What is Emotional Eating
Emotional eating a way to soothe or hide negative emotions and using food to make ourselves feel better, even just momentarily. After we eat, we usually feel guilt, remorse, and anger. There are many reasons for emotional eating and some of the reasons include:
Are you an Emotional Eater
Food can serve as a distraction from these emotions as well as a comfort and is a difficult cycle to break. Think about it, you are dealing with one of these emotions, which can drive you to eat for comfort or distraction and then after, you feel guilty for indulging which can often lead to highlighting the negative emotion again, sometimes even amplified.
Questions to Ask Yourself to Determine if you are an Emotional Eater
- Do you eat more when stressed?
- Do you use food as a reward?
- Do you feel out of control with food?
- Do you crave a VERY specific food?
- Do you go to food for comfort?
This is a quick, interesting quiz that might give you a bit of insight on what kind of eater you are, click here to go to the quiz.
My Emotional Eating Discovery
Evenings used to be my emotional eating trigger time. Every night after the kids were in bed and I could take a deep breath for the first time all day, I’d move right to the pantry. This was MY time to relax, have some food and watch tv. I could eat what I want, watch what I want and not have to filter anything because the kids were right there, watching, and would be asking for something.
It took a long time to realize that this was emotional eating, but if I didn’t have this down time at night, I’d get angry, legitimately upset that the tiny carved out time for me was being impeded. When I was completing my 6 week gym challenge (see my post here), I couldn’t have food. There were nights I’d get so pissed off, I’d just go to bed and pout. No exaggeration, no joke. These were the times I thought about quitting, furious that I’d been an idiot to put money on the line just to lose weight. How selfish…and then those emotions would spiral.
When I finally finished that horrible challenge and I could have food at night, you know I went right back to it! But, something had changed. I forced myself to eat fruit or some sliced veggies or air popped popcorn. If I wanted dessert, I’d have a fruit Popsicle. I still eat at night, usually because I am hungry and now that I track my macros, I try to leave room for my evening snack. If I don’t have the calories, I don’t eat.
Ways to Combat Emotional Eating
Keep a food journal
You might be able to find eating patterns you didn’t know you had, so there’s definitely a way to gain insight in your food habits. Keeping a food journal will also help you identify triggers. When is it you are turning to food and why are you turning to food? Sitting and identifying the when and the why can help you learn your triggers.
Avoid Over Hunger
I eat at least 6-7 times a day. I get too hungry and I go from hungry to hangry almost instantly. So, I eat small meals all day long otherwise I WILL, without a shadow of doubt, overeat. Since I track my food, I know what to eat throughout the day. There are schools of thought that say you should eat 3 times a day while others say 5-6 times a day. Eat for you! Learn to know your hunger and break up your meals that work best for you.
Tackle Stress Differently
Find what causes you the most stress and create a list of different ways of handling these pressures. Take a walk, complete a hard workout – one that leaves you sweaty and fatigued, draw/paint, garden, etc. Whatever it is to help release pent up feelings can help you not turn to food.
Read a book, go for a walk, call a friend, or clean out your car. Find something to do to occupy your time for ten or fifteen minutes and see if you have overcome the desire to snack to just snack.
Create a Different Reward System
If you reward yourself with food – whether it be from losing a set amount of weight, exercising, or keeping calm during work, try to find new ways to reward yourself. Treat yourself to a new movie, book, some soothing bath bombs, a bouquet of flower, etc. Reward yourself with something OTHER than food.
Look, there’s no perfection, it doesn’t exist. Don’t hold yourself to an ideal that doesn’t exist. There will be setbacks, you will make a mistake and that’s okay. Understand that they happen and keep moving forward. Creating healthy habits is a marathon with no end, well, until you die, but let’s not go there. We all have good days and we all have bad days. Setbacks happen, and learning our habits and how to catch ourselves falling down the same rabbit hole is what is most important.
I still struggled with emotional eating on almost a daily basis. I get tired, frustrated, too hungry, and my immediate reaction is to turn to food. I think what’s changed for me the most is that I am now aware that I turn to food and why I turn to food. More times than not, I can catch myself and really check to see if I am hungry or if I am eating for an emotional reason. Again, this isn’t a sprint, but a marathon with years of habits to change. Becoming aware, and addressing one thing at a time has been a huge help to my progress forward.