Hey Beautiful! Yes, you! Are you getting to the end of this year feeling frustrated that another year has gone by without reaching your health and wellness goals? Thinking about setting a new goal for 2019, swearing that this will be your year? If so, I’ll have you stop and consider why you haven’t reached your goals in the past, or reached them and then gained the weight back? If you are anything like me, emotional eating may be the reason you feel like you try so hard just to end up right back where you started.
Often, eating to numb our emotions is much easier than facing them. Some emotional eaters eat when they are sad, stressed, worried, but even when they are seemingly happy. Why is this? Many cultures use food in a variety of ways that often involve emotion. Everything from celebrations to funerals there is food involved, so we learn from a young age that it’s normal to use food in other ways than for fuel.
However, emotional hunger is never satisfied with food. It may feel like it is at the moment but often we feel worse afterwards, and the cycle begins. We beat ourselves up for eating all the things, then swear that we won’t do it again, until we find ourselves staring into the fridge when we just ate dinner and looking for the next thing to eat. Sometimes this cycle can leave you feeling powerless over food and your feelings, but I want you to know, it IS possible to make a positive change.
First, you must know what the difference is between emotional and physical hunger… because for us emotional eaters, it all can feel the same!
Emotional hunger is sudden. You aren’t really thinking about food and then all of a sudden you decide you are starving. Emotional hunger is often for a specific food and nothing else really cuts is. It often shows up with a feeling of uneasiness and then you begin thinking about the food. You’ve got a lot to do, your partner is in a bad mood, you are sad about a situation. Emotional hunger is automatic and mindless. You find yourself just eating on autopilot without really thinking about what you are eating. Emotional eating doesn’t stop when you are full. Your normal hunger and satiety hormones are ignored because it’s about numbing out a feeling.
Whereas true hunger is gradual. Your desire to eat grows gradually in relation to when you last ate. You look for things that are nutritious and are open to different types of foods. You are aware of the food in front of you and are mindful of how much you eat. You decide whether you will eat it all or only half and you stop when you are full.
It can be difficult at first to know what triggers you to eat based on an emotional trigger vs. a physical one. Understanding what triggers you takes understanding, time and practice. However, some common triggers generally are feelings associated with boredom, sadness, guilt, stress, anger or frustration.
There are a few strategies for moving past emotional eating and being able to eat for your health (and lose weight for good!)
1. Be aware of how your emotions and feelings show up for you in your body.If you suddenly feel the need to eat, ask yourself, “what am I feeling?”… “what is my mood?” … “where is this showing up for me?” We will almost always feel our emotions in a certain part of our body; stomach, throat, heart, head. For me, I somehow began associating having a headache as I was hungry and needed something to eat. So instead of doing something to take care of a headache, I reached for an ice cream cone or a bagel.
2. Practice mindfulness of your emotions. This is not easy for some because it means sitting with your feelings, even when they feel uncomfortable. Make a promise to yourself that you will do your best to identify and name a feeling, and then sit with it for a few minutes, before grabbing that next piece of cake.
3. Think differently. Our feelings are a result of our thinking, so if we can think different thoughts, and give a different meaning to situation, then we can often have a different feeling. Say you think that you are fat and that no matter what you try, you always seem to fail at your weight loss efforts. How do you think you would feel with this thought? Now turn that thought around to “I’m on a journey to improve my health. I’m not where I want to be right now, but I love myself at every step of the way.” Do you see how you might feel differently? You have the power to control your thoughts and control how you feel and thus have more control over what you eat!
4. Give yourself grace. Overcoming emotional eating takes some practice and some time, but it doesn’t have to take forever. Be kind to your body. You are beautiful! Love where you are at, even if it is in the middle of an emotional mess right now. Nothing is permanent, and that includes our feelings. They will come and go and we don’t’ have to numb them with food anymore.