You’re upset, angry, stressed, or even happy and wanting to celebrate. Your first response is to reach for food. And it’s usually sweet, salty or fatty food. This practice is called emotional eating and it’s very common. Most of us have indulged in it from time to time.
Emotional eating involves using food to fill an emotional need. It’s not the same as needing to eat because you’re physically hungry.
How do you feel after eating like this? Usually overfull or guilty, and the problem that drove you to emotionally eat is still there. Emotional eating won’t fix what you’re experiencing because you’re feeding your stomach rather than addressing the issue.
I don’t want you to feel bad about this. Food is something we all turn to at different times. It’s a source of comfort and nourishment. Occasionally using food as a pick-me-up, reward, or to celebrate isn’t a bad thing. For example, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating your birthday with a nice dinner with friends.
So when does emotional eating become a problem?
When it becomes your main coping mechanism. When it’s the first thing you do whenever you feel upset, angry, stressed, etc. This is an unhealthy cycle that doesn’t address the root of the problem.
1. Be kind to yourself.
Emotional eating is a common and normal response to the issues that life throws our way. Instead of being harsh on yourself, try to be gently aware that you’re responding to stress through eating.
2. Take note of what you’re thinking and feeling before you eat.
The more you’re aware of what’s really going on, the more you can choose how to respond. When I find myself turning to chocolate too often, I journal about what’s causing me stress.
Once you’re aware of your true stressors, you’re able to take charge. You’re better equipped to change the situation if it’s within your control or come up with a plan for managing it if it’s something outside your control.
Also, learn to distinguish between the craving to fill an emptiness and actual hunger. Unlike hunger, the need to emotionally eat comes on fast and isn’t satisfied by food. If you feel a sudden need to eat, try to put it off for five minutes and write down what you’re feeling.
A health coach can help you better understand what’s going on for you and help you come up with ways to process your emotions, so you don’t sabotage your wellness goals and still have a fit body.
3. Find other methods to cope with your emotions.
Once you’ve identified your emotional eating triggers, such as stress, boredom or social pressure, you can put other methods in place to deal with them. If you’re stressed, try some self-care activities like exercise or meditation. If you’re bored, call a friend or read a book. Try a few different activities to find what works for you.
Changing your approach to eating isn’t about restriction. I don’t want you to miss out on the pleasure and nourishment that food brings! The focus should be on tuning in to your body’s wants and needs and finding balance.
Have you noticed emotional eating in your life and want to break the habit?
I can help you to develop a toolkit tailored for you to respond to emotional eating. This incorporates finding healthy nutrition that works for your lifestyle and still lets you enjoy the food you love.
Book a free discovery call with me to learn more.