Over several years we have worked with many people that have struggled with eating disorders, body image problems, and weight challenges. Most of the time we find that these challenges are linked to unhealthy coping patterns, unhealthy beliefs about our bodies, and becoming stuck in dieting mentality. Maladaptive (unhealthy) coping strategies like stress eating, binge eating, or restrictive eating are rooted in avoidance of uncomfortable emotions. Instead of facing our emotional pain, such as sadness or fear, we turn to food, dieting, or starvation to cope. The problem is that these coping strategies never solve the emotional pain, rather they distract us temporarily and then create even more emotional discomfort thereafter. This can lead to the emotional eating cycle, driven by guilt and shame, resulting in damaged body image and unhealthy behaviors towards our bodies.

To counter the vicious cycle of emotional eating and self destruction we have developed seven steps that we work our program participants through, teaching them a much higher degree of emotional mastery. Emotional mastery is linked to emotional intelligence, a vital skill for success in humankind. These steps have been practiced and refined throughout the therapeutic process of many participants and have aided them greatly in their journey to emotional freedom. This, in essence, removes the drive to eat emotionally as the process teaches us to face and work through the root emotions without leaning on ineffective coping strategies.

These, like all components of our programs, are founded on sound therapeutic practices of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Reality Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, and Existential Therapy. These are combined with the wisdom of the world's top Success Coaches such as Hale Dwoskin of the Sedona Training Institute, T. Harv Eker of Peak Potentials, Jack Canfield, author of the best selling Chicken Soup for the Soul Series and The Success Principles, The Arbinger Institute, and Dean Nixon, Seminar Facilitator and Value Based Coach from TurningLeaf Wellness Center.

In addition to the therapeutic training and great success coaches that have influenced this program, we have added our own hands on experience leading many people to success in overcoming eating disordered behaviors and in developing healthy lifestyles-including healthy body image and weight loss where appropriate. We coupled this with our own personal experience of overcoming challenges in regards to body image.

Please join us in developing greater emotional mastery through working through these steps; we find success is found in working them through in both a verbal and written format. It comes down to two great driving forces for success: First, the DECISION to engage the steps fully and second, REPETITION of the steps frequently to create new habits for coping. The steps are framed as questions to promote an introspective journey. They are as follows:

Question One:

What is my present feeling?

This first step is simple and direct. One of the key components to emotional intelligence is to be able to identify how we feel at any given moment, to be aware of our emotions, and to be present with our emotions. We can only truly work in the present moment, so if we have emotional baggage from the past, or are fearful of the future, the key is to bring these feelings to the present moment where we can do something with them.

Question Two:

Am I willing and able to acknowledge or face my feeling?

This question drives us further into emotional awareness, and fosters emotional accountability, encouraging acceptance of our feelings. By and large we choose how we feel. Our decision making processes are inseparably connected with our emotions. Our decisions effect our emotions. We can decide how we feel. Many times our feelings come about because of decisions we have previously made which have become deeply ingrained beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. Only by facing our emotions will we ever be able to fully work through them.

Question Three:

How can I appropriately express my feeling?

This step is very important. There are a multitude of unhealthy forms of expression, for example, yelling when angry or using cutting sarcasm when hurting. We recommend finding healthier forms of expression. Becoming assertive in our communication with others, verbally setting boundaries with others, and talking through the root emotion we are experiencing are just some of the healthier ways to express ourselves. Things like journaling and the arts (poetry, creative writing, singing, painting, playing an instrument) can also lend to effective expression of emotion.

Question Four:

What can I learn from my feeling?

This is the single most important step to this process. With uncomfortable emotions such as fear and sadness, we have a great tendency to hold these feelings at bay. We believe that if we truly face our difficult feelings we will be overwhelmed by them. We have found that the opposite is usually the case. That by holding back, ignoring, or continuously distracting ourselves from our unwanted feelings that we usually experience more unwanted feelings. For example, ignoring deep feelings of guilt for past actions can turn to apathy, which many times sets the stage for engaging in more self destructive behaviors. We are suggesting here that you do the opposite, actually take the time to learn from your unwanted and uncomfortable feelings. Some of our greatest personal lessons can be found through this process.

We find that two main lessons tend to show up when we desire to learn from our emotional experience: Our feelings are either a signal that we need to attend to something in our lives, or our feelings come from a place of deception. It is vital that we begin to discern the difference between signal feelings and deceptive feelings as the way we handle these will be different. Signal feelings require healthy actions. Deceptive feelings require shining the light of truth upon them to clarify what is really going on within us. After clarification we can then learn from our feelings in a more honest way, leading to healthier responses to those feelings.

Many times, especially early in developing greater emotional intelligence, people find that having a guide to work through this step is of great benefit. If bigger issues of past hurt or life difficulties come up in this process, we recommend accessing Greater Life Coaching or Counseling for further support. If you are feeling stuck on this step and need some guidance, you will find Greater Life Coaching to be of benefit. For either of these services, go to www.thegreateru.com to get the support you need, or call 435.608.1417.

Question Five:

Based upon what I have learned, what healthy actions can I take?

Many times our emotions are a call that there is something to be paid attention to, some course corrections to take in life, or some call to action that requires heeding. Once we have learned the deep lessons our feelings provided for us, it is now time to put this to action. This may be a simple course change, or could lead to bigger shifts in our lifestyles, either way, getting a realistic and achievable plan of action in place can help facilitate growth. Effective goal setting includes the language of choice, positive focus, solution focus, lifestyle focus, and present focus. Ultimately powerful goals are in the form of Intentional Declarations, the process for creating these is outlined in the workbook “Breaking Through Barriers to Weight Loss”. The workbook can be easily ordered online as an e-book from www.thegreateru.com.

Question Six:

Am I willing and able to liberate my feeling?

You have come this far, you have identified, faced, expressed, learned from, and planned for working through your emotions, retraining your brain and your heart for greater emotional intelligence. Now the decision has arrived, will I let this feeling go? Liberating our uncomfortable feelings such as fear and sadness is an important decision. We have an enormous pre-frontal cortex (about 33% of our brain), the executive functioning of our brain is designed to problem solve, to process through our emotions, and to make decisions. We have the ability to decide how we feel and what we will do with our feelings. Liberation is freedom from unwanted toxic emotional states. This may create instantaneous relief, or it may take time and repetition of the previous steps to feel the long term effects of developing your emotional mastery. Remember, through repetition fo the seven steps you can habituate these emotional processing skills into adeptness.

Question Seven:

Who can I share this experience with?

The final step is crucial for the completion of the emotional mastery process. This step provides the opportunity to share what we have learned from our experience with someone close to us. Sharing can be challenging, however opening up and talking about the freedom we are feeling can serve to deepen your freedom. It also creates the opportunity to talk through the process with someone else, employing repetition as a tool for learning. Reaching out also supports shifting our focus to helping others, a great way to celebrate the emotional release the emotional mastery process creates.

To fully develop emotional mastery we highly recommend that you couple working through these steps with one on one counseling via phone or internet with one of our trained professionals from The Greater You, Inc. We also have great tele-classes and conferences you can access hosted by well known coaches such as Tara Costa, Erik Chopin, Matt Hoover, or Helen Phillips. We can be reached at 435.608.1417 to have a session set up. We can be contacted directly through our website www.thegreateru.com

Author's Bio: 

Kwinten is a Licensed Professional Counselor and holds a Masters Degree in Mental Health Counseling and is a Certified Therapeutic Weight Management Specialist. He has studied and employs research backed methods of guiding people through the weight loss process. He also has additional training in treating Eating Disorders, Over Eating and Obesity. He is a Certified Therapeutic Weight Management Specialist. He has spearheaded work in helping clients work through the underlying emotional struggles that many times underpin weight and body image problems. He has provided his clinical support to various wellness programs and Spas such as TurningLeaf Wellness Center, The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge, Green Valley Spa, and Utah’s Live in Fitness Camp. He and his wife, Gina, founded The Greater You, Inc in order to support the health, wellness, and weight loss efforts of people around the globe. Gina has also contributed significantly to developing our programs and has gone through her own journey of overcoming eating disorders. Together they feel fortunate to work with such promising and talented Greater Life Coaches that you will find at The Great You. Kwinten also runs a Private Practice for counseling in beautiful Park City, Utah where he works with couples, teens, and families in the area providing a wide scope of services. He enjoys spending time with his family. He also enjoys mountain biking, snow boarding, and the out doors.