If you are like me, an emotional eater, you eat for reasons other than hunger. Does this sound familiar to you? At night when I sit and watch TV, I think about eating ice cream. I visualize all the good chocolate swirl and nuts included in each bite. Before long I look at the clock and realize that the store will soon be closed and before I know it, I’m in line purchasing one or two half gallons of my favorite ice cream.
What happened to me? What can I do about it?
Emotional eating has been described as eating to satisfy emotional feelings rather than physical hunger. What we are doing is feeding a feeling, usually a negative one. Ever hear of the term “comfort food” (sweets or junk food)? We are trying to make ourselves feel better by eating an enjoyable treat. The good feeling only lasts for a short period of time. Then we will feel guilty and become upset with ourselves. Depression sets in generating an even more negative feeling and mood.
Emotional eating creates a vicious circle, eating to satisfy a feeling, generating short term enjoyment, then guilt, creating more negative feelings and then more eating to feed that feeling. As I know, this cycle leads to obesity and health problems. I am not going to hammer you with all the problems associated with obesity. Such as health problems, physical discomfort, lack of mobility, and the treatment by and acceptance of society. You, like me, experience it all day long, each and every day.
What I am going to do is tell you how I have come to deal with this problem. After being in so many weight loss programs, I have come to realize that my emotional eating usually has a trigger. Some of my triggers include: an anxious state of mind, dealing with a deadline, feeling sorry for myself or I am in an uncomfortable situation. Sometimes, it is a simple and positive trigger such as food nearby, smelling great and everybody eating and enjoying it.
How do I recognize emotional eating rather than physical hunger?
First – Emotional eating usually craves one type of food (ice cream for me) and only that food will satisfy the craving. Where as, if I was physically hungry, then any food choice will satisfy me.
Second – An emotional craving comes on quickly and needs to be satisfied now. Physical hunger gradually builds up, but I can delay my eating.
Third – If I am emotionally eating, I will eat and continue to eat beyond being full and stuffed. I do this, because I am trying to satisfy a feeling not hunger. On the other hand, when I am eating because I’m hungry, once I’m full, I stop eating.
Fourth – After I am finished with an emotional eating binge, I always feel guilty and make a promise to myself to do better. Of course I don’t keep that promise and I set myself up for another eating binge. To the contrary, if I have eaten because of hunger, then I don’t feel guilty and I’m satisfied with my meal.
Fifth – I have come to realize that some of my emotional eating is due to positive feelings such as celebrating with friends and co workers. In these situations, I usually over indulge food wise and find that socially drinking also becomes an unwanted source of calories. The good feelings generated by the celebration is enhanced by good food and drink. I have found that in these instances it is best to eat beforehand and enjoy the company of my friends and not the food and drink.
I use food as a distraction which keeps me from having to deal with an issue. It seems to me that my strongest cravings come when I am at my weakest emotionally.
There are many feelings that prompt emotional eating. These include: stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness, loneliness, not belonging and not feeling good enough. What we must do is learn how to recognize these feelings and their triggers. The best method I know of is to keep a “Food Journal”.
The “Food Journal” should include the time we eat, what we eat, number of calories consumed and the reasons why we ate. This documentation process is a key component to our lifestyle change. We need to know our eating habits so that we can come to understand, recognize and control our emotional eating episodes.
What can we do about emotional eating?
First – Have an alternative to eating. Make a list of enjoyable self help pastimes such as listening to Weight Loss Clearing Audios, perform an EFT Session, or meditate with affirmations. You could do any physical activity such as a walking or any other exercise found in the “Calories Burned Chart” found at How Can I Lose Weight Challenge. You could call a friend, write in a blog or join a support group forum.
Second – Take away temptation by not having your cravings in the house. Make it difficult to go and get what you crave.
Third – Keep healthy food choices such as fruits and vegetables nearby. When those emotional eating binges come, recognize the situation and if you must eat, substitute a healthy choice instead of junk food.
Emotional eating can become harmful to our well being. If we are unable to control our eating, then seeking a Doctor’s counseling may be what is needed. Usually, documenting in our “Food Journal”, substituting an alternative activity and home food management will help to overcome our desire to eat emotionally.