Emotional eating is the practise of eating food, usually treat or junk food, in response to emotions or situations that have nothing to do with hunger. It is often one of the biggest challenges to overcome when trying to eat a healthy diet, lose or maintain weight.
I’m an emotional eater. It’s something I have struggled with as long as I can remember and while I’m learning to deal with my odd relationship with food it is still something that takes up far too much head space.
Since joining BodyFix Transformation Centre, York and speaking to other members at length….I’ve learnt I’m definitely not on my own in my weirdness. Most of us have strange habits and cravings, foods we just can’t resist, a weakness for wine or crisps, an inexplicable need for munchies on a Saturday night….none of it is anything to do with nourishing our bodies, we know that really, it doesn’t make the battle any easier but we are happy to be winning it.
It’s good therapy, this talking to people who have also cried over the lack of Nutella in the house or had full blown temper tantrums at a spouse who is actually daring to eat a Calzone while you chose a sodding salad. We laugh, sympathise and get tips on how fix our dis-ordered eating.
Not being alone in your irrational, food crazy ways is one of the real joys of Body Fix Bootcamp….however we can’t move into each other fridges, handing out apples and empathy while secretly pocketing the Kit Kats. Practical advice is needed too….
The main triggers for emotional eating.
A meal out with friends and family is a lovely occasion. They love you and want you to be happy and they know that pudding used to (still does) put a big smile on your face. So they encourage to eat what you hadn’t planned to. You oblige so as not to be a bore and to ‘go with the flow’
-Boredom. I’ve stood at a cupboard door millions of times hoping that ‘niceness’ will appear. I end up eating stale custard creams out of desperation.
-Feeling sad. Food cheers me up! But then I feel guilty and that makes me want to eat more! (I didn’t say it made sense!)
-Anger. I’m bloody cross and not being ‘allowed’ a bar of chocolate makes me crosser. So I eat two….because that will show them! (Not sure who ‘they’ are but I know I don’t like them!)
-Happy. Who cares how big my arse is! The world is lovely!
-Eating popcorn at the cinema is ‘tradition’.
-A pint of beer isn’t the ‘same’ without a packet of crisps.
-Walking past someone eating vinegary chips and simply following your nose to the source of the deliciousness.
‘I’ve had cake now, there’s no point in eating a healthy tea”‘
‘I’ve worked hard today, I deserve a takeaway”
“I’ll start on Monday, I should eat all the bad foods this weekends so I won’t be tempted”
-Carb loading after a heavy night out drinking.
-Craving sugary foods when you’re tired.
How to overcome emotional eating
Keep a food diary.
What you ate, how much, when, who you were with and how you were feeling at the time.
You will have a clearer picture of your actual diet (not just what you ‘think’ you eat) and will soon identify patterns of behaviour and habits. This knowledge is a powerful tool.
Control your sabotaging self talk.
I chat absolute nonsense to myself about the food I eat and want to eat. The various voices in my head who do battle over the bag of cheese Doritos ‘hiding’ in my sock drawer (like I’ll forget they are there!) are bonkers…..and what’s more I know it….but I still listen.
Write down what you are telling yourself….in print it will be revealed as the codswallop it is. Hopefully your ‘voices’ will become kinder and more constructive in their advice.
Take time to feel the emotions that lead you to reach for the Ben and Jerry’s. This is a bit scary but it works! So you are angry with the cat for leaving the gift of half a mouse in your bed? Embrace the emotion, get through it, realise you have survived and are now calm again without the ice cream’s help. Soon the need to self medicate with food will lessen and you will simply deal with whatever feelings rock your system by yourself.
Think about what you are eating and why. Am I really hungry? How will this burger make me feel in an hour from now? How will it help me deal with this stress?
Learn to recognise the feeling of real hunger
Allow yourself to get really hungry as an experiment, recognise and remember those feelings. The next time you think you are hungry but are in fact thirsty or bored this knowledge will help you decide if that ’emergency biscuit’ is really needed.
Personally I think cravings will always pop up at random times for me. They are not as frequent and powerful anymore as I know them for what they are. I’ve found that if i avoid acting on them for 20 minutes or so they usually disappear. I’ve gone for walks (avoiding the corner shop), called friends and if all else has failed I have simply gone to bed!
At Body Fix Transformation Centre and BodyFix Health Store, York we wish you luck on your journey to ordered eating…..we’ll be here (opposite Creepy Crawlies, Clifton Moor, York) to celebrate and commiserate with you should you need us!