trying to fill a hole with food and the food isn’t going in the hole.
Susie: And just to be clear, I don’t think that over-eating necessarily means eating two pies. It can be a little bit of a drip, all day long.
Tammy: Overeating is eating when you’re not hungry. And so most of us, especially in the United States, eat when we’re not hungry.
Susie: So what would be some of the signs of emotional eating?
Tammy: Well, there are two categories of emotional or stress-eating. You could also say, “Oh. I eat when I’m stressed.” Or say they’re busy or distracted and they’re eating, they’re rushed and on the go. You’re gonna have a tendency to overeat because you’re not connected to whether you’re hungry or full, or you just eat because other people are eating, or you’re at a restaurant, or you eat while you watch TV and you’ve integrated these habits of eating when you’re not really hungry or you think you should eat. Or there’s a plate of food or there’s a buffet ’cause you’re at a party. And then there’s the other group of people who is more classically emotional eaters. Like you eat because you’re depressed, or lonely, or you feel unattractive. And again, you’re trying to get comfort in a place where comfort just isn’t. Your comfort’s not going to be met with food.
Susie: So really it’s an emotional pain? The body or the mind, I should say, doesn’t like us to be in pain, so it’s gonna take the easiest path, right? To get you out of that.
Tammy: It says, “Oh, I know I always feel full.” And so you’re looking for fulfillment but you’re reaching for an ineffective activity to meet that need. And so if you’re thinking while you’re driving, riding in your car listening, “Oh yeah. One of those things. That I did do do that. Maybe I eat while I work.” That’s distracted eating. And you might not have thought, “Oh. That’s an emotional eating problem.” It really is because you’re disconnected from the activity of what food is really for.
Susie: So part of it is identifying the fact that you are eating for emotional reasons rather than hunger?
Tammy: Right. And then you get in this habit of, even if you start to realize that, “Oh, I’m not really hungry.” Your body really told you that it was hungry and you say, “Well, I just ate my lunch. Why am I feeling hungry?” And that’s an opportunity. And that’s where you can start to make a difference. And this is what we’ll be talking about a lot in the workshop that I’m leading on Saturday, is really how do you interrupt that pattern of reaching for food when you’re not really hungry.
Susie: So we talking about some of the emotional eating that actually goes on when we’re actually reaching for food is to munch away an emotional itch, so to speak. You teach classes on this, right?
Tammy: Yes, this weekend in Redmond, Washington if you’re local, at ZenRock Fitness. I will be leading a two-hour workshop on this topic where I will take you through defining your own because everybody is so different, your own fulfillment. And how do you interrupt the pattern of reaching for food, to meet that. And also to change that inaccurate signal that maybe telling you you’re hungry when you’re not.
And for those of you who cannot attend the workshop, I will be providing the workshop online at the start of the new year and also you can call me for a free discovery session where we can talk about other possibilities about, not just food, but any place of disconnect in your life where you’re feeling overwhelmed or you can’t sleep or you’re unhealthy and we can talk about creating a custom plan for you to get back to feeling vibrant and healthy and like no matter what happens you can do this.
Susie: Tammy literally has so many different ways to approach issues and things so it’s not just one way. I get the sense that you’re always pulling from different teachings.
Tammy: That’s so true and that’s why I love doing what I do because I get to pull all those tools that I talked about earlier into a really customized program for you. I think of everybody as a snowflake, and you come to me with your snowflake-ness and there’s not one size fits all. And this is one of the reasons that diets fail a lot of times for people is that it’s a one size fits all and of course you’re not really, you’re depriving yourself instead of nourishing yourself and when we set up that deprivation system, we’re not going to be meeting those needs that we’re trying to meet with food.
Susie: I can personally attest to that because I went through a very stringent diet and lost a lot of weight, and it was not a satisfying feeling. Even the weight loss that I achieved which I’d wanted, at the end it felt, I felt like I had been punishing myself. But then I wanted to reward myself for losing the weight.
So how can people then interrupt that pattern of emotional eating? What are some identified triggers? And if they notice that what can they do?
Tammy: So the first step, and in the radio show I can’t describe the whole process, but there is the very first step which you can do right away is just really start to pay attention when you’re gonna reach for food, a very act of reaching for food, stop. And so you just stop and pause, take a breath and really tune into your body and maybe even place your hand on your stomach and say, “Am I really hungry?” And your body might even be telling you at this early stage that you are hungry, but just go ahead and then ask yourself “Well, didn’t I just eat?” Or maybe you are hungry, “How hungry am I? Am I a zero, or so hungry I’m just gonna eat everything in the pantry? Or I’m really an eight, I’m kind of full so why am I wanting this food?” So the first step is really awareness, and once you start to have that dialogue with yourself, then you can start to get curious and really ask yourself, “Am I reaching for sugar? Is that my go-to drug?”
Susie: And I would say this is not limited to adults.
Susie: This can easily happen in kids because kids truly do not have a good way to communicate or even really understand their own emotional needs, and even if they were to stop, they wouldn’t necessarily be able to identify that need, but if you, as a parent are noticing eating changes in a child it can kind of be a clue, right?
Tammy: Right, exactly. And if you are reaching for sugar, our language is so tied in and this is part of why our hunger signal gets… It’s so tied into food, like sweet, “Oh, you’re so sweet. Love is so sweet. Oh if I need love or I need sweetness, I’m gonna eat this candy bar because it’s sweet.”
And so if you find yourself reaching for sugar, you might ask yourself, “Am I missing some sweetness in my life? And what feels sweet?”
Susie: And just even hearing you ask that question feels, I can even feel a shift to just say, “Where am I missing some sweetness in my life?” And my body just says “Oh, you’re listening to me, thank you.”
Tammy: And that’s beautiful and that’s what your body does and your mind and your energy system and all of those things, that’s what it does when you tune in, it’s like, “Oh, I need this,” and then all the sudden you can start to say, “Really, what is that need? Do I need a hug? Do I need to connect with somebody?” In some cases, I’m just bored or I need intellectual stimulation. Sometimes depending on the foods that we’re reaching for or the times that we’re reaching for it or any of those things are clues.
Susie: And almost everyone has moments of this emotional eating, right?
Tammy: Absolutely. I talk about sugar because sugar was my go-to emotional eating and I didn’t realize it was because I was disconnected from sweetness and just from myself and you need that comfort from yourself, but when you’re disconnected from it we’re sort of taught through our culture that food can fill us up. We celebrate with food, we eat for so many reasons that are not for nourishment, a true nourishment to build your body. In Sanskrit and in Ayurvedic terms, our body is one of the many layers that we experience in our experience here as a human being. And the body is in Sanskrit “Annamaya Kosa” which means layer of food.
Susie: Ooh, really?
Tammy: Yes. So when we talk about food, it really is to build our bodies into healthy vehicles so that we can experience our energy and our intellect and our emotions, and food isn’t for those other things.
Susie: But the metabolism is a huge energy-producing activity, so we take the food, we convert it into energy. So that’s a great something to keep in mind.
Tammy: Right. So that’s also a part of the workshop is how you build that digestive fire so that you have that vibrant energy. Because without your body using the food properly and creating a healthy environment to take that food in, you don’t get that benefit, that energetic benefit that runs your body.
And if you would like to work with me privately or have a free possibilities call, go ahead and do the contact form on my website.
Susie: Quickly before we go, once they have identified that trigger, or once they’ve said stop, and they tune into themselves, what’s their next step?
Tammy: The next step initially is to walk away and have a glass of water. You hear these tips all the time, but the follow-on tip is while you’re having that glass of water, ask yourself, what do I really need here?
Susie: And don’t be too hard on yourself because this may not happen overnight.
Tammy: Oh my gosh. Absolutely, gentleness.
Susie: What we’re talking about doing really is rewiring your brain, because this is probably something that’s been going on since you were little and you were given treats when you were good and all of the mini-layers of conditioning that you’ve gotten.
Tammy: That is absolutely, unconditionally true. Gentleness, gentleness, gentleness.
Susie: Tammy, thank you so much for being here. It was very sweet.
Tammy: Thank you, Susie.[Listen to the archived show]