EMOD (Emotional Modification): Emotional Management to Heal Disordered Eating

Many potential clients come to me saying that their goal is losing the last 15 pounds. Many others say that they want to become intuitive eaters but still pursue weight loss goals. 

What many do not realize is that there is a bigger reason for the issues with weight. Those with specific medical issues notwithstanding, most people who have issues with their weight and food have deeper, more emotional and mental issues that need to be dealt with. 

The weight itself is simply a symptom of bigger internal issues. If we can figure out what the true issue is and begin to tackle that, the issues with weight will be resolved as a byproduct. 

Now, that is not to say that dealing with the bigger issue will guarantee weight loss. What happens with your weight as a result of dealing with the mental and emotional piece of your food issues is determined by two things: 

  1. Your genetically-determined weight set range
  2. Your particular disordered habits

Before my eating disorders, I was an intuitive eater (as we all were in the beginning!). During my eating disorders, a severe caloric deficit caused weight loss that wasn’t natural for my body. As a result, when I healed my internal issues and became an intuitive eater, I gained weight. 

This was incredibly scary, and I had to do a lot of thought work around what the weight gain meant, but it was weight I needed to gain to be my ideal weight. 

In the same way, someone who is perhaps emotionally eating, overeating, and otherwise binge eating may be above their natural weight set range; and once their internal issues are healed–and by extension their habits with food–they may lose weight. 

As a coach who studies other coaches in order to refine my craft, I have studied a lot of different coaching models in order to come up with my own signature model specific to intuitive eating and body image; I call it EMOD. 

EMOD stands for Emotional Modification and is also an acronym for the four steps of the model: Emotion, Meaning, Objectivity, and Decision. All steps of the model stem from an event that has happened in the client’s life. 

Although I believe the model can be done by anyone for themselves, I always suggest that someone who is struggling with disordered eating and managing their thoughts and emotions hire a coach or Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor to walk them through a model like this. 

The Emotion step of the model asks, “What emotion are you feeling, as a result of this event? And what emotions caused this event?” So, for example, let’s say a client comes to me after they’ve binged. I will ask them what emotions are coming up for them. Many reply with answers like shame, guilt, feeling out of control, or frustration. Before the binge, they were feeling rushed, stressed, and anxious. In order to process negative emotions, we first have to be able to label them. 

The next step is diving into Meaning, or asking, “What am I making this event or this emotion mean?” The bingeing client may say that the binge means they are completely out of control when it comes to food, that they need to restrict to “fix” this event, that they’re never going to get a handle on their binge eating, that they’re disgusting or worthless. Many times, we don’t realize the thoughts running through our heads; we passively think them and don’t examine them; but once we do, we can start to analyze and challenge them. Without realizing it, when we create these meanings and stories in our heads, we make these events mean something about who we are as people (and whether we’re good people or bad), but in reality, all events are neutral experiences until we attribute meaning to them. 

The third step of the EMOD model is Objectivity. We need to take those emotionally-charged thoughts, which are not serving us, and rephrase them in a way that is factual and neutral. By stripping the negative emotion out of what  we’re experiencing, we can see the event for the neutral event that it is, and not moralize ourselves as a result of the event. We can more calmly see the circumstances in front of us. So, for this client, we can change her negatively charged thoughts to, “I ate past fullness last night,” “I waited too long to eat before the binge,” or, “I am actively working toward learning how to not binge eat.” 

The last step is Decision, or asking, “What will you do, looking only at the facts of the event?” Once we see the event as neutral, we have an easier time moving past it in a healthy way, instead of a punitive way. Someone who hasn’t managed their emotions around a binge may think the best course of action is to restrict to “make up for ” the binge. Once we see the event from a neutral place, though, we can calmly see the facts of the event: the client was restricting and went way past the point of comfortable hunger, which triggered a biological binge. In order to prevent this from happening again, we need to move away from the emotionally-charged  (fear, shame) decision to restrict, and try something new: continuing to fuel our body according to our hunger and fullness cues. This will move us away from the restrict and binge cycle. 

This allows us to address the emotions with new decisions, too. What caused the binge in the first place? Part of it was certainly the physical cause of restriction; but there was also an emotional component.  We identified stress and anxiety as the emotional causes of the binge, so what can we do, now and also next time, to mitigate the stress and anxiety in order to avoid the binge? Can we practice more self-care? Journal? Meditate? Be more intentional with our work and play time? Whatever it is, now is the time to implement those things. 

Although it is emotionally difficult and time consuming to take the time to process events and emotions with EMOD, especially at first, the long-term investment in managing your thoughts and emotions and taking new steps toward recovery is worth it. You will soon realize that you’ve been approaching your problems with the wrong solution, and you will open the doors to true healing, for the rest of your life to begin. 

If you want to talk about signing up for coaching with me, go to freedomwithfoodandfitness.com/book-online to schedule your free 15-minute discovery call today!

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