What is emotional eating? I’ve asked myself that many times as I was thrown into the depths of some very stressful times beginning in 2016. What I have learned is that emotional eating is reaching for certain foods that trigger those temporary “feel-good” chemicals in our brain in order to mask the pain that is really present. Emotional eating was never anything I really struggled with until this intense journey of mine began.
I have found this new way of eating for me intensify over the past year-and-a-half. Through stressful times and major life changes, people tend to turn towards different things to help them feel better. It looks different for everyone. For some it might be alcohol, drugs, sex, tobacco, or shopping. For me, it’s certain foods (mainly homemade sweets) and exercise. I have suppressed my emotional pain with exercise for years and didn’t even know it. I was an elite competitive runner off and on for close to 20 years. It was my escape. If I could feel physical pain, it allowed me to ignore my emotional pain. I haven’t competed for several years so I found something to replace that. This developed into my emotional eating.
I believe in transparency because it’s most likely going to resonate with someone else so here it goes: I find myself almost in a panic when I begin to get low on my healthy treats that I make for myself. I will begin to make more of the same or find new recipes and will eat on the treat as I am making it to the point of not feeling well. I will also make sure no one is around to observe how much I am taking in. I have even gone as far as hanging out in my closet munching away on my emotional habit. Sometimes I find myself eating and thinking in my head, “Ok, that’s enough.” “You’re going to regret it if you eat anymore.” “This is your last bite.” Only to find that I couldn’t stop! Anyone been there?? I then find myself beating myself up over it by transitioning into self destructing thoughts. “What is wrong with you?!?!” “You are so weak!” “You are a loser!” “You only needed to stop several bites ago!” “How can you be a Nutrition Health Coach to others when you have so many issues of your own?!?!”
Here’s the thing. That is what makes me a great Nutrition Health Coach. People need to know that they are not alone. They need to know that I am a safe place because I have issues too. They need to know that NO ONE has it all together and they need to know that there is NO judgement whatsoever!
I would like to leave you with a few suggestions on how to manage emotional eating. We all need support in various areas of our lives so I know how important it is to have some type of direction.
1. BE AWARE OF YOUR TRIGGERS:
Differentiate between actual hunger and emotional cravings. If social gatherings are difficult for you to manage food intake, eat something before you go or bring your own food. If you will be seeing a person that stresses you out or you have had a terrible day, remind yourself that you deserve to love yourself rather than eating an entire batch of cookies.
2. SEEK SUPPORT:
It can be very helpful to be completely transparent with emotional eating. You might ask a family member to dish your dessert up when you know you are in a place mentally and can potentially over consume. Allow people to support you. This can be very difficult because often times we don’t want to bother others or feel they wouldn’t understand. It’s important to find someone you feel safe with. There are also many books and articles addressing Emotional Eating. An option might be to find a support group in your area with others who have the same or similar struggles.
3. USE REPLACEMENTS:
There are so many amazing things to do for our bodies when in emotional stress instead of turning to emotional eating. I like to do something physical such as go for a walk, hike, yoga, dance around my house (if no one is around) or even clean! Yes, I did say clean because it’s a distraction and I can feel I have accomplished something. Meditation is great because it helps to cleanse those negative emotional thoughts. I love to drink water with my dōTERRA essential oils. Some of my favorites are lemon, grapefruit, lime, Wild Orange and Slim and Sassy. Not only are they detoxifying, they also help fight food and sugar cravings.
If you do have an episode of emotional eating, don’t beat yourself up. ACKNOWLEDGE IT, EMBRACE IT, LET IT GO!!