Sometimes binge eating is a coping strategy that develops in order to numb difficult or painful emotions. As a strategy, it can certainly work for a while in terms of "numbing out" difficult or painful emotions, but the consequences are often low self esteem as well as weight gain and a sense of feeling out of control. It can be scary to let go of something that "works" for us, however painful the consequences if we do not have another way to process our emotions. The other thing that happens often is that we can become unconscious of the process of reaching for food, and unconscious of our emotional experience because we are so used to avoiding it. I think we lose a big part of who we are in this way. This lost sense of self is another consequence for many women who use this coping mechanism in my experience.
It is a joy to see them find themselves again doing this work.
I have been working with a client who has been binge eating her entire life to deal with difficult emotions. She is very aware of her reasons for bingeing and even knows how to help others with emotional concerns, but not herself.
In fact this really annoys her that she can help others and not herself... (I hear this quite a bit by the way with women in the holistic or healing professions that I work with. We are great at helping others, but still struggle ourselves in some area that makes us feel like a failure.)
When we tapped on her frustration over this, another deeper issue came up about self worth which was so pivotal in healing her need to over-eat.
"I Can't Help Myself"
I asked her to take a few slow deep breaths and then we began tapping. (Whenever a client seems to be in a desperate place where i can tell that they are not connected to their feelings or body experience, I always begin with closing the eyes and taking deep breaths. Try this some time, it really helps.)
Karate Chop (or Side of the Hand): Even though I am great at helping everyone else with their problems, but I can't help myself, I choose to accept my feelings.
Even though I am an expert at being helpful for my kids and students, but when it comes to helping myself through this problem... I'm a failure... I choose to accept myself anyway.
Even though I'm totally humiliated and frustrated that I haven't been able to help myself through this problem with over-eating and I'm ashamed... I choose to accept myself anyway.
(Often I will use all of the variations of how someone explains the problem to me on the Setup phrases. If they do not get a significant SUDs (Intensity Level) reduction after tapping several rounds, then I will be more specific by asking them exactly which feelings bring up the most intensity for them. Usually however, this works just fine.)
Eyebrow Point (EB): "I can't help myself with over-eating"
Side of Eye (SE): "I'm great at helping everyone else"
Under Eye (UE): " I'm actually an expert at helping everyone else"
Under Nose (UN): "But I can't do it for myself"
Chin (Ch): "I'm so ashamed"
Collarbone (CB): "I'm embarrassed"
Under Arm (UA): "I'm humiliated"
Top of the Head (ToH): "I'm a failure at this area of my life"
After around 2 or 3 rounds of tapping on being ashamed and humiliated that she was totally out of control in this one area of her life but so great in many others - she had an insight:
"Not Good Enough"
She realized that she had always felt embarrassed and ashamed, like she wasn't really "good enough" and it wasn't just about this issue.
We began tapping on all of the ways that she felt like a failure with food, and therefore her life:
Karate Chop (or Side of Hand): I've always been such a failure with food... and I choose to accept myself anyway.
I'll always be this way, I'm a total failure with food and that means I'm a failure entirely! I choose to love and accept myself.
I'll always be this way, I'm a failure with food and I accept and love myself completely now.
Eyebrow Point (EB): I'm a total failure with food
Side of Eye (SE): I'll always be a total failure with food
Under Eye (UE): I'm a failure with food
Under Nose (UN): I'll always be a failure with food
Chin (Ch): Because of this failure with food I am a total failure
Collarbone Point (CB): "
Under Arm (UA): "
Top of Head (TOH): I choose to know that I am not a total failure just because I have had this problem with food and I choose to know that I am healing this issue now.
This client was ready for a positive reframe at this point. I could feel her shift. Positive reframes won't "take" if we try to use them too early before the unconscious mind is ready. I find that as I feel someone shift enough, I try introducing the new idea and see if it works. How do we know it works? Because the belief is shifted or we get a drop in the Intensity (or SUDs) Level.
After about 15 minutes of tapping on what came up around this, she felt much better. Suddenly it wasn't an issue at all, and she had no intensity around being frustrated or humiliated about her inability to heal her emotional eating.
At this point in the session she was just extremely sad because of her sister's problems with obesity and possibly dying from cancer. The sadness was extreme and it brought up her fears of losing her mother years earlier to cancer. There was a lot of stored up grief in these issues that were causing her to binge eat.
Though it may sound obvious that an extremely painful emotion would be the cause of binge eating, or underlying the need to binge, I find that so many have no idea what the cause is! It just happens automatically and the actual feeling is suppressed, even when it seems obvious to us later! It is a powerfully intelligent defense mechanism that got created often when we needed it most, when we were very young.
We began tapping:
Karate Chop (KC) (or Side of the Hand), three times: Even though I'm afraid of losing my sister like I lost mom... I choose to love and accept all of my feelings now.
Eyebrow Point (EB): I don't want to lose my sister
Side of Eye (SE): I can't lose my sister too
Under Eye (EU): "
Under Nose (UN): "
Chin Point (Ch): "
Collarbone (CB): I don't want to lose her
Under Arm (UA): "
Top of the Head (ToH): "
We tapped on this specific issue for several rounds, going back to the Karate Chop (Side of Hand) a few times too for the remaining fear of losing her sister until it was almost zero in Intensity (SUDs) level.
After this session, ALL of her sadness and grief diminished to the point where it just didn't exist in her daily life anymore, and she had stopped bingeing entirely over this issue.
I believe that this was an example of unexpressed stored grief over the loss of her mother being triggered by this new experience with her sister. Identifying this hidden stored grief was of tremendous help to her in stopping bingeing.
San Francisco, California, US
From the EFTfree Archives, which are now a part of EFT International .
Originally published on June 25, 2011.