Let’s talk about emotional eating.
Have you tried it?
Me too. In fact, it would be nearly impossible to find an adult who has not had an emotional eating experience, let alone many or has them daily.
The general consensus is that it is a bad thing, a part of you that is broken and needs fixing. Emotional eating is often seen as a defect or a fault but I see it differently.
More on that in a sec…
Emotional eating is a term that covers an enormous amount of territory and sometimes it seems like ALL eating is emotional.
It can be as seemingly “normal” as treating yourself to some gelato as a reward for finishing a project, getting a good grade or, ironically, finishing a diet. I can be having a stash of candy in your purse or a drawer at work.
It can be as extreme as sitting in a closet in a pile of empty candy wrappers and pizza boxes unable to move because of the food coma.
Can you see how there are about a million scenarios that fall between a little food reward and a full fledged food binge? Me too, yet both of those scenarios involve a link between eating and emotions.
Also, it’s NOT a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s a wildly helpful tool. I mean, what better way to understand where we are and how we’re feeling? But you have to learn to use it as a tool of CURIOSITY rather than a tool for punishment.
That’s where we often get stuck, we’re in a cycle of emotional eating and we know it, yet we use the experience to talk sh*t to ourselves, feel guilty, impose restrictions and rules or prove to ourselves we must be all the terrible things.
So, how can we break this cycle? How can we stop emotionally eating?!
By not trying to stop emotionally eating. We humans really love to make things harder than they need to be. Willing yourself to not eat when you’re feeling all upset, bored, tired, sad, nervous or lonely…good luck. I’ve got something easier. You don't have to try to stop, you just have to learn to listen.
Instead start using the information. Instead of the self inflicted boxing match, be a good journalist/scientist/explorer to find out what’s going on. Be grateful that the bag of chips you just inhaled without thinking or tasting is trying to tell you something.
If you weren’t hungry and you didn’t want to eat what you ate, what did you need?
If you're new to this, don’t try to answer this question BEFORE you do the emotional eating, your brain has been hijacked, it will be too hard. But AFTER you eat you can choose to get curious about how you were feeling (instead of feeling bad for what just happened).
Curiosity, in anything, is the antidote to judgment. It is the catalyst of change.
When you recognize that your eating because you’re bored, nervous, sad, excited, lonely or confused you have access to your problem solving brain and can start experimenting with non-food ways to feel your emotions.
Note: sleep, sex/intimacy, creativity and nature are common unmet needs/hungers that we fill with food.
I’d love to hear from you. Looking back at any of your emotional eating experiences, what are some non-food ways you could soothe yourself or get what you needed?