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Using EFT to Find and Release Emotions That Contribute to Binge Eating

Dear EFT Community,

Sandy Zeldes, Certified EFT Practitioner tells about alleviating a client’s binge eating by using EFT to release unexpressed stored grief over the loss of her mother.

-Stephanie M

By Sandy Zeldes, Certified EFT Practitioner

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, and in the process, reclaim their joy in living. I have been working with a client who has been binge eating her entire life to deal with difficult emotions. She is in her 50’s now and is in the helping professions. She is very aware of her reasons for bingeing and even knows how to help others with emotional concerns, but not herself. She is successful in her professional life, but feels like a failure personally.

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. Tapping for her frustration about being able to help others but not herself: 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 asking them to close their eyes and take several slow deep breaths. Try this some time, it really helps.)

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 set up phrases. If they do not get a significant SUDs 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.

Inner eye:

“I can’t help myself with over-eating.”

Outer eye:

“I’m great at helping everyone else.”

Under eye:

“I’m actually an expert at helping everyone else.”

Upper lip:

“But I can’t do it for myself.”

Chin crease:

“I’m so ashamed.”

Collar bone:

“I’m embarrassed.”

Side of body:

“I’m humiliated.”

Top of the head:

“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. 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 with food.

We began tapping on all of the ways that she felt like a failure with food, and therefore her life.

Side of the hand:

“Even though I’ve always been such a failure with food… and I choose to accept myself anyway.”

“Even though 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.”

“Even though I’ll always be this way, I’m a failure with food and I accept and love myself completely now.” 

Inner eye:

“I’m a total failure with food.”

Outer eye:

“I’ll always be a total failure with food.”

Under eye:

“I’m a failure with food.”

Upper lip:

“I’ll always be a failure with food.”

Chin crease:

“Because of this failure with food I am a total failure.”

Top of head:

“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 because I could feel her shift. Positive reframes won’t “take” if we try to use them too early before the unconscious mind is ready in my experience. 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 there is a SUDs level drop. 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, or feeling like a failure because of it. At this point in the session she became aware of being extremely sad because of her sister’s problems with obesity and possibly dying from cancer.

She hadn’t been aware of just how much this was affecting her until now.

The sadness was extreme and it brought up her fears of losing her sister in the same way that she lost her mother years earlier to cancer. 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, often when we were very young.

We began tapping:

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.”

Inner eye:

“I don’t want to lose my sister.”

Outer eye:

“I can’t lose my sister too.”

Under eye/Chin crease/Collar bone:

“I don’t want to lose her.”

Side of body/Top of the head.

We tapped on this specific issue for several rounds, going back to the side of the hand a few times too for the remaining fear of losing her sister until it was almost zero in SUDs level. There were many other aspects to her grief and this loss that we spent at least 15 to 20 minutes tapping on with the main focus just being on how terrible this loss was for her and how she thought she could not handle the pain of it.

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. Four weeks out, still no grief or bingeing over it where it had been her daily experience for a several weeks prior. 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 and releasing this hidden stored grief was of tremendous help to her in stopping bingeing.