How to overcome emotional eating
We have all been there…something that was supposed to be a snack became a feast. A piece of cheese and cracker has turned into a whole box of crackers and cheese and butter and pizza, ice cream…basically what was in your fridge and cupboard has vanished. This is what we call Emotional eating. It is not a real hunger obviously, your stomach is not making funny noises, you don’t feel dizzy and in need of food. Instead you are eating for all reasons not related to hunger: stress, boredom, pleasure or maybe you are giving yourself a “free pass” that day because you know that from TOMORROW you will be on the perfect diet and there won’t be anymore of these slips. Unfortunately that’s not how life usually works. What is highly likely to happen is that if you don’t go to the bottom of the Emotional eating, you will find yourself in a similar situation faster than you may think.
Here are some tips to get you started on healing from emotional eating:
Don’t feel guilty about your slips, learn from them instead
This may seem a contradiction, but punishing yourself for overeating won’t get you far away. Instead, try to figure out 2 things: your triggers and emotions. Do you eat late at night after dinner? Do you start eating after you had that one cookie in the afternoon that was supposed to be your “pick me up cookie”? Maybe your feasts are happening on the weekend because you know that Monday is coming and it is a chance for a new beginning? Figuring out your triggers is crucial because it gives you clues when you tend to slip. By knowing your triggers you will be able to prepare yourself better for these situations. Preparing food in advance, having more healthy meals as snacks, making a log of your food intake can all be tools to deal with triggers. Emotions are also very important in this equation because you want to identify what are you feeling prior to the binge. Are you bored? stressed?lonely? Try to ask yourself WHY do you want to eat more? Are you really hungry or is there something else going on? Once you answer this question you will be able (with practice) to deal with your emotions in different ways other than masking them with food. Food helps you in that moment but the emotion stays with you the next day as well.
I like to do the famous Broccoli test with people who claim they are hungry. Here it goes. Once you finish eating and you want more food ask yourself am i hungry? If the answer is “YES” than go to the fridge and take a broccoli (you can use some other vegetable like cauliflower or zucchini -the point is in something else) and ask yourself if you would eat it. If the answer is “yes” than you are physically hungry. If it is a “no” than something else is going on.
Find other ways to comfort yourself
A lot of the times, people say they use food for comfort because they have nothing else to look forward to. According to Food Addiction institute, when we eat sugary food opioids are released in our brains. The “high” you get from sugar is like being on cocaine (opioids are the active ingredients in cocaine). Sugar is an addiction and the nice, calm feeling you have after sugary, processed foods is very real. The way how to solve this is to really dig down to alternatives how to “reward” yourself. Whether you will see friends, go out, watch movie, read a book is up to you but in order to stop “eating your emotions” you need to cope with them and not run away from them. These substitutes will not be as calming as food but it is a way to start healing.
In modern day society we don’t want to deal with bad, difficult emotions. We want a quick fix. Just like we want a 3 day diet, or 5 minute workout that will get you a six-pack we also need to get away from these emotions and continue to live in a pink bubble. This is not something that just came to you out of nowhere. Our societies are build that way that kids should not experience anything bad, and that all negative or difficult emotions should be suppressed or avoided. How often do you hear a parent say to a kid:” Don’t cry, it will be fine. Let’s go for ice cream”. Not to go far away in our childhoods, but the point is that you need to work through whatever is going on and ask for professional help if needed.
Eat regularly, don’t skip meals!
Enough with crazy diets and not eating! If you eat way below your BMR (basal metabolic rate) required number of calories, you are putting yourself in a situation of “starvation”. What that means is that your body is confused why there is no food coming so it will try to “help you” by storing whatever you are eating. Yes, your body is a smart a machine that knows that if food doesn’t regularly come in, chances are it won’t any time soon so the storage is necessary for survival. Not only you won’t lose any weight but you are highly likely to slow down your metabolism and then enter in a “i am hopeless case” phase and binge the hell out of your angry, frustrated, negative emotions.
In the same scenario, if you don’t eat enough during the day or you decide it is better to drink coffee after coffee or crazy juices in order to suppress your appetite, it is the nighttime that’s waiting for you and where all hell breaks loose. Not only will you eat exactly the food you don’t allow yourself but you will highly likely eat double or triple the portions and back again to square one because you really are hungry and there is no stopping you into you get really full. My advice is to make 3 meals and maybe a snack, include proteins, carbs, fats in each meal that will keep you satiated until the next meal and include some of your “guilty pleasure” treats here and there so you don’t go cray cray on them when given the opportunity.