Trapped Emotions and Weight Gain: How One Leads to the Other & How to Release the Pattern

trapped emotions and weight gain: unpacking the metaphysical cause of emotional eating

The link between trapped emotions and weight gain is a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break. Fortunately, with the right blend of self-understanding and actionable tools, you can release those trapped emotions and any baggage that came with it.

The concept of ‘trapped emotions’ is rooted in metaphysics, which deals with questions beyond our physical reality. With my background as a medical writer, we’re going to explore the connection between trapped emotions and weight gain through a blend of metaphysical theory and clinical studies.

Let’s start by discussing why emotions get trapped in the first place, and then fill your toolbox with actionable strategies to help break the pattern.

Where Is the Link Between Trapped Emotions and Weight Gain?

Negative emotions are a normal part of life. In fact, one could argue that some negative emotion is an indication that you’re living your life to the fullest. When we take risks or make ourselves vulnerable, we may get our feelings hurt every now and then. This is a good thing, because it means we aren’t limiting ourselves over the fear of making mistakes or the fear of failing.

Yet, the landscape of our emotional well-being can become distorted in our current social media-centric culture. Platforms often serve as ‘highlight reels,’ showcasing an unbalanced view of life that emphasizes success and joy while minimizing the struggles and setbacks that are just as much a part of the human experience.

In this pursuit of constant highlights and happiness, we might find ourselves sidestepping negative emotions, not realizing that in doing so, we’re setting the stage for these emotions to become trapped. Unaddressed and unacknowledged, these feelings don’t simply vanish; they linger and disrupt our emotional equilibrium. As author Karol Truman says, “feelings buried alive never die.”

The roots of this tendency to suppress negative emotions trace back further than the advent of social media. Research into children’s emotional development shows that emotion-related self-regulation develops rapidly in early childhood and continues to refine well into adulthood.[1] What does this mean for you?

man holding a smiling mask while his true face is confused. "if your parents taught you to never cry or always put on a brave face, it can lead to blunted 'emotion-related self-regulation'"

If you grew up in a household where negative emotions were not permitted (i.e. “no crying allowed,” “never let them see you sweat,” etc.), it may blunt emotion-related self-regulation.[1] While adults can make up for this later in life, it takes deliberate intention and action. If you haven’t yet practiced allowing yourself to experience negative emotions, and if you tend to cope with these feelings by overeating, it may result in trapped emotions and weight gain.

Unfortunately, the roots of trapped emotions and weight gain can go deeper for some people. If weight gain itself is a source of unhappiness, it can perpetuate the problem. Gaining weight can often intensify feelings of discomfort in one’s own skin, and “feeling fat” is strongly associated with depression and other negative emotions.[2] More discomfort can lead to more overeating and more trapped emotions as a result. Where can we go from here?

Louise Hay’s Thoughts on Trapped Emotions and Weight Gain

This brings us to the wisdom of Louise Hay, a distinguished author and authority in the realm of metaphysics. In her book, Heal Your Body, Hay suggests that every physical ailment is rooted in a metaphysical cause. Among the many ailments she discusses, weight gain stands out as particularly tied to emotions.

According to Hay, the spiritual roots of weight gain are oversensitivity, fear, and a need for protection. Instantly, I think many of us can resonate with this. Carrying extra body weight can indeed feel like body armor, symbolizing the psycho-spiritual need for protection.

the metaphysical cause of overeating: trapped emotions, fear, hyper-sensitivity, need for protection

Furthermore, if “oversensitivity” is one of the spiritual meanings of overeating, it stands to reason that trapped emotions can stem from this heightened sensitivity. If you aren’t prepared to confront negative emotions, you may have a knee-jerk reaction to reach for food out of self-protection.

To use a specific example, let’s say that you identify as both a ‘people pleaser’ and a ‘highly sensitive person,’ someone who experiences the world with heightened awareness and sensitivity to even subtle stimuli.[3] If you get into a fight with your partner, your preference to please others and sensitivity to emotion may cause a knee-jerk reaction to suppress the stress and negative emotion.

Suddenly, the bags of chips and cookies in the kitchen sound more appealing than they did just before the fight, and you’re stuck in the vicious cycle of trapped emotions, overeating, and weight gain.

Furthermore, according to metaphysical teachings, disruptions in our chakras — energy centers in the body — can also contribute to physical and emotional imbalances. When our emotions become trapped, they can block the flow of energy through these chakras, exacerbating issues like weight gain and emotional distress.

Continue your journey into the metaphysical: If you’re interested in the metaphysical, then you’ll LOVE my free ebook, The Spiritual Seeker’s Guide to Stop Binge Eating. Exploring the intersection between spirituality and psychology is the perfect next step.

How to Release Trapped Emotions and Weight Gain

To release trapped emotions and the physical baggage that comes along with it (aka, extra body weight), there are two emotion-regulating skills you need to hone: emotional awareness and emotional tolerance. Let’s unpack these key skills.

Step 1: Develop Emotional Awareness (“Label It”)

Studies show that people who lack the ability to identify and regulate emotion tend to overeat.[4] If one struggles with emotional awareness, it stands to reason that one may also struggle with trapped emotions, as emotional awareness facilitates emotional expression.[5] Therein lies the first step for releasing trapped emotions: becoming aware of them.

Emotional awareness involves recognizing and naming your emotions, and it’s a skill that can be honed with consistent effort. Consider making it a routine to take moments throughout your day to explore your emotions with a curious mindset. As you consistently exercise your emotional awareness — regardless of whether you can precisely define each feeling — you’ll find this skill gradually becoming stronger.

Once you can identify your emotions, you’re one step closer to releasing trapped emotions; but what will you do once Pandora’s box is opened? Without the ability to process the emotions you let in, you’ll be stuck in “awareness hell:” fully aware of where you don’t want to be with no way of getting out.

Step 2: Hone Your Emotional Tolerance (“Sit Still With It”)

Therefore, the next skill you need to develop is emotional tolerance, your ability to feel bad without getting swept away by it. It may sound awful, but it’s a necessary skill for not only releasing trapped emotions and any resulting baggage, but also for living an authentic life.

If your parents did not help you with emotion-related self-regulation growing up, research shows that you can work on this skill as an adult to make up for lost time.[1] An excellent tool to help with this is my Stop, Drop, & Feel method.

how to stop a binge in its tracks with the Stop, Drop, & Feel®️

The Stop, Drop, & Feel asks you train in feeling uncomfortable by pausing to sit in your feelings anytime you want to eat without hunger. I strongly recommend doing this with a timer and only for two minutes, because time creeps by when doing this extremely uncomfortable work. The good news is that, even if you only sit with your discomfort for just two minutes a day, you’re developing emotional tolerance, a key skill for emotion-related self-regulation.

Give yourself plenty of grace with this tool, as the feelings that arise at the precise moment that you want to overeat are often the sharpest ones (like “feeling fat and ugly”). The good news is that your ability to weather the storm will increase over time, and that builds self-esteem and self-confidence — without the need to lose weight first. Self-compassion paves the way towards a healthy body, not the other way around.[6]

Releasing Trapped Emotions and Its Physical Baggage

In embracing the tools of emotional awareness and tolerance, you’re taking powerful strides towards breaking the cycle of trapped emotions and weight gain. It’s a journey of incremental steps, gentle self-discovery, and resilience in the face of discomfort.

As you embark on this transformative journey, know that each second of sitting with discomfort is a step towards freedom. Those difficult moments, which are authentic as ever, help cultivate your relationship with yourself, paving the way towards a healthier body and a more authentic life.

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Some say ‘feel it to heal it’ but this workbook takes it a step deeper and helps you ‘see it to heal it.’ If you’re the kind of person who logically knows how to live a healthy lifestyle but you compulsively do the opposite, this workbook will illuminate what’s standing in the way. Then, you know exactly where to focus your energy.

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4 thoughts on "Trapped Emotions and Weight Gain: How One Leads to the Other & How to Release the Pattern"

  1. Teresasays:

    Love the video about feeling and eating. Thanks

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      Thanks for the wonderful feedback Teresa! I’m so glad this was helpful 🙂

  2. Claudiasays:

    This was so helpful. I know I have trapped emotions from family trauma and it’s reached a breakpoint. I’ve never been this heavy and no matter what I do with nutrition and exercise. The weight goes nowhere. It’s deeper than that. Thank you for the insight.

    1. Kari Dahlgrensays:

      Thanks for taking the time to share your story, Claudia! I admire you for your willingness to look for answers in unexpected places, and I wish you much healing from what you have been through. Anyone who has dealt with trauma and still seeks to turn inward for healing is a very strong person to me!

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