Do you feel caught in a vicious “eating your emotions” cycle, and you don’t know how to get off?
Do you feel caught in a vicious “eating your emotions” cycle, and you don’t know how to get off?
If you answered YES, then this article is for YOU.
Although emotional eating is a fairly common problem, most of us don’t realize how strongly our feelings can impact our eating habits.
The occasional binge may seem harmless, but emotional eating can escalate into something more serious and difficult to control.
Food and Feelings
You see, your relationship with food is an exact mirror of your feelings about love, fear, anger, meaning, transformation and how you feel about yourself.
Feeding and Feeling connection
A powerful connection exists between feeling and feeding that, if damaged, may lead to one relying on food for emotional support, rather than seeking authentic happiness.
One of the major reasons we focus on food when we’re in distress is the powerful primitive connection that exists between feeding and feeling.
For some women, food also becomes a physical way to stuff down emotional frustrations and anger.
If you’re an emotional eater, you probably eat to deal with intolerable emotions as well as using food as a reward when you’re happy.
Your unfavourable beliefs about food are entrenched from a young age. As a child, you may have been rewarded with sweets for being “good,” or to soothe you when you were hurt or upset.
Sweet treats trigger the release of serotonin, the feel-good hormone, but only temporarily.
As an adult, you may unconsciously repeat this cycle during times of high stress, by rewarding yourself with comfort food that’s filled with sugar and simple carbs.
This can lead to guilt, and start a cycle of food addiction.
What is Emotional Eating?
Emotional eating is an attempt to manage mood with food. It’s a coping strategy.
You see many eating problems aren’t really about food. They are about using food to escape unpleasant feelings.
And turning to food for stress relief, comfort, as a reward or to help you through an emotional upset.
And the problem with emotional eating is that it leads to you-you dieting, because emotional eaters:
- Find it harder to lose weight
- Lose less weight than their non-emotional counterparts, and
- They usually regain the weight they’ve lost.
That means a lot of unhappy women!
If you’re an emotional eater, you may feel powerless over your food cravings and when the urge to eat hits, it’s all you can think about.
The Effects of Emotional Eating
Although eating may provide a temporary calming effect, eventually most emotional eaters gain weight and despise stepping on the scale, because every time they do the numbers seem to creep up…
Essentially, if you eliminate eating as your main source of escape, you have to find helpful ways to deal with your emotions.
You Can Absolutely Stop Emotional Eating and Start Feeling In Control!
In this article I am going to cover four simple steps that actually work, that I and many of my clients have used to conquer Emotional Eating and find FREEDOM!
Step 1A: Understanding Hunger
Firstly, it’s important to understand the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger.
This can be trickier than it sounds, especially if you regularly use food to feed your feelings.
Below are some clues you can look for to help you tell physical and emotional hunger apart.
Emotional hunger comes on suddenly.
- It hits you in an instant and feels overwhelming and urgent.
- Physical hunger, on the other hand, comes on more gradually.
Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods.
- When you’re physically hungry, almost anything sounds good—including healthy stuff like vegetables.
- But emotional hunger craves junk food or sugary snacks that provide an instant rush. You feel like you need cheesecake or pizza, and nothing else will do.
Emotional hunger often leads to mindless eating.
- Before you know it, you’ve eaten a whole bag of chips or an entire pint of ice cream without really paying attention or fully enjoying it.
- When you’re eating in response to physical hunger, you’re typically more aware of what you’re doing.
Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied once you’re full.
- You keep wanting more and more, often eating until you’re uncomfortably stuffed.
- Physical hunger, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be stuffed. You feel satisfied when your stomach is full.
Emotional hunger isn’t located in the stomach.
- Rather than a growling belly or a pang in your stomach, you feel your hunger as a craving you can’t get out of your head. You’re focused on specific textures, tastes, and smells.
Emotional hunger often leads to regret, guilt, or shame.
- When you eat to satisfy physical hunger, you’re unlikely to feel guilty or ashamed because you’re simply giving your body what it needs.
- If you feel guilty after you eat, it’s likely because you know deep down that you’re not eating for nutritional reasons.
Step 1B: What are you hungry for?
When you feel hungry, YOU try asking yourself the following questions:
• How do I feel emotionally? (Hunger should not be connected to emotions)
• How long is it since I last ate? (Should be 3 – 4 hours on most days)
• What do I feel like eating? (Is it sensible or is it comfort food?)
Step 2A: Journal To Manage your Emotions
To enhance your emotional skills its helpful to be able to name them. The sooner you know what you’re feeling, the quicker you can take effective emotional action.
Journaling has been my POWER TOOL in overcoming Emotional Eating!
Journaling is a powerful way to manage your emotional health in the following ways:
- Journaling in the mornings for 15 mins will set you up for a successful day.
- Journaling helps you to manage your emotions and improve your reactions to other people’s emotions- and did I mention deal better with stress!
- Writing about your emotions and getting your feelings down on paper allows you to process them.
- Being aware of your thoughts and emotions puts you in the driver’s seat so you can make deliberate choices
Step 2B: Journal to connect food and feelings
I believe that once you figure out your emotions it will help you to fix your food feelings.
This journal can help you track what you eat and how it connects to your feelings over the course of a day. Make copies, if desired, for other days.
|Time||Feelings before eating(See below)||Hunger(1-10)||Food choices||Fullness(1-10)||Feelings after eating(See below)|
See below for feelings list
Step 3A: Manage your emotions
When you learn to manage your emotions – you don’t need to feed them!
Try to find positive outlets instead like:
- Slow down your breathing (get out of your head and into your heart)
- Self-reflection (sit with your feelings, you don’t need to change them)
- Write down how your feel (get it out of your head and on paper)
- Doing more fun and/or outdoor activities
- Finding someone to talk to
- Relaxing and breathing
- Balancing meals and vitamins/minerals
- Getting enough rest
- Communicating or writing
Step 3B: Change your thinking
Acknowledge and accept that your journey is going to be challenging and uncomfortable at times.
• Shift your focus to healthy lifestyle habits and nourishing your body.
• Commit to achieving your goal and staying on course no matter how long it takes and what obstacles you may encounter.
Step 4: Riding The Emotional Urge Wave
“Feelings are much like waves, we can’t stop them from coming but we can choose which one to surf.” ― Jonatan Mårtensson
If you allow yourself to sit with whatever you are feeling, you’ll find- just like a wave-it will pass.
This particular step takes practise so be patient, you don’t have to get it right the first time
What is Emotional Urge Surfing?
It is a powerful way to train yourself to experience the feelings that you usually escape with food. .Urges are like waves in that they rise in intensity, peak, and eventually crash.
Here’s a brief exercise you can do to explore this technique:
• Picture your emotion as a wave and you are the surfer
• Ride the wave
• Relax into the feeling
• Have the confidence that it won’t last forever
• Feel the surge
• Wait for the ebb, stay on top and keep your balance
Your emotion will quickly subside to froth on the sand.
Ultimately finding out the reason why you are filling up on your feelings and applying some ways to get out of that cycle will help you start eating with a sense of freedom, self-confidence and empowerment.
Self-awareness, being honest with yourself and self-compassion will help you move in the right direction.
The Next Step – Getting Help
A lot of women are afraid to seek help because they think it means they are a failure.
Perhaps you feel like you are capable and competent in so many areas, so you should be able to handle this on your own.
But as you’ve seen, there are lots of layers to emotional eating, and there are probably many you’re not aware of. And you are probably reading this article because so far, you haven’t been able to deal with emotional eating on your own.
When you let go you create the space for something better – that’s where the magic happens.
It Is Absolutely Possible To Break Free Of Emotional Eating.
But changing your relationship with food requires more than just the desire to do so.
You must be ready to respect yourself enough to get the help you need.
For me, the turning point to unravelling years of emotional eating was letting go of thinking I had to do it alone, and that I had failed in life.
In any area of life, whether it’s learning to play the piano, building a business or dealing with emotional eating, you get the best result with a well-thought strategy, support and professional help.
I ‘m here to help. If you want to get rid of emotional eating, and are ready to take the next step, contact me to book a free 15-min mini-coaching session
We’ll see if I am able to help you and whether we are a fit to work together.
The Carousel would like to thank Irena Geller for her article.