When overeating is driven by spiritual hunger.
Story: Julie M. Simon, MA, MBA, LMFT
Most of us mere mortals fall prey to the notion that an enduring sense of happiness, peace, safety, and security can be found in conditions, things, and beings. Whether we’re hoping to lose weight, land that dream job, or meet the right partner, it’s easy to get caught up in our material lives and lose sight of spiritual needs.
Often, it’s only when we reach our goals that we discover their achievement brings little permanent satisfaction. We may begin to wonder if there is more to life than pursuing endless earthly desires.
If you find yourself routinely overeating at meals, snacking mindlessly or bingeing regularly, your overeating may represent a “call from your soul,” a sort of spiritual hunger informing you something is out of balance.
The spiritual component of well-being involves a search for meaning, serenity, and joy that goes beyond day-to-day concerns. Just as a wholesome meal nourishes the body, spirituality nourishes the soul. We all desire a life filled with purpose and passion; a life rich in soul-nourishing connections to family, friends, community, and nature.
If you’re feeling spiritually depleted, you may feel disconnected from the deeper reserves of joy, passion, and contentment within or from your higher self or a higher power. You may feel disconnected from other nourishing human beings. Perhaps you feel disconnected from your calling or sense of purpose in life. And there’s a good chance this disconnection is fueling your overeating.
Symptoms of spiritual depletion include emptiness, restlessness, unease, purposelessness, meaninglessness, lack of inspiration or motivation, boredom, loneliness, lack of personal fulfillment, discontentment, dissatisfaction or a sense of being lost in life.
Even when we’ve achieved our desired goals and our lives seem relatively full, we still can experience symptoms of spiritual depletion. Some soul-care practices (see next page) may assist you in addressing this disconnection and filling up your spiritual reserves.
Setting aside time to consciously shift your focus away from daily concerns allows you to gain a more expansive perspective on your life and access a sense of peace and joy you may have never known. This joy has absolutely nothing to do with beauty, weight, possessions, or attachments, or the people you know. This joy can put an end to your overeating.
Soul care practices to address spiritual hunger
Quiet your mind
Even though you may not be able to reduce the multitude of tasks you must accomplish in a day or all the roles you play, you can minimize their negative effect by consciously withdrawing from your busy schedule to quiet your mind. A popular technique is to focus your complete attention on counting your breaths. As you inhale deeply, count the number one to yourself silently and then exhale deeply. Repeat three times, counting up to the number four, focusing solely on inhaling, exhaling, and counting. As you inhale, imagine yourself breathing in light, love, and calm. Breathe out and exhale stress, negativity, and worry. Your body and mind are beginning to relax.
Practice letting go
Most of us believe if we apply enough effort, we can control our lives. If we have the talent, ability, or good fortune to manifest many of our desires, we become, without realizing it, invested in this illusion. We dream big, set goals, and become emotionally attached to power, beauty, money, prestige, possessions, perfection, people, and even the idea that things will always go our way.
Letting go is not necessarily about giving up on your goals. It’s about finding balance. Make a list of all of the attachments in your life that create imbalance. Don’t forget to include states of being, such as the need to be right or well-liked; outcomes, such as quick payoffs; and the past, like grudges and regrets.
Pick one attachment and set an intention to work on it. Commit to one small change you can make. Explore your emotions regarding letting go. What do you fear will happen if you let go? What will you lose or give up? What will you gain?
Fill up on nourishing connections
Are loneliness and isolation factors in your overeating? If so, you can attract others who are nourishing by starting small and focusing on increasing your experience of connection. Smile at the bank teller or pet a friendly dog and say hello to its guardian. Connections that involve giving or helping others elicit positive physiological sensations called “the helper’s high.” These positive feelings are motivating and can push you past the withdrawal associated with loneliness.
Nourishing relationships provide a place to feel safe, seen, heard, accepted, understood, and loved. Get clear on the qualities or traits you are looking for in friends or partners. Envision the type of person you want to attract and write your vision in a journal. Be proactive when socializing and make contact with people who have the traits you desire. Don’t just take those who take you.
Fill your life with purpose and meaning
Nothing feels better than waking up and looking forward to the day. We feel a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction because our lives have purpose and feel meaningful. And it’s even better if we feel inspired and passionate about what we’re doing. We become imbalanced when we don’t have enough meaningful activity in our lives, and this can lead to eating in an attempt to fill up the emptiness.
If your life feels devoid of significance right now, try not to lose hope or faith. It will take some time to build more purpose and meaning but doing so is not impossible. Let your heart guide you in finding more stimulating or joy-filled activities. Make a list of potential activities, including those that contribute to the well-being of others. Helping others can lift you out of a seemingly purposeless existence.