Uncover the psychological and physical issues behind comfort eating and learn how to start your journey to recovery with Stephen Porges' Polyvagal Theory, in the latest episode of Underground Confidence with Shelley Treacher.
In this episode, we look at ways to regulate the autonomic nervous system and how to start a journey of recovery from comfort eating. We discuss Stephen Porges’ polyvagal theory, provide a polyvagal exercise to kick in the parasympathetic response, and explore topics such as the difficulty of stopping eating, the psychological and physical issues behind it, the self-critic as the number one reason for comfort eating, and the inner child. We also talk about the physiology of triggering, the window of tolerance, and how to regulate the parasympathetic nervous system response.
(0:00:02) - Regulating the Nervous System
(0:09:17) - Self Regulation and Comfort Eating Recovery
(0:00:02) - Regulating the Nervous System (9 Minutes)
This episode focuses on ways to regulate the autonomic nervous system, which is split into the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. The sympathetic system is active when assessing threats, while the parasympathetic system is active when resting and digesting. Laughing, humming, singing, and dancing can all help to kick in the parasympathetic system and indicate that there is no danger. Stephen Porges's polyvagal theory is also discussed, and a polyvagal exercise is provided to help listeners get back into the parasympathetic response.
(0:09:17) - Self Regulation and Comfort Eating Recovery (6 Minutes)
Underground Confidence with Shelley Treacher' is discussing the topics of self-regulation, emotional eating, and how to start a journey of recovery from comfort eating. The episode provides an overview of the topics discussed throughout the year, such as the difficulty of stopping eating, the psychological and physical issues behind it, the self-critic as the number one reason for comfort eating, the inner child, and how to start having a good conversation with it. Additionally, the episode explains the physiology of triggering, the window of tolerance, and how to regulate the parasympathetic nervous system response.
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I'm gonna give you another few ways that you can regulate your nervous system. Hi. I'm Shelley Treacher from underground confident. I'm a somatic psychotherapist, and I help people to recover from comfort eating and feeling anxious. In the first I'm gonna talk about the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system. I know their words that you've heard. I thought I'd explain what they actually mean. Then I'm gonna give you another few ways to regulate your nervous system, and then I'm gonna give you a summary of everything that I've talked about in the last couple of weeks about self regulate Then I'm gonna give you a summary of everything I've talked about in the last few weeks. Here you'll see how it all hangs together and maybe what you need to be working on to recover from comfort eating. So I was listening to an interview with Stephen Porges this morning And the thing that struck me the most and perhaps I realize this over and over again in life is that we are always looking out for some threat.
I don't think the the average everyday person realizes this. When we're walking along the street, We're assessing threats and risk. When we're in relationship, we're assessing whether we're safe, whether there's a threat. When we go to the shops, we're assessing risk. Would do it all day long as human beings. Putting it really simply, the autonomic nervous system is divided into two parts. The sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is the one that prepares you for threat or for risk for fight or for flight. So here, the body maximizes your potential for oxygen and blood flow to your muscles and to your lungs and to your heart. Just in case you need those in order to get away or to protect yourself in some way. Blood flow here is also diverted away from your gut and your digestive system because that's not needed when you're under some kind of threat and you need to get away I think this is really interesting because often you're in fight or flight when you're comfort eating. So that means the digestive system is not gonna be working very well. The parasympathetic nervous system is triggered when the third is over. When you can return to resting and digest thing. This interacts with the sympathetic nervous system and tells it that there is no threat anymore. So this is the part of you that I'm trying to help you activate by telling you all about these self regulation exercises and ways that you can Return to normal. It's certainly true that when you overcome comfort eating, when you overcome a craving, or when you're feeling just better anyway so you don't need to eat that you're in the parasympathetic nervous system. So it makes sense that this is what you might be aiming for.
In this next part, I'll talk about a sense of humor and laughing. Interestingly, laughing kicks up the sympathetic nervous system. So it accelerates your breathing and your heart rates. But then as you start to calm down and stop laughing, your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in. Endorphins kick in as well when you start laughing. I am gonna talk about chemicals in the brain later, but clearly this makes you feel better. Which tells your system that there's no threat. Apparently, even if you hear laughter, it improves the functioning of your autonomic nervous system. So it will tell your sympathetic nervous system that you can calm down. There's no threat. So that's something you can try.
Listen to laughing and see how it feels. I think that would be a really funny one to do when you're in a binge craving. Try it. Just try it. Next time you're like, oh, I've got to eat a whole bucket of biscuits. Try listening to laughter. I have something ready for you to listen to. And just see if there's any minute little shifts in how you feel.
That was a genuine laugh because I genuinely think all of kind of funny. It wasn't my best laughter, but how did it go for you? I think it's worth trying. I really do. How many and singing are another couple of things that act in the same way as laughing. So humming in particular will kick in your parasympathetic nervous system and help you to calm down and feel that there is no danger that you're safe. So I'm gonna, would you like to with me? This is the weirdest, media thing that I've ever done. Oh, it's actually really satisfying. Just finding your own rhythm. Give it a go.
Movement in particular dancing are also takeaways to regulate your nervous system. There have been studies to show that dancing can reduce depression. Moving rhythmically, and emotional expression through movements, not only helps you to reduce depression, but also improves your brain functioning. Not to mention the physical benefits. Listening to me on podcast, you can't see me moving. So I can't demonstrate this one for you. But I will put a link in the show notes. I am gonna be dancing on TikTok. When I first started doing social media on talk. I thought I am never gonna do one of those stupid dancing videos. Here I am. But as many of you know, I am a dancer. So This isn't entirely new for me, but I'd definitely recommend it. Sometimes it's a lifeline.
Something else you might have heard a lot about is polyvagal theory. You might have heard that word bandied around, polyvagal. I am not gonna scientifically explain that for you. Stephen Porges, the man who I mentioned earlier, who I'd listened to a conversation with this morning, is famous for his levagal theory. The next video you see will be a polyvagal exercise. There is a huge amount of clinical evidence and just evidence with normal human beings that these exercises really help. The idea of them is course is to help you get back into your parasympathetic response, back into rest and digest. For those listening on podcasts, So here's a polyvagal exercise.
Clasp your hands behind the back of your head with your thumbs facing down your neck. Then look slowly in one direction as far as you can that's comfortable. Look as far as you can in that direction with your eyes as well. And then you're just waiting. You're just waiting for a breath, a laugh, a noise, a giggle, any kind of noise that comes from your parasympathetic nervous system. It will show you that that is kicking in. And then when you've had enough on that side, they do say to hold these for thirty seconds at least. Some people say for thirty minutes, Personally, I think you should just go for whatever feels comfortable and work up to perhaps doing more. But then when you've done that side, do the same on the other side. Look as far as you can in the other direction, and wait for your yawn, laugh, sigh, breath. Something that indicates your system has got the message. You're safe. You can breathe again. That's the whole point of sizes to give you that message so that you can get yourself out of that stress state or out of that collapsed state. And perhaps even out of that craving.
So now I'm gonna give you a summary of all the self regulation things that I've talked about in the last couple of weeks. First, I talked about the window of tolerance. I explained how you have a window in the middle that can increase or decrease when you feel a threat or when you feel comfortable. I explained that when you go out of your window of tolerance, you're generally experiencing one of two states. You might be experiencing hyper vigilance or you might feel like a lapsed state. These are traditionally known as hyperarounds and hyperarounds. I gave you a list and some suggestions of what might trigger you out of your window of tolerance. Of course, there are plenty more, which I will be talking out. I also gave you some idea of what physiological things you might experience when you're triggered out of your window of tolerance. And then I also gave you some ideas of what might bring you back into your window of tolerance. And that's what the rest of the couple of weeks have been about, different ways to bring a nervous system back into your window of tolerance, into something more rational or reasonable, and feel better.
So here's a list of the things that I've talked about for self regulation. One, breathing. Two, mindfulness. Three, embodiment. Four, taking a pause. Five, slowing down. Six, yawning. Seven, a soothing voice, during which I read you a story. Eight, sense of humor or laughing. Nine, humming or singing. Ten, movements or dancing. And then finally, number eleven, I gave you a polyvascular exercise. And I also talked about your autonomic nervous system, the sympathetic system and the parasympathetic system. So now to put this all into context, I'm gonna give you a brief summary of everything that I've talked about this year.
In the first week, I talked about why it is that you can't stop eating. I gave you a myriad different reasons why it is so hard for us to stop ourselves from eating, particularly once we started. This is really important as a foundational step because it lets you know that this is not just a matter of willpower, it's not just a matter of finding discipline to stop yourself from eating. And so in the second week, I started talking about how your eating might be emotional, how there might be something psychological behind it, or some physical or emotional or both discomfort. I asked you a few questions which started to help you identify what the emotion might be for you. This is important so that you start to understand what you're dealing with here. Recovery from comfort eating starts with knowing what's going on for you. And as you can see, it's a little bit complicated.
In the third week, I talked about your self critic as the number one reason that people comfort eat. I have not met a comfort eater yet who does not put themselves down quite badly. I explained how this makes you want to eat more. So the vicious cycle of giving yourself a hard time for not being able to stop eating Hopefully, I've exploded that as a bit of an unhelpful way to think. At this time, I gave you a little bit of an insight into how you're self worth can be influenced in your history, and how it can show up in daily life.
And then as we started to get deep per into this, I talked about your inner child as the part of you that responds to this critic. I explained that the language of the inner child is feeling an expression. Then I started to explain that things to do with your nervous system and your brain and neuroscience. I explained firstly what triggering actually is, and I gave you a list of the emotions that you might experience the present that might trigger you into feeling unsafe or to recycle something unsafe from your past. I explained a little bit about the physiology of triggering. And I gave you nine ways that you can or nine steps that you can start to have a good conversation with your inner child and start to notice it. Well, notice yourself and what you need. This ties in beautifully with talking about window of tolerance and how you go in and out of a stress state. So then I gave you lots of different ways to try and help you regulate and come back into a window of tolerance to a more regulated state, to your parasympathetic nervous system response.
I think if these are branches of a tree, one branch is self regulation, one branch is yourself critic and how you talk to yourself, One branch is how you jump out of your window of tolerance. Another branch is the emotion that might trickle you out. Another branch is a past and your history and what you might be triggered from your past. Another branch is your self worth. And how you think about yourself, how what you believe about yourself.
The structure of the podcast and the videos that I've been producing since January are the structure of my program. Obviously, I go into much more detail with people in the program. These are the things that you can be continuing to develop, and the more you do that, the more it will help with your comfort it's in recovery. So I'm gonna take a little break now so that I can upload some of my programs. I have a lot of admin to do, unfortunately.
But one of the things that I see over and over again that people are most afraid of is the feelings they'd be left with if they stopped to comfort eating. So if that's what I'll be talking about next time I come back. Because feeling those feelings is the thing that has to happen eventually. But it doesn't have to be done all at once. It doesn't have to be terrible and it isn't as awful as you think. And there are also many benefits from being aggressive. One I know that you already understand is being seen or heard feels good. And that's what I'd like to help you with. So please stay tuned and look at all my other podcasts, all my videos, you've got plenty to get through, and I'll be back in a few weeks. Thank you so much for following. This has been the underground confidence of the Shelley Treacher. If you got value from this, please share it or let someone else know that they can follow too and find their way to being seen or heard. Thank you so much. I'll see you again soon.
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