Do You Eat Because You’re Sad and You Get Sad Because You Eat, So You Eat More?
If you regularly turn to food when you’re not truly hungry, devouring unhealthy comfort foods, or eat beyond fullness, something may be out of balance.
When Food Is Comfort
Emotional eating is a form of distraction and escape from uncomfortable feelings. With many busy women turning to food because it’s an easy go to strategy, that’s convenient and quick.
But what about when comfort eating becomes habitual?
This habit can affect your mood, energy , cause weight gain and affect your sleep. I find with clients that comfort eat (emotional eating)that it’s one of those eating patterns that they know they don’t want to engage in, but struggle to let go of.
Is Your Emotional Pantry Full?
Food can distract you from your pain, but food cannot take away your pain. In fact, overeating the wrong foods can create more pain.
For some women, food has become a physical way to stuff down emotional frustrations like anger and deal with intolerable emotions – an escape habit.
And usually leads to guilt, often starting a cycle of food addiction.
Eating in response to (negative) emotions can be problematic, as shown by studies that have related emotional eating to weight gain, interference with weight loss ,binge eating and depression . In addition, emotional eating can have distressing immediate effects leading to feelings of guilt and self-loathing.
Feeling stressed or anxious fuels the need for unhealthy foods. Eating foods that contain carbs and salt or cabs and sugar help to soothe emotions by triggering the release of serotonin, the feel-good hormone, but only temporarily.
Although numbing out with food, what is often referred to as emotional eating is a fairly common problem, most of us don’t realise how strongly stress can impact our eating habits.
Emotional Decisions And Stress
“When I am too busy to nourish myself, I fill the void in my heart and fill up on my feelings with food, then I don’t feel as bad, well sorta.” – she said
With life pulling us in so many different directions and busy schedules we are having to make a much greater amount of emotional decisions then we used to.
In fact, the need to make decisions is never-ending, whether family, personal or work driven. Did you know that you make decisions even when you unconsciously think you are choosing not to decide.
The problem is – we don’t always choose the most rational option.
The most important decisions we make in life tend to be those that overwhelm us and stress us out. And when we have too many choices and too much information to consider, our ability to make the right decision is impaired.
Our rational brain sometimes can’t handle all the stress that comes with making good decisions.
- Studies have shown that when our mind is overloaded with information, the emotional aspect of our brain tends to win out.
- When confronted with decisions we are usually faced with a lot to consider, which overwhelms the rational part of our brain.
- With so much stress put on the rational mind, it is too weak to put up a fight against the emotional mind.
Decisions Drive Our Daily Actions
Everyone processes information with both the rational and emotional parts of the brain.
Your rational brain knows that certain habits like comfort eating, smoking and skipping exercise are not beneficial for your health BUT the emotional part of your brain is really proficient in overcoming this knowledge and even rationalising these unhealthy behaviours thus convincing you to keep doing these unhealthy behaviours
All the decision making and carrying a lot of information creates a power struggle between the emotional and rational part of the brain.
The Emotional and Rational Brain Conflict
I often hear this from my clients – “It’s almost like there are two version of me, the rational and the irrational decision maker.
We are driven more by our emotions and these two sections of the brain are always competing.
Here’s the real truth: when you are too emotional, you won’t make rational choices, even though you know what’s best for you.
Think of times you’ve decided against your better judgment, ate that cookie and had that drink.
Here’s something to chew on – Emotions drive 80% of the choices we make, while logic and practicality only represent about 20% of decision-making.
And if you are trying to make a decision while feeling hungry, angry, tired or bored (or some combination of more than one of the above) emotion will win 100% of the time and you will likely make a decision you may regret.
Your Emotional Brain Is Stubborn
Even in the face on facts, and data, it will still choose the path of comfort.
The two brains are like an elephant and its rider. The rider can steer and pull the elephant in a particular direction, but ultimately, the elephant is going to go where it wants to go.
The balance of power between the rider (your rational brain) and elephant (emotional brain) plays a large part in shaping your daily decisions and is typically skewed towards the latter.
No matter how you rationalize a decision, if you don’t feel like it, you won’t obey your thinking brain. Ultimately if the elephant decides to do something there is little the rider can do to stop it.
The good news is – developing self-awareness and spending more time in reflection may lead to more rational decisions.
Here are 3 Ways to Slam the Refrigerator Door on Emotional Eating
#1- Lighten Your Load
When the weight of the world seems like too much, consider lightening your load
On the path of life, most of us are lugging around too much weight. It’s like carrying a backpack full of items that you may need one day but don’t right now!
And your backpack may be full of commitments, long to do lists and too many “shoulds”, worries, and regrets.
Here are some steps to help you:
- Slow down intentionally to create calmness in your life
- Try and recall a time when you lightened your load by letting go of all the things that didn’t serve you in creating the life you crave for – How did that feel?
- Start by Identifying all the things that you don’t have to manage and do and
- Make a conscious decision to doing less and choosing what absolutely has to be done
“Lightening your load “and taking time out for yourself will feel much better in the long run then walking to the fridge, feeling anxious and going nowhere fast!
#2- Shift Your Thinking
“What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” – Maya Angelou
Are we helpless captives of our own feelings?The common myth is – We Are Helpless Prisoners of Our Own Feelings
Some people believe that they can’t control their emotions. Another common myth about emotions is that we have no say in what we’re feeling.
There is no doubt that emotions can take us by surprise. They can feel frightening, overwhelming and intimidating and even puzzle us at times.
Here are some helpful steps:
- Developing self-awareness can help you to become more familiar with emotions and even name them.
- And the best thing is emotion is just an emotion- it can’t do any physical harm unless you buy into that feeling.
- You might not be able to suppress an emotion, but you can learn to shift your thinking to generate a more “positive” response.
- You can shift your current thoughts about a certain circumstance
- You can cultivate an attitude of gratitude
- You can focus on what outcome you would like to see in your life
- You can approach yourself with kindness and compassion
Remember that emotions can feel powerful, but you’re powerful, too!
#3 – Comfort Strategies
We overeat, not because we enjoy food so much – it is because we don’t enjoy our life.
I suggest putting aside some-time to create your list of possible comfort strategies.
They may not work in every situation, but having some useful options can be helpful. Remember that your comfort strategy should be something that’s easy to do and doesn’t require too many decisions.
And that’s because when you seek comfort in food chances are you don’t have a lot of energy or motivation to go out of your way to make something happen.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What do I need in those moments when I want to eat?
- What can I have on my list that is within my reach and doesn’t require much energy?
Here’s a list of possible comfort strategies that my clients have put together
- Reading an interesting article or book
Going for a walk
- Taking a bath with favourite essential oils
Listening to music that I love
Calling a friend
- Taking a nap or going to bed early
If you’re at work you could try the following distraction activities:
- Changing tasks
- Walking around the office or outside
- Making a cup of tea
- Calling a friend
What’s on your list?
And lastly when you learn to nurture yourself with the loving-kindness you may be craving you will handle stress more easily and will ultimately stop turning to food for comfort.
Improved health and self-esteem, more energy, and weight loss will naturally follow.
Now I would love to hear from you…
- What would it be like if you stopped thinking about food all day and started living your life?
Please comment below, I would love to hear your story.
If you feel ready to change your relationship with food and yourself let’s chat, click here to BOOK NOW.