Food is fuel for our bodies, meant to keep us alive, nourished, and energized. However, more people struggle with emotional and stress eating than you think. Food has become an addiction and a form of comfort for so many of us. While it may temporarily soothe our emotions, we are often left with feelings of guilt and self-disappointment. By practicing mindful eating, you can finally regain the power that food has possessed over you.
What is Emotional Eating?
Emotional eating is when we use food as a coping mechanism. Boredom, stress, anxiety, sadness, or any other negative emotion, are typical triggers to emotional eating. Why is that? Food is often used as a reward or celebration in so many situations that our minds become trained to think that food will make us happy. So, naturally, we turn to it during hard times. Emotional eating may help at the moment, but it’s just a temporary cover up for underlying emotional distress that should be dealt with head on.
Are YOU an Emotional Eater?
Do you eat more when you are stressed?
Do you find yourself eating when you aren’t physically hungry?
Do you continue to eat after you’re full?
Do you eat to soothe your emotions?
Do you reward yourself with food?
Do you overeat to the point of sickness?
Does food make you feel safe/comforted?
Do you feel out of control and powerless around food?
Did you answer “yes” to several of them?
Don’t worry, there are many ways to get out of this unhealthy cycle!
How to STOP NOW!
#1 –> In order to tame the emotional beast, start by identifying your triggers. Your triggers are what send you into your eating frenzy.
Common triggers include:
Masking unpleasant emotions– Eating can be a way to silence or “mask” uncomfortable emotions such as anger, fear, loneliness, emptiness, sadness, and shame. While you may numb them for a while, they always return and are usually stronger than before.
Boredom– Sometimes it’s just the lack of mental and physical activity that drives us to food. It’s something that can easily fill the void and it’s enjoyable.
Childhood habits– Most of us associate food with many happy childhood memories. Your soccer team won so your parents took you for pizza. Or, you got an A on your spelling test and you were rewarded with ice cream. Maybe you remember when you played in the backyard with your siblings while your dad grilled hot dogs and hamburgers. These nostalgic feelings are often the cause of emotional eating. It sticks with us into adulthood and becomes something of a routine.
Social stress– Social situations typically involve food. It’s so easy to get carried away when you’re chatting with friends and the food is right there in front of you. Sometimes to may not even notice you’re doing it. Another reason for social over-eating is nervousness. A common response to social anxiety is to eat.
Stress– Stress makes us hungry. That’s because when we are stressed, we have an increase in the hormone cortisol. With high levels of cortisol, we tend to crave salty, sweet, and fried food because those foods give us a quick spurt of energy and satisfaction. Uncontrolled stress will likely drive you to emotional eating.
#2 –> Other Ways to Feed Your Emotions
Once you’ve identified your triggers, we can move on to finding alternative mechanisms.
Break up with food– The #1 rule when kicking the emotional eating habit is to end your relationship with food. Think about it; as an emotional eater, we rely on food to comfort us, make us happy, bring back cherished memories, and so many other things that we would get in a human relationship. It won’t happen overnight but continue to remind yourself of the true purpose of food; keep us alive, nourished, and energized.
Take a minute before rushing into a craving– You’re on the couch and you decide to walk in the kitchen and see what there is to eat. Or you’re at a party and have already had dinner but they bring out the dessert tray. Stop yourself and ask, “Am I physically hungry? What’s my emotional state?” Chances are you are just bored or following a common routine.
Try these instead:
Call or visit a friend who can always cheer you up.
Play with your pets.
Read a good book.
Go for a walk or to the local gym.
Squeeze a stress ball.
Try a cup of hot tea.
Take a bath.
Wrap yourself in a cozy blanket.
Go to a movie.
Have friends over.
Start a craft.
Enjoy the outdoors.
Let’s put it all together now!
Knowing Your Trigger + Finding Your Replacement = SUCCESS
You’re not the only one fighting this battle! With a little help and a little work, you can overcome it. It’s time for you to be in control of food, not the other way around!
Stay tuned for next week’s blog for more information and tips on how to deal with emotional eating
If you’re interested in continued support, contact us and we will direct you to one of our Elite Certified Nutrition Coaches who will not only create you a personalized meal plan but will also be with you every step of the way.