Have you ever arrived home tensed/stressed and crunched through an entire row of crackers/cookies or munched to the bottom of a bag of chips?
Have you ever been in a blue mood and the only thing that lifted your spirits was a large bowl of creamy Dulce de Leche or Homemade Vanilla ice cream?
We all have been there and we all have done that!
In a session I had with an “eating management consultant” – (yes, they do exist), I was informed that anger was the driving force for munching/crunching through those crackers/cookies/chips and loneliness/affairs of the heart was the driving emotion to scooping up that luscious bowl of ice cream. Sometimes we feel much better after these episodes even though we may be confused at our sudden compulsive behavior. This behavior is termed “emotional eating” as we are using food to alter our mood.
Determining Emotional Eating
Some of us eat to feel safe and secure. Some of us consider food as our friend. Some of us eat to reward ourselves. Some of us even feel out-of-control just being around food. Some reasons for emotional eating can be negative and some can be positive but if you are eating for any reason other than satisfying a natural hunger, you are an emotional eater.
Emotional eating differs from our normal hunger feelings in that it is usually a specific craving response to a trigger and is only satisfied by a “comfort” food. These “comfort” foods can vary from fatty/sugar-laden foods that give a quick lift to the spirit OR foods with specific textures, taste, and smells. Sometimes indulging in these foods become a mesmerizing experience and we overeat until we are uncomfortable… Afterwards, we may have feelings of guilt about the overeating/bingeing and the unhealthy cycle starts over again.
Combating Emotional Eating
STEP 1 – The first step in the battle against emotional eating is to identify your triggers. Some of these triggers are:
2. Avoidance of Emotions
4. Learned behaviors – food as a reward
5. Socializing with family/friends:
STEP 2 – The next step is to find another alternative to dealing with your “emotions” other than food. Here is a list of alternatives to consider:
1. Call a supportive family member/friend.
2. Listen to some music
3. Take a bubble bath
4. Become engrossed in a hobby
STEP 3 – One of the most important things you can do when reaching for that bowl of your favorite ice cream or tearing open that bag of chips is just to WAIT. Take a moment, grab a sheet of paper and just write down what you are feeling. Read it, consider it, and just wait. You may find that the craving will past and you will be able to resist.
STEP 4 – The step I consider the most crucial is to just let the feelings flow. Cry if you need to, shout if you need to, rest if you need to – but don’t try to stop what you are feeling. Let your soul be your guide in these moments.
STEP 5 – Adopt a long-term plan of combating emotional eating by choosing a healthy lifestyle. Here are some tips to consider:
1. Get sufficient amount of sleep – 8 hours is recommended
2. Daily exercise – find a fun physical activity that will keep you motivated
3. Relax – consider meditation or just sit quiet for about 20 minutes each day and clear your mind
4. Foster quality relationships – those that bring positive energy to your life
Emotional eating is an easy response to adopt because we all have to feel emotions. It is a part of the human experience. But, if we realize that we can’t control everything and are cognizant of what we are feeling / why we are feeling it then we can avoid falling into this behavior.
1. Have you ever indulged in emotional eating?
2. If so, what are your triggers?
3. Have you tried to battle emotional eating?
4. If so, were you successful? Please share your experience.