29 – Emotional Eating
We tend to turn to food for comfort, stress relief or even a reward. However, emotional eating never actually fixes our emotional problems. Most of the time we feel worse afterwards.
Emotional eating is a huge barrier to weight management by creating a psychological and physiological reliance on (or resistance to) food for emotional coping.
Here are seven quick questions to determine if you are an emotional eater:
- Do you eat more when you’re feeling stressed?
- Do you eat when you’re not hungry or when you’re full?
- Do you eat to feel better (to calm and soothe yourself when you’re sad, mad, bored, anxious, etc.)?
- Do you reward yourself with food?
- Do you regularly eat until you’ve stuffed yourself?
- Does food make you feel safe? Do you feel like food is a friend?
- Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?
- Do you avoid eating altogether when your emotions are running high?
If you answered YES to at least three of these questions, you might be stuck in an unhealthy emotional eating cycle. The best thing to do is recognise it and use a food journal as a way to break this habit.
By requiring yourself to write down your choices, you can help recognise whether you are actually experiencing emotional hunger or physical hunger.
Try to recognise your emotional triggers and keep track of them in a food journal. This will make it even easier when looking back to see if there are common patterns going on.
Emotional hunger is never satisfied by a full stomach.
Why does it happen?
When we were young we learned that food makes us feel better. Babies cried for their bottle – they stop crying when fed and nurtured. Children being told that they deserve sweet treats for “being good” or restricted treats for “being bold”. When we are young, we have no long term goals or ambitions, we live in the moment and soak everything in. There are usually no problems to solve because it’s up to the adults around us to protect us. And when we are young, most, if not all of, our subconscious programming takes place. Seeds planted that continue to grow for the rest of our lives.
We carry that “food will fix it” into adulthood, that’s it.
There’s a part of our mind that still believes that food is the solution, when logically we know that the problem will still be there even when all of the food has been eaten.
If you feel the urge to emotionally eat. Try sitting with that feeling for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes check-in, is the feeling still there? What’s the purpose of eating emotionally for you? Why do you do it? What problem does it solve?
If you believe that you are an emotional eater. Ask yourself, what’s happening that triggers this behaviour and what else could you do to channel that energy instead?
That’s if you truly WANT to tackle emotional eating… some people believe that it’s a part of their identity which will never change “so what’s the point” – thing is, you weren’t born this way, it’s a behaviour that was learned over time and you DO have the capacity to learn new things.
Honestly, that’s as much info I can dish out on the subject without crossing my scope of practice – as I said earlier, I do work with people on a 1-2-1 basis for further assistance in changing their mindset or habits, get in touch if you want to know more.