Does this sound familiar to you?
When you need comfort or escape from daily stress, you need it now!
A stressful day, a demanding husband, and a to-do list that’s never-ending all seem to disappear for a moment—just as long as you are eating.
Munching on chocolate provides a comforting relief – like an escape parachute from whatever you may be feeling. But as soon as you finish chewing, the comforting effect disappears and you are filled with regret and guilt.
Why does eating feel so good in the moment, and then feel so much worse than when you started?
What is Emotional Eating?
Emotional eating is turning to food for stress relief, comfort, as a reward or to help you through an emotional upset.
Many eating problems aren’t really about food. They are about using food to escape unpleasant feelings.
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.
In this article I am going to cover four easy ways to help you to stop using food as your escape parachute.
Strategy 1: Question what you are hungry for
If you are not physically hungry, but you want to eat, it may mean that you’re hungering for something that food won’t give you.
Try asking yourself:
- What am I asking the food to do for me?
Then make a list of what you are asking the food to do for you, in other words what you’re hungry for at that moment.
- I am asking the food to help me escape feeling stressed.
- What is a more soothing way to do that?
- Ask yourself: What can I do to effectively manage the stress I am feeling?
- Perhaps you could consider leaving work early tomorrow and going for a massage at 4pm.
Strategy 2: Journal for a different response
Journaling helps you create a space where you can plan for the next time you encounter the urge to escape by eating.
When you clearly spell out what your challenges were in the past, you can plan how you will respond to them in the future.
For each journal entry, do a past, present, and future summary, following this format:
- In the past, I felt about this issue…
- In the moment, I feel about this issue…
- And in the future, what would I like to do or say about this issue is…
Strategy 3: Catch and Release your thought
If your mind is stuck on wanting to eat, imagine yourself
- Casting out a fishing line
- Catching that thought
- Reeling it in
- And then releasing it right away
Strategy 4: Ride “The Emotional Urge Wave”
If you allow yourself to sit with whatever you are feeling, you’ll find- just like a wave-it will pass.
“Feelings are much like waves, we can’t stop them from coming but we can choose which one to surf.” ― Jonatan Mårtensson
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.
It’s never too late to make a positive change. You can find healthier ways to deal with your emotions, learn to eat mindfully, regain control of your weight, and finally, put a stop to using food as your escape parachute.
It may take a lot of hard work to break your mental link between food and comfort, because it is such an ingrained habit. Most people struggle to do this on their own, and working with a professional coach can be an effective strategy to take control.
Now it’s over to you…
- What are your burning questions about emotional eating?
Please comment below and I will answer them in my next article.
The Carousel would like to thank Irena Geller for sharing her story.