Do you sometimes find yourself making an excuse to be “driving past” your favourite take away shop just so you can grab a snack to stifle your building anxiety?
Is the pantry your best friend when you’re feeling down, upset or lonely?
Do you like to reward yourself with food when you feel you “deserve” a treat?
Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?
Sounds like you are eating your emotions instead of dealing with them!
Finding comfort in food is such a common tool that we use so that we don't have to deal with our emotions, otherwise known as emotional eating.
WHAT IS EMOTIONAL EATING ANYWAY?
Emotional eating is mindlessly eating food in the hope it will make you feel better. It is eating regardless of whether we feel hungry or not. When we experience negative emotions it can often feel like there is a void inside of us and so quickly want to fill this void to no longer feel the discomfort.
This is where food comes in.
Food can create this false feeling of fullness/wholeness that we are searching for in our hearts and souls.
When we choose emotional eating, we generally tend to reach for junk food, sweets and other “unhealthy” comfort foods. Unfortunately we usually end up feeling even worse than when we started.
The bad news is emotional eating will not fix your emotional problems. It may distract you for a time, it may numb you for a time...but we're only talking minutes or hours here. Nine times out of ten, you will end up feeling worse. Those emotions will still be there and most probably amplified now because you feel guilty for over-indulging with foods that are just zapping your energy and dare I say a little bit of your soul.
I’ve got great news for you girlfriend and that is you CAN overcome this vicious cycle and learn how to confront your emotions and stop emotional eating for good!
The best steps you can start taking is to recognise your emotional eating triggers. Ask yourself what situations, places or feelings make you start reaching for the comfort food. While emotional eating is often triggered by negative emotions, it can also be triggered by positive feelings when you are rewarding yourself for achieving a goal, going on holidays or attending a fun event.
Below I have outlined 5 most common triggers for emotional eating…
🤯 STRESS: Chronic stress is such a common issue in our crazy, fast-paced world right now. This level of stress produces high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. This hormone triggers cravings for food that will give us a burst of energy and pleasure such as salty treats, fried foods and sweets. It is very likely that when you have uncontrolled stress in your life, you ARE going to reach for the comfort food for some emotional relief!
😔 BOREDOM/FEELING OF EMPTINESS: Often when you feel unfulfilled and empty, it feels like food is a great way to occupy your mouth and your time. In the moment, it fills the void and distracts you from what is really going on...which can be your feelings of dissatisfaction with life and lack of purpose.
🤫 SILENCING YOUR EMOTIONS: So many of us hold within us uncomfortable emotions including anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, resentment & shame. Eating can be a way to temporarily silence these emotions so you don’t have to deal with them. Sub-consciously you are choosing to numb yourself with food, instead of feeling the emotions within you.
😬 SOCIAL PRESSURE: It can be so easy to overindulge simply because the food is there, or because everyone else is eating, so why not you? Often nerves can contribute in social situations too. You choose to eat instead of having to think of a conversation with people you barely even know. Another big one in social situations is the pressure from others, to just have a bit more so they also feel comfortable for overeating.
👶 CHILDHOOD HABITS: We all bring habits into our adulthood from when we were a child if we want to admit it or not. Did your parents reward you with dessert if you ate all your veggies? Did you get a chocolate to make you feel better if you were sad or hurt yourself? Your overeating might be driven from the wonderful feelings you had in your childhood while eating that particular food….my favourite memory is fish and chips on the beach with my family and even though now it makes me feel sick I find it difficult to listen to my conscious mind because of the happy feelings/memories that come back of that time with my family.
Once you know what your triggers are, a great way to become more aware of when it is happening is to keep a diary of when and how often you are eating your emotions and then you can start finding other ways to feed your feelings that will serve you so much better!
Some great alternatives for emotional eating are:
When you feel down/lonely: Reach out to a friend that raises your vibrations, watch a bit of comedy, get outside into the sunshine for a hit of Vitamin D.
When you’re feeling anxious: Get those nerves out of you by having a dance party in the lounge room, go for a walk or get your hands on a stress ball.
When you’re feeling bored: Turn to an activity you enjoy, like playing a musical instrument, bushwalking, weights training, reading or arts and crafts.
When you’re feeling exhausted and “done”: Treat yourself with a bubble bath, a nice hot cup of tea, light some scented candles take the time for a relaxing lay down with your favourite book.
LEARN TO ACCEPT YOUR FEELINGS INSTEAD OF EATING THEM!
I have come across so many women in my 12 years as a Wellness Coach who truly believe that the core problem to their emotional eating is that they’re powerless over food. This could not be further from the truth! Emotional eating actually occurs when you are choosing to be powerless over your emotions. Because you don’t feel capable of dealing with your emotions head on, you avoid or, dare I say, completely ignore them with food.
Feeling your feelings can make you feel uncomfortable….you may even fear that once you open the doors to what you are feeling you won’t be able to shut it again! However, the truth is that when we don’t suppress or ignore our feelings and emotions, even the most painful and difficult feelings will dissipate and lose their power to control us.
You are not powerless. Before reaching for the snack, sit with your discomfort for a few seconds and see if you can work out what is really going on.
STEP INTO A MINDFUL LIFE & AWAY FROM EATING YOUR EMOTIONS
By becoming more mindful you will not only be aware of when you are eating your emotions as opposed to being hungry but you will also enjoy the foods you do eat in moderation!
You can do this by slowing down when you eat and really enjoying the flavours. Often, when we emotional eat we are eating quickly and mindlessly consuming more food than we realise because we’re on autopilot.
Eating more mindfully can help us focus on the pleasure the food/meal is giving you and enables you to step away from mindlessly over-indulging and over-eating your emotions. And this is a game-changer.
Is there a strategy that works for you? Share it with us below.
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