Emotional Eating is a painful pattern of using food to soothe difficult emotions. What happens is somewhere along the line a person wasn’t able to have his or her emotional needs met properly and so she/he turned to food as a source of comfort. Because in the moment it made her/him feel better (food has been shown to trigger our pleasure hot spot in our brains) she/he unconsciously decided to turn to food every time she felt this same emotion in the future. The challenging part is once the pleasure of eating the food wears off, more often then not the person beats herself up for eating foods that may be contributing to her/his weight gain which leaves her feeling bad about herself. What do we do when she/he feels bad about herself? Well she tries to make herself feel better. And how has she/he taught herself to do that? To eat foods that comforts her in the moment. And thus the cycle begins.
If you struggle with emotional eating there is hope. You don’t have to be caught up in a painful relationship to food that leaves you feeling out of control and hurting. Below are 5 ways to take control of Emotional Eating.
1. Free Yourself From Dieting: Diets make you restrict and remove certain foods from your diet in drastic, unnatural ways, often leading you to binge on the exact foods the diet has told you to avoid. This is the reason diets can’t be maintained. We aren’t meant to restrict whole food groups, or even our favorite treats from our diet. The key to healthy eating is listening to what our body is asking for, feeding it just that and then stopping when it has had enough.
2. Start a Food–Emotions Journal: Because you are turning to food to emotionally soothe, writing down the emotions that are coming up for you right before, during or after you eat is important. Over time you will notice a pattern of what emotions are causing you to turn to food. Uncovering this pattern is the first step in controlling your emotional eating.
3. Rediscover Old Hobbies and Activities: As we grow up we can lose sight of some of our favorite hobbies and activities that give us pleasure. Sometimes, as emotional eaters we stop ourselves from taking part in the things we love because of our weight. Take some time to rediscover some of your old favorite things to do. Doing the things we love – for no other reason than because we love them – releases endorphins (our brain’s natural feel good chemical). These endorphins decrease appetite and improve mood, making you feel good about yourself while also leading you to make healthy lifestyle choices.
4. Take Time For You: If on an average day you have a To-Do list that has 10 things on it, take time out for yourself is usually number 11. Self –care (taking time to do kind things for yourself) is essential to overcoming your emotional eating because it teaches your mind, heart, and soul that you are worth and deserving of kindness. Even if it’s only 10 minutes a day, be sure to take some time for YOU!
5. Seek Professional Help: Sometimes, despite how hard we try, our old habits stick with us. If this is the case, reach out for help. You can beat emotional eating once and for all. You can create a healthy relationship with food and your emotions. A therapist can help you get at the root of what is causing your emotional eating and give you the tools to set yourself free from these unhealthy habits.