How To Overcome Emotional Eating
I like to start these blog posts with a personal story so that if you’re struggling with emotional eating, I want you to know that I fully relate and you can totally overcome this.
Growing up I had a stress free relationship with food. My mom ate healthy and she never brought up weight loss or anything diet related for that matter. I loved chips and salty things but sugar was not really something I craved.
When I was 17, I went through hell at home and I think the stress and trauma from all of it left a big imprint on my nervous system. At the time of the event, I was just in survival mode but by 19 I felt anxious and gloomy, most of the time. I worried a lot and didn’t quite feel safe in my body or the world. I wasn’t an emotional eater then. In fact, when I was nervous I would lose my appetite.
Here is the interesting part! I try my first diet when I’m 19. I binged two weeks later and from there on out I ate when I felt any emotion. I think I realized through that first binge that food can truly make you feel numb if it’s consumed in a certain way. If it’s done enough times in that same way, it can just dull everything. Then you have to deal with the food that’s in your body that can often be super uncomfortable, and the emotion that is still unresolved.
We can create harmful habits like emotional eating, that serve us in the moment (i.e. ptsd from my mom). Then they don’t serve us later on but we will continue to do them out of habit.
That was me for six years.
Can find an event or period in your life where your emotional eating gained momentum?
My cycle looked like this:
Get stressed about gaining weight. I also have underlying anxiety and depression from a traumatic event but I’m not aware of it. I go on a diet to try and grasp on to something that feels tangible because I don’t know how to take care of the deeper issues. Then I feel deprived/hungry and a whole bunch of other negative emotions associated with my body because dieting fucks with your biochemistry. So I go binge. Then I wake up the next day and feel like utter hell and blame it all on the food. I don’t think back to any other stressful events that could have caused me to emotionally eat. I just blame it all on the food.
Just so you know, emotional eating does not have to be a binge to be valid. Emotional eating is eating food to run away from dealing with a feeling, even if you’re not aware of it at the time. After the food is in your body you do not feel well. The amount of food does not necessarily matter, it’s more your state of mind when you’re consuming it. This is not the same as comfort eating.
Before you learn how to self sooth without food, you must nourish yourself properly with nutrition. This means you have to stop yo yo dieting and feed yourself food that you love and food that feels good in your body. Once the biological need is met it’s much easier to tackle the deeper stuff like emotions.
Below are a few helpful tools below so you can deal with your feelings without using food.
Am I physically hungry?
There is a very simple answer. It’s either yes, or no. If it’s yes then eat food. If it’s no then it’s most likely related to your emotions.
What am I feeling?
This can be hard to identify if you’ve never been one to delve deep in to your emotions but acknowledging them is the best first step. Once you know whats going on inside yourself, taking care of it is much easier.
What would I like to do about it?
Close your eyes and see if you can pinpoint where you feel it in your body on a physical level.
Call a friend and tell them you want to talk about your feelings and you need them to just listen.
Set a hard boundary if someone is taking advantage of you.
Go for a short walk.
Sit under a tree for 10 minutes.
Open your windows to try and get some fresh air.
Punch a pillow.
Listen to music.
Journal about your current experience.
Get in bed and close your eyes.
Watch a comedy.
Read a book.
Take a deep breath. Repeat.
Stretch your body.
Go lay in the sunshine if weather permits.
Most of all, remember that emotions are like moving clouds. In one minute they can ripple through your body and become the only thing you feel however, if you stay present and wait it out without trying to use food to cover it up, it will most likely pass or change in to something else. Keep on practicing this and the pull to numb out will be significantly less.