“Inside me lives a skinny woman crying to get out. But I can usually shut her up with cookies.” – Anonymous

Is there a screaming banshee inside of you demanding, “GIVE ME LOTS OF VERY RICH FOOD AND NOBODY GETS HURT!”? Do you raid the fridge when you’re not really hungry and eat in an effort to escape feelings of boredom, anger, stress, fear, or depression? If you use food to change the way you feel, if food is your drug of choice, you’re not alone. Like a drug, food releases opiates that comfort, soothe, and pacify us.

Often, a strong biological link is established between food and comfort when we’re young. When we’re held and fed as babies, we learn to associate a full tummy with love and security. My attachment to comfort food began early in life. My sweet daddy would try to cheer me up with food treats (ice cream was a favorite) so I learned to use food to improve the way I felt. It set up a link between food and mood that later inspired many evenings with my comfort food friends – pasta, cookies, ice cream, etc.

Emotional eating is an effort to satisfy emotional hunger rather than physical hunger, but emotional hunger can never be satisfied with food in any quantity. It can be dulled for a while, only to rise up in full force the next time you feel sad or unloved or afraid. Emotional eating is an effort to avoid feeling negative emotions. But here’s the thing: Your negative emotions are designed to help you. They’re designed to get your attention, to notify you that your connection to Source is weak. As you develop your ability to raise your vibration by choosing thoughts that feel better, you hook up with the stream of Well-Being and reconnect with Source, which is what you really wanted in the first place.

If you self-medicate with food, how about nurturing and comforting yourself in other ways? If you feel like pigging out, try a different response – take a walk, meditate, call a friend, do deep breathing exercises, put on music and dance, do something fun. Here are three tools to use instead of overeating when the hunger monster strikes:

1. Choose Thoughts That Feel Better. Ask yourself: “What would feel better right now than stuffing myself with food?” Then choose thoughts that feel just a little bit better, such as “I have a choice. I can change the way I feel with food or I can change the way I feel with my thoughts and actions. It’s nice to know I have a choice. I really am free to eat or not eat. I may choose to take a walk. The fresh air and the activity will FEEL GOOD. I know that my natural state is Well-Being and I know that overeating is a poor substitute for what I really want – which is to feel good, so I’ll spend the evening doing things that feel good.”

2. Replace Limiting Beliefs. Ask yourself, “What is the limiting belief that is causing me to want to pig out?” Limiting beliefs are generally things like – “There’s something wrong with me. I’m not good enough. I can’t really have what I want. It’s too hard. Nothing ever works out for me.” After identifying the limiting belief, replace it with an empowering belief such as – “I can do this. If I keep going in the right direction, I know I’ll be successful. I AM good enough just as I am. I can attract what I focus on – that’s the way the Universe works.”

3. Write Your Feelings. When you feel the cravings coming on, write down your thoughts and feelings. If you can get the feelings out on paper, the cravings will dissipate. Knowing that it’s not real hunger for food, ask yourself what you reallywant. “What am I really hungry for?” It will generally be something like: “I want to feel safe. I want to feel confident. I want to feel loved. I want to feel happy. I want to feel good about myself.” Writing is a great way to get in touch with what you truly desire.

If you self-medicate with food, it is NOT because you’re bad or weak. It’s because you learned to avoid unpleasant feelings by eating. As you practice feeling better and raising your vibration with your thoughts, you regain your power. As you find other ways to comfort yourself, you reclaim conscious control of your life. As you feel your feelings and identify the true source of hunger, you let food be food rather than a drug. As you continue to do these things, your desire to anesthetize with food will vanish and you will be free — free of emotional eating and free to live your life as you choose!