Emotional Eating - Daniel Browne
By Daniel Browne, Hypnotherapist
Emotional eating; we’ve all indulged in it at some point, right? Whether it’s reaching for the chocolate when feeling down or treating yourself to something tasty when feeling happy, eating isn’t always just about satisfying hunger.
However there is one distinct difference between eating to satisfy hunger and eating to suit emotions. One is a necessity in order to survive and is therefore part of our natural way of living. The other is a bit more sinister and can actually make you feel worse afterwards. For example, if you comfort eat because you are upset, you could end up feeling worse afterwards when the issue still remains and you also feel guilty for having comfort eaten.
It can be an easy trap to fall into and a difficult hole to climb out of once you’re in the grip of it. As with most habits, the first step to overcoming emotional eating is to acknowledge that you have an issue with it. Then focus can turn to changing the negative habit into a more positive one.
Are you an emotional eater? It’s not always obvious and it can be hard to determine whether you are an emotional eater or not. Does having an extra helping of dessert or some chocolate in the evening really mean you are an emotional eater or is it that you simply just like to eat desserts and chocolate? There are a few questions that you can ask yourself to determine whether you are an emotional eater or not. If you answer yes to any of them then perhaps you are an emotional eater.
* Do you eat more when feeling stressed or upset?
* Do you eat when you are full as well as when you are hungry?
* Do you eat to make yourself feel better or as a reward?
* Do you eat until you are absolutely stuffed?
* Does food feel like a friend to you?
* Do you feel out of control around food?
Once you have acknowledged that you have an issues with emotional eating it’s then important to think about what the triggers are; what it is that makes you comfort eat. Some of the common reasons for emotional eating include:
* Stuffing emotions – a way of supressing emotions, literally trying to stuff them down with food. It’s a way of attempting to numb yourself with food to avoid the emotions you do not want to feel.
* Stress – There may actually be a scientific reason for this as when feeling chronically stressed it can lead to high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. This can cause cravings for the foods that are not so good you. That’s not to say there is an excuse for comfort eating due to stress. You still possess the ability to say no to the craving and to take control.
* Childhood habits – It can be very common to trace emotional eating habits back to childhood. Maybe you were rewarded with food when you behaved well or given sweets when feeling upset. It’s these patterns in early life that can often lead to an emotional eating issue in adulthood as the link between emotions and food intake is made.
When you know what the trigger is for causing your emotional eating you can then begin to break the habit. Keeping a diary is a good place to start. Writing down the times you comfort eat or overeat, what you are eating, and how you are feeling at that exact moment is key to breaking the pattern. Doing this over a week will allow you to see if there is a pattern. It could be that you comfort eat at the same times during a day or even on specific days of the week.
The next step is to change the pattern and choose healthier alternatives to the comfort food. This could be replacing the unhealthy food with a healthier alternative, such as eating fruit instead of chocolate. However, it doesn’t have to be based around food and it’s perhaps better if it isn’t. So here are a few tips to get you changing your emotional eating habit.
* If you are feeling angry or stressed, work it out by going for a run or taking part in any kind of physical exercise. Working out can be a great stress buster and it’s a much healthier alternative to comfort eating.
* If you’re tired or run down, run a bath with lots of bubbles in, lie back and relax. Scented candles will add to the relaxing environment and this will help you to unwind.
* If you are depressed or lonely, call up a friend or family member who you know will lift your mood.
* If you’re bored, try taking up a new activity that you may enjoy or invite a friend to do something that will take your mind off the boredom.
The final step to breaking your emotional eating habit is learning to accept your feelings and considering how emotional eating can negatively affect you. If you find yourself reaching for some chocolate, take a minute to thing about how eating it will make your feel afterwards. This will provide the motivation needed to help break the habit.
When it comes to learning to accept your negative feelings, it can be easier said than done, but it’s not impossible. In the same way acknowledging your emotional eating is the first step to overcoming it, acknowledging that you are feeling negative emotions is the first step to handling them in a positive way.
Opening yourself up emotionally can be tough at first, but once over that first hurdle life can become so much richer and you can feel a lot happier, free of the trap of emotional eating.