Are your emotions getting in the way of your health and fitness goals?

When it comes to your health, honouring and listening to emotions is just as important as nutrition, movement, and rest.
While many people may know what they should eat and how much they should exercise, they struggle with actually doing it.  Emotional eating or other self-sabotaging behaviours can derail best intentions.
One of the causes of both these struggles is repressed or dishonoured emotions. Dishonoured emotions are the ones we try to shove into the darkest recesses of our mind, the ones we try to pretend aren’t there. For example, someone might be trying to stick to a healthy diet while enmeshed in a toxic, unfulfilling relationship where they aren’t being treated well. This person might ignore the rage and sadness they feel about this relationship, and turn to food as a way to numb these unpleasant feelings.
In the book “The Language of Emotions”, author Karla McLaren makes a case for the importance of emotions as guideposts that allow us to move through life in an integrated way. By honouring all emotions, we will be able to move through life with awareness and a sense of wholeness because we’re taking care of all aspects of our health.
We aren’t just our physical bodies – we have emotional, mental, and spiritual bodies as well. When emotions are neglected, the physical body will often pay the price.
Here are some signs of dishonoured emotions:

  • Perpetually ignoring or repressing emotions often labelled as negative, such as anger, fear, or sadness
  • Feeling disconnected or uncertain of what emotions are even being felt at any given time
  • The need to escape everyday life, whether it’s with work, shopping, or for many people, food

When we try to cling too tightly to emotions like joy or contentment, or push anger or sadness out of our conscious mind, imbalances will occur that can lead to addictions or self-destructive behaviours. Going back to the previous example of the person in the toxic relationship, this person might be so uncomfortable with the intensity of their anger that they do everything in their power to run from their emotions. They might throw themselves into a meal plan, follow it with fierce rigidity, then self-sabotage by binge eating in the late hours of the night.
We often continue to ignore powerful emotions, and continue to manipulate workout schedules or meal plans in hopes that we finally find the right combination of these elements that will help us reach our goal.
However, one of the most life-changing and sustainable shifts towards health is to take a deeper dive and move towards dropping into more emotional awareness.
When we truly hold space for every emotion, the need to check out and escape life diminishes. The urge to eat emotionally will lose its hold. And, we have the energy that was once used to fight and resist emotions, and can take that energy and channel it towards our goals.
A few ways to get started with honouring emotions are:

  • Journaling – allow stream of consciousness writing to flow, revealing whatever emotions are present at the time
  • Regular quiet time to check in with feelings – meditation, but in a way that it’s not about clearing the mind altogether, but rather to check in and see what emotions are present, where they are felt in the body, and the level of their intensity
  • Asking yourself “what message is this emotion bringing me?” Find the ways that the emotion, no matter how negative it may seem, is trying to guide you through your life.

In my next article, I will talk about the differences between repressing and over-expressing emotions, as well as the other, healthier option you can take to honour your emotions.
 If you are interested in making a lifestyle change toward improving your eating habits and relationship with food, Ascend Fitness + Lifestyle will be offering a 6-week Emotional Wellness workshop in February. For more information email [email protected]

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