Your Inner Child needs you. She needs your attention, your support, and your love. When you connect with her and soothe the wounds she carries, you develop a deep faith in yourself. This helps you feel more at peace so you can release the need to use food for comfort and honor your feelings in a more grounded way.
Let’s start at the beginning and meet your first Inner Child, your one True Self.
You were born into this world as a perfect, loving, curious, and creative being. This is your True Self; your authentic you. Everyone’s childhood includes obstacles to overcome, but when you’re supported in a loving, nurturing environment, you can navigate life’s rough spots with faith and security, trusting you have the help and inner resources available to not only cope, but to thrive. Your True Self remains strong, secure, and deeply connected with her source energy, or Higher Power.
But if you came from an abusive, neglectful, or emotionally unavailable family, your True Self’s journey may have been compromised.
When confronted with the turmoil and loneliness of a dysfunctional or abusive environment, your True Self goes into hiding. Her authentic feelings go underground because it feels unsafe to express them. This results in a deep feeling of emptiness, as if something is missing. Anxiety, panic, or acting out behaviors may surface. Sadness and depression, or anger and rage, become a familiar emotional mask. She may soothe herself with food to cope.
Your feelings become frozen in time at the age your True Self hides. Your Inner Child then carries those feelings forward. Something may have happened years or decades ago, but if your feelings were not acknowledged, honored and released, they remain stored inside you and your body. The energy of those feelings runs your life until you’re able to heal and release them.
When you compulsively overeat you silence the voice of that child and stop hearing what she needs from you. Think of your urge to overeat as a scared, sad, or anxious child crying herself to sleep. She’s not hungry for food. She’s hungry for your love and attention.
When painful feelings from the past reside inside you, you don’t just experience daily life stress, frustration and disappointment in present time. They trigger deeper feelings so your reaction is often out of proportion to the issue at hand. That over-reaction is the energy of your Inner Child.
For example, Doreen responded with angry outbursts when her husband was even slightly late for dinner. She turned to food to quell her agitation. Her husband’s tardiness brought to the surface anger Doreen harbored from the many times her verbally abusive parents told her she “couldn’t do anything right.” Without realizing it, Doreen treated her husband the way her parents treated her.
No one makes you feel anything that isn’t already inside you to begin with. When you stop blaming others for what you feel–and take responsibility for your reactions and acknowledge your Inner Child’s pain–that’s when you become free.
Healing your Inner Child, and releasing the pain she holds, allows your True Self to emerge. When you no longer feel that emptiness and pain inside, you react to life’s trials and tribulations with greater confidence and balance. You deal with today only. You no longer need to use food for comfort because you can easily comfort and reassure yourself.
A Reflective Practice
The next time you feel overwhelmed and seek food to numb your feelings, open to the possibility that what you’re experiencing is a memory of what you felt a long time ago. Take a moment to reflect on these questions:
“How familiar is this feeling?”
“How far back does this feeling go?”
“When was the first time I remember feeling this way?”
Write your answers down and notice what patterns emerge over time. This helps you begin to link the past with the present and connect your feelings with where they came from.
Then, call forth the image of the child you once were and find comforting ways to soothe yourself instead of turning to food. For example, write your feelings in a journal, hug a stuffed animal, have a good cry, take a walk or do heavy cleaning to release pent-up energy from your body. Imagine you’re not only comforting your adult you, you’re comforting your child within.
For example, earlier in my adult life whenever a relationship with a man ended–usually an emotionally unavailable man and a very short-lived relationship–I felt overwhelming loss. Familiar feelings of abandonment surfaced that related to the sudden death of my father when I was eleven. My feelings had nothing to do with these men. Their unavailability merely brought to the surface what already was inside me. As long as I believed these men were the reason I felt abandoned, I stayed stuck. But once I connected with the true source of my pain, I healed.
Feelings are timeless. Your Inner Child doesn’t know the difference between today and years ago. When you comfort yourself while connecting your feelings to the past, you repair old wounds. Your Inner Child heals. Your weight loss journey becomes easier when you no longer carry within you heavy pain from the past.
Even if you struggle with overwhelming feelings and turn to food for comfort, understand that underneath all of it is a core so strong, so loving, and so peaceful that it can manage anything. This is your True Self. She’s still there, just waiting for you to find her.