Counselling and Psychotherapy for
Body, Mind and Spirit

Ina Stockhausen, MTC

Ina Stockhausen R.P.C. offers spiritual counselling and body psychotherapy or somatic counseling in Burnaby and North Vancouver.

Emotional Eating

When you were a baby you had no problem making your needs and desires known.
You weren’t plagued with self- doubts! What changed?

Many of my clients often seek counselling help for depression, relief from anxiety, or counselling support thru grief and loss.

As we sift thru the layers, all problems usually have one underlying theme. Even in my work as marriage counsellor the same topic emerges over and over again.

This theme is called “I’m not good enough.” How come you’re no longer good enough?

What happened to the perfect baby that you were?

When you were a baby, you had no sense that there was anything wrong with you. You had no thoughts that you should be different. You didn’t think that you were too short, too fat, too thin, too ugly, too dumb, too difficult or too ______________

Today, do you ever hear a voice in your head say some version of the following to you?

  • What’s wrong with you?
  • What’s the matter with you?
  • When are you going to get it right?

This kind of self-criticism is the result of having internalized messages you heard people say to you when growing up. Praise, the absence of praise or even punishment can create a mindset of needing to do better, of not being good enough.

A mindset of striving to be “perfect.”

Striving for perfectionism creates a well-developed inner critic; who then interferes with you loving yourself. Limiting the love you have for yourself results in having less respect and esteem for who you are. Low self-esteem erodes your confidence.

Here are some examples of what lack of love for self and lack of self-esteem can look like in every day life:

  • You get caught up in trying to please others
  • You take care of others but neglect your own self-care
  • You put your own needs last – you don’t ask for what you want
  • You procrastinate doing things that would be good for you
  • You get caught up in anxiety worrying about the “should haves”
  • You don’t ask for the raise you deserve
  • You don’t charge enough money for your services
  • You mistreat your body with food, alcohol, lack of sleep or lack of exercise
  • You allow your partner or others to belittle you
  • You minimize your accomplishments

How can you make positive changes in your life?

It starts with loving yourself. We are all our own harshest critics. One excellent way to change your negative self-talk is doing mirror work.

Try looking into your eyes and saying
“I love and accept you just the way you are”

Add your name, for example
“I love you Sally, I love and accept you just the way you are.”

Notice what thoughts surface.

Pay special attention to negative thoughts such as

  • Yea, right… but if you’re so great how come…
  • Who do you think you are?…
  • Who are you kidding?…

Using a journal to jot down what surfaces, can help you identify where that thought comes from and what it is really about.

Babies are not afraid to ask for what they want. Babies feel free to express their emotions.

Learn from the genuine expression of babies. Connect to staying in the present, rather than worrying about mistakes you made in the past or things you might do “wrong” in the future.


As you work on your inner dialogue, practice giving yourself permission to be authentic… like a baby.

Choose one area in your life for loosening up your unrelenting high standards and reducing your perfectionistic behaviours.

Strategies to help you cope with change include giving yourself permission to make mistakes, reminding yourself of the consequences of your perfectionism, learning to laugh, and rewarding yourself often for the small steps you make towards change.



Many years ago, when I was training in Dance Movement Therapy and Ritual Theater, at some point during the exercises I would find myself overwhelmed with feelings. At the time, that felt scary and “not good enough” and a typical reaction was to tell myself that I had to “get a grip.”

How often do you tell someone in your life…yourself perhaps… to get a grip?  To get it together?

Other versions of this are “What’s the matter with you?”

Because really and truly, what is the matter with you? Why are you unhappy or depressed or feeling anxious? Why are you unsatisfied with your life? You have no reason. You have a good life, a good partner, a job and a roof over your head. Think about all the people on this planet who are so much worse off than you are.

It doesn’t make sense!!

If this type of inner dialogue sounds familiar, then you also know that these kinds of thoughts and feelings are very unsettling. If like many, you manage uncomfortable or painful feelings thru emotional eating, you might find yourself standing in front of the fridge or cupboard looking for that special treat which will make you feel better.

But what if it did make sense? What if there was NO thing wrong with you?

What if you were able to stop, breathe and stop censuring yourself?

If you were to allow yourself to sit in authenticity, your feelings surfacing without judgment?

What would happen?

You could find a gateway to your true self. You would be able to still the longings that have somehow gotten on the “forbidden” list.

You would not have to go looking for food again and again until you decide to punish yourself with a diet.

Three things are needed for the process of “allowing it to make sense.”

You need to let go of shame and find your courage so you can cultivate self-compassion.

If you can embody who you already are rather than trying to be something you’re not, you’re on your way to uncovering compassion.

Be present with yourself and trust your knowing.
Accept the awareness of your feelings and allow them to be good enough, to be perfect just the way they are.

That is your first step towards letting go of shame and practicing self-compassion.

Initially, this place of authenticity can be scary and uncomfortable, because the old voices in your head telling you that your feelings don’t make sense and you should “get a grip” do not disappear quietly. However, a practice of mindfulness and loving kindness towards what defines you in this moment will allow you to linger more often and for longer periods of time in your place of truthfulness.

Remember, authenticity is not a quality, it is a collection of choices that you make every day and every moment. The more you can love yourself and who you are, the less you will need to turn to food to stuff down how you really feel.


This in turn will allow you to heal your relationship with food and your body and break free from the pursuit of weight loss thru yo-yo dieting.

I leave you with a quote from Oriah Mountain Dreamer:

“What if the question is not why I am so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?”


Eating Disorders Therapist North Vancouver, Counselling Burnaby

Making others happyAre you getting bigger because you’re keeping yourself small Part 2

Are you busy making sure everyone around you is happy, i.e. do you spend your life pleasing others? Do the needs of those dearest and nearest to your heart control what your day looks like? Do you feel like you can never do what YOU want?

Part 1 of this series discussed how assuming responsibility for the wellbeing of others can contribute to emotional stress. Feelings of anxiety, worry or pressure can trigger Emotional Eating or other unhealthy coping habits like shopping addiction or internet addiction for someone who has gotten used to soothing inner frustrations from the “outside.”

When you are busy focusing on the happiness of others, it’s easy to get disconnected from your own needs.

What do I mean, when I talk about “needs”? I like the definition of needs by Manfred Max Neef, an economist from Chile known for his human development model based on fundamental human needs.

Manfred Neef identified 9 basic human needs that we all share:

  • Sustenance – the basic physical needs such as food, air, water and shelter
  • Safety and protection
  • Love and affection
  • Empathy
  • Rest, recreation, play
  • Community
  • Creativity
  • Autonomy
  • Identity – need for meaning and purpose – need to contribute to life and how our efforts are making life and our surroundings richer.

In this post I would like to focus on the need of Autonomy.

In my work with clients, I have noticed that a yearning or longing for independence or, shall we say a perceived lack of freedom to be who you want to be and do what you want to do in your life can be a contributing factor to emotional eating, overspending or other self-soothing activities.

We all need autonomy.

Having autonomy implies freedom and choice. Your ability to listen and trust the voice in your heart increases, when you have the freedom to make your own decisions and follow your volition.

Low self-esteem and closed-mindedness dramatically impact autonomy.

When you are the prisoner of your inner critic which is telling you that you aren’t good enough or that you don’t deserve certain things, you lose your freedom. While perhaps nobody in your environment is curtailing your autonomy, you end up limiting your own freedom.

Getting caught up in feeling responsible to make everyone happy, can leave you feeling like there is very little room left for you to exercise autonomy.

Journaling can be an excellent tool to help you get in touch with what you really want and the person you really want to be.

Try this exercise called “Emptying out” at the end of the day. Mentally go thru your day and remember those moments when you felt frustrated, hurt, disappointed or anxious or any other emotions that left you feeling stressed and contracted. If you’re an emotional eater for example, go back to all the times you ate when you weren’t hungry physically.

  • What was going on for you?
  • What inner conflict were you caught in?
  • What would you have really liked to do or say but didn’t?
  • Why didn’t you?

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series where we will look at the need of rest, recreation and play and how playing can impact your weight.

In the meantime, I wish you continued success in making positive life changes.

You might be wondering what I mean with ”making yourself small”? What I’m referring to, is the popular habit of not paying attention to or denying our needs.

Especially women are still in large part dealing with the impact of their social cultural conditioning of the caretaking role and what that is supposed to look like.

Many of us grew up learning that being a good wife, a good mother, a good daughter or a good friend means putting your own needs last.

For many, it means assuming responsibility for the wellbeing of those “in your care” such as partners, children, family and friends. It goes without saying that when dealing with children this “responsibility” is very real in the case of an infant and it changes as they grow older.

It takes a tremendous amount of energy to feel “responsible” for the wellbeing of someone else.

It involves a number of activities such as mindreading, being an expert about what is good for others, worrying, rescuing, and saying yes when you actually want to say no… just to name a few. In popular psychology we also refer to this kind of behavior as codependency.

The results can range anywhere from feeling unappreciated, frustrated, overwhelmed and stressed to feeling proud of a job well done.

Whenever you choose to put yourself last, no matter how good your intentions, you make yourself small. You give up your power. You can literally feel this “being small” in your body.

I invite you to try the following the next time you do something that you think you should do. Check in with your body. Do you feel expanded, open and full of energy? Or do you feel contracted, collapsed and somewhat tense?

The only way to know the difference between a genuine act of caring and a self-imposed act of caring is in your body.

This kind of stress… physical and emotional is often alleviated with a popular remedy: food.
The problem with trying to fix the state of mind rather than changing the behavior is that while you’re making yourself small, you end up becoming bigger. You gain weight. You start Yo-yo dieting.
You add another layer of stress to your life.

Here are some steps to making positive life changes in the area of self-imposed caring:

  • If you have an internal voice in your head telling you that it is your job to take care of others…because if you don’t do it… it won’t get done…or they will be angry or disappointed…
    This voice is not your friend. It is an outdated echo of the past.
  • To help you counter the voice that is telling you it is your job to make sure others are happy, memorize this mantra:
    “When I make the wellbeing of others my responsibility, when I try to change how they feel, no matter how positive my intention, it’s invasive and cripples them. This behavior undermines those I try to “fix” as well as myself.”
  • In the beginning you might be plagued with feelings of guilt or anxiety. This mantra will help:
    “I am not selfish when I think of myself or act in my own behalf. I have a right to my own body voice, my own body, to know what I think and want and to speak up and ask for it.”
  • Breathe. When you notice yourself looking for food to change how you feel, stop and breathe. Take 3 breaths into your belly and connect with what you are really wanting or needing in this moment.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, where we will take a look at how to share your needs and make requests to get your needs met with others.

It’s that time of the year again where many decide that they want or need to lose weight – it is the time of a NEW DIET. But wait – do you want to lose weight to gain it back again or do you want to heal your relationship with food?

Etymologically speaking, the word „DIET“ comes from the Greek „diaita” which means manner of living or way of life. In this context, DIET can be the answer to healing your relationship with food and emotional eating.

As a therapist who specializes in Emotional Eating and Addictions I do not endorse diets where diet say NO to diets means restricting food types and quantities for the purpose of weight loss.

In my experience, as soon as you attach yourself to a set of strict dietary rules you’re detaching yourself from the connection to your body and from your ability to tune in and ascertain what your body wants.

Unless there are specific contributing factors such as certain health issues or side effects to medication, anyone who has a weight problem has most likely some sort of emotional connection to food and a disconnect from their body.
Whenever we overeat we’re not connected to our body.

Burnaby counselling for women helps you stop emotional eating

When you’re on a diet, you’re forced to override the hunger signals of the body in order to follow the prescribed quantities and types of food to be consumed.
Furthermore, diets activate a deprivation mentality. Instead of connecting to what one is really hungry for, all one often thinks about is the food that is “off limits”.

Returning to the concept of mindfulness, becoming present and connected to your body is the first step to addressing emotional eating and the consequences of excess weight. A diet prevents that from happening.

When food and eating have become a way to get grounded, fill a sense of emptiness or longing or a way of swallowing one’s feelings, a diet becomes a temporary diversion from the current underlying issue.
Some individuals enjoy the rules and structure a diet gives them. They experience a sense of control. Others get even more stressed by diets.

Going on a diet is really a way of saying, “I don’t trust myself. I cannot trust myself. If I don’t have rules, I will not be able to control what I do with food.”
Ironically, often so much time and effort is spent on implementing controls, that the underlying issues are effectively – if momentarily- lost. What would happen if instead of struggling with dietary rules and senses of failure or victory, the underlying discomfort was actually felt and experienced? What if one could come to a place of trusting oneself to sit with and experience feelings such as fear, grief or anger? What if diet could stand for a compassionate dialogue with self?

Many yo-yo dieters struggle with poor body image. The diet mindset only reinforces the notion that there is something wrong. That one’s worth is somehow tied to a number on a scale!!

After years of dieting, this rollercoaster of gathering hope as some of the weight comes off and then being plunged back into an abyss of failure as the weight creeps back on, again perpetuates a disconnect from the underlying issues and needs that are being deflected in this merry-go-round.

If we connect diet and nutrition, where diet is a way of life and of connecting to self and the environment with mindfulness, more of us could rediscover the benefits of eating local and seasonal produce.

Not only would this “diet” reduce our ecological footprint, our bodies would benefit as well.

In this day and age of busy schedules, and particularly as urban dwellers, these might be lofty or unrealistic goals. But tuning in and learning what “diet” our particular body thrives on…with the emphasis on “our body” and not on “our head” would certainly be a step towards health and healing from the diet mindset.

Gimme, gimme, gimme my toy … teaching your child stress tolerance can be more labor intensive than saying yes and an important part of her/his development.

I recently sat in a coffee shop beside a mother with two young toddlers.
Mom was chatting with a friend and the toddlers were happy to be kept occupied with a cartoon they were watching on Mom’s iPhone.

Only moments before, Mom’s friend had wanted to see the iPhone. When Mom had handed her the phone, one child immediately grew restless. She said to her friend: “You better give it back, because Jimmy (fictitious name) gets impatient quickly.” And in fact, he almost immediately started wailing “Gimme, gimme, gimme…”

I’m relating this incident not to criticize the mother or her children. But it made me wonder if today’s children will have lower stress tolerance when they are adults than previous generations.

How will they learn to be present in the moment with themselves and their thoughts if they are constantly entertained, soothed and distracted?
How will they learn, if so many of us as adults are not able to model stress tolerance?

We live in a world of instant gratification. Fast food, fast service… for many wanting something means wanting it now. We live stressed lives, constantly on the clock.

I regularly hear my clients share how overwhelmed they feel. A full time job, children, a mortgage, regular sex with a partner, exercise, home cooked meals, soccer practices, ballet classes, continuing education…the list is endless.

In order to cope, many shut down or cut themselves off from their body. Depending on the situation, they give up, get angry or irritable or try to escape.

Escape can sometimes be as close as the next drive thru at Tim Hortons or a trip to the fridge. Emotional eating is often an attempt to escape from uncomfortable feelings and what Geneen Roth is calling “The Voice” in her latest book “Women, Food and God.”

“The Voice” running in your head telling you that you’re supposed to be a perfect parent, partner and employee. And it doesn’t stop here, often it also tells you that you should be slim, trim and fit (let’s not forget sexy).

Because if you’re not thin… then you’re already failing. You are already not good enough.

And so the vicious cycle starts. Unbearable feelings and demands that are overwhelming. Standards, which are impossible to reach.
We need a quick fix, because there is so much to do. Here’s a drink. Have a smoke. Go shopping. Eat this fabulous food… and you will be as happy as the people you see in the commercials. The beautiful people who are having fun and coping with life with a smile on their face.

Learning to develop healthy coping mechanisms to the stressors of life is a first step to heal emotional eating or other forms of addiction. People who have an emotional relationship with food and a low mood tolerance often resort to binge eating, vomiting, or excessive exercising to get relief from intense feelings.

It takes energy and patience to sit through children’s “growing stages” and temper tantrums while they learn to wait and self-soothe.

Don’t forget to breathe and tune in with what is happening for you in those moments. Acknowledge your feelings to yourself and acknowledge your child’s feelings. Yes, it is hard to wait and feel uncomfortable. But the more we learn to breathe and self-soothe, the less uncomfortable we are.

I invite you to check out Sarah Zeldman’s , free ‘Stress-Relief-Kit-for-Moms’.

If you are a stressed parent, giving yourself permission to relax, unwind and recharge in a healthy way, allows you to take better care of yourself and consequently your family.

Furthermore, you will be modeling and teaching your children how to develop a higher tolerance to stress without resorting to unhealthy or addictive behavior.

In Canada, we have our own “James Oliver”. Rose Reisman is one of this country’s leading authorities on the art of eating and living well.
She recently discussed her desire to change the way Canadians eat in the Vancouver Sun.

Her goal is timely. Canadians today are heavier than ever before with the rate of obesity skyrocketing. According to the Canadian Health Measures Survey, during the 2007-to-2009 period, just fewer than 38% of adults were at a healthy weight. About 1% were underweight, 37% were overweight and 24% were obese.

In some ways, this is a curious phenomenon, because we live in a society that has an obsession with weight. Thin is in, Fat is out!  Public sympathy is offered to those suffering from Anorexia while Bulimia and Binge Eating are motive for public shame.

Might one assume then, that potentially every third person struggles with feelings of frustration, low self-esteem or shame because they are overweight?

That is a possibility. There is a societal stigma attached to obesity.  Being fat is synonymous with laziness and a lack in willpower. Being fat means being visible and invisible at the same time.

Many individuals who struggle with weight have no lack in willpower and are certainly not lazy. In fact, most of them have gone and successfully completed numerous diets and exercise programs. They have deprived themselves of pizza and cake and have run many miles on the treadmill.

And they have lost weight. Over and over again…. because in between their periods of dieting and exercising, the pounds lost somehow piled back on … and then some.

I am thrilled, when I see authors like Rose Reisman affirm that losing weight is not about dieting.

Losing weight is about healthy nutrition and exercise….AND it is about addressing the root cause of what happens during those “in between” periods of dieting.

95% of diets fail because of Emotional Eating. In order to lose weight, it is necessary to re-evaluate one’s relationship with food and weight. Someone who uses food to cope with life’s challenges and stress in their life, has to find other ways to deal with overwhelming emotions.

Over the years of working with and supporting clients who struggle with Emotional Eating and Eating Disorders, I have found that most issues are in some way connected to a lack of communication.

Pain and grief aren’t expressed, boundaries aren’t articulated, feelings of loneliness are stuffed down, a desire for recognition remains in the realms of silence and anger is repressed for the sake of harmony.

Sometimes these emotions aren’t even expressed to the Self. An excellent first step to stop emotional eating is a conversation with yourself. One way to engage in such a dialogue is journaling.

The next time you are standing in front of the fridge, hoping to find something that will make you feel better, consider grabbing some pen and paper and start writing.

What is going on? What emotions are you feeling? What have you wanted to say to someone but didn’t because you wanted to avoid negative consequences? There are many resources available to help you learn express your needs, desires and feelings in a safe and healthy way.

Coaching and counselling are other options to help heal old wounds or fears connected to communicating with others and setting boundaries.

Silence can make you fat. To make Canadians more healthy, Rose Reisman recommends sharing at least one wholesome meal a day, with upbeat conversation. I second that and encourage many conversations upbeat or serious, where everyone has a voice, and speaks and listens with an open heart.

Does the way you eat reflect how your family ate when you were growing up?
Naturally thin individuals are more in tune with their bodies when it comes to food consumption than others who struggle with weight issues and dieting.

When you are in tune with your body, you can interpret the message from your brain “I’ve eaten enough” in a timely fashion. Research shows that, it takes longer for food signals from the stomach to reach the brain as a person becomes heavier.

If you are a “fast” eater, you most likely consume more food than your body actually needs to satisfy hunger.
Now there is a new gadget on the market to help people lose weight by getting them to eat more slowly.

Maclean’s published an article called “Eat Like a Snail” in their April 12th 2010 issue, which discusses the merits of “SMARTBITE”, an oral device which forces the wearer to only eat small bites and chew the food thoroughly before being able to swallow.

In my work with clients who struggle with Emotional Eating and bingeing, bringing awareness to the process of eating is the first step towards change.
Changing Emotional Eating does not mean to never have a piece of chocolate when your sad or stressed again….it does not mean continuous deprivation of all your favourite foods because you are on “a diet”.
It does mean savouring your choice of food. Involving all your senses.

As a child you most likely heard “don’t play with your food”. Perhaps you’re also familiar with phrases like “Finish what’s on your plate”. “If you don’t eat your vegetables, you can’t have any desert”.
Naturally thin people are able to tune into their bodies because they most likely never had to learn to ignore their body’s messages.
Recapturing the signal our body sends us takes practice and mindfulness.

The next time you eat… engage all your senses. Pay attention to your environment. You cannot tune into your body if your mind is absorbed by the TV, the newspaper, unpleasant discussions, or when you are eating on the run.

Bring your awareness to the texture of what you’re eating, the aroma, the temperature. Enjoy the colors, the presentation. Take small bites. Chew thoroughly. You may find out that some foods (primarily fast food) does not taste that great when you chew it more than 4 or 5 times… all of a sudden it’s greasy, too sweet, etc. You may discover that less is more.

When less is more, you might be able to afford higher quality of food. As you rediscover the dialogue between your brain and your body, you might make different food choices… based on the nutritional desires of your body.

As you tune in, you might also ask yourself…what do I really need or want right now? Food? Or do you need a hug, a time out, a walk in the park, some reassurance from a friend?