You tell yourself today is the day I will stop overeating. Your morning starts out great, you have a nutritious smoothie and feel quite satisfied. Lunchtime rolls around and you order a salad and top it off with salmon. You really give yourself a pat on the back for that choice especially since your co-workers have ordered greasy fat ladened cheeseburgers with fries.
Arriving back at the office, you have a phone message from an irate client, you can feel your blood pressure rising, your shoulders beginning to tighten, your jaw beginning to clench, immediately you head to the vending machine and buy yourself a couple of Snicker bars. You gobble them down and instead of feeling better, you are filled with shame for what you just did.
Maybe it‘s not the stress at work that triggers your emotional eating, it can be your relationship with your husband, your partner, kids, family members, or friends, the list is endless. Emotional eating is like riding a roller coaster taking you on the highs and lows and spinning you out of control.
Cravings of the Emotional Eater
Emotional eaters tend to crave junk foods rather than seeking to eat balanced meals. “When we eat carbohydrates high in sugar or fat, our body releases the brain chemical dopamine,” says Karen R. Koenig, the author of The Food & Feelings Workbook. “It stimulates the brain’s pleasure center, so you’ll want to keep eating to repeat the experience again and again.” And if you aren’t after carbs, you’re probably craving sugar and fat— overconsumption of which ups other brain chemicals linked to pleasure and euphoria, according to a recent study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Emotional eating is triggered by feeling powerless over your emotions. You don’t feel capable of dealing with your feelings head-on, so you avoid them with food. Other hallmarks of emotional eating are the inability to feel satiated, and feelings of guilt and shame for what you’ve just eaten.
How to Stop The Vicious Cycle of Emotional Eating
1. Get In Touch With Your Emotions
Getting in touch with your emotions can feel scary. You may be afraid that like Pandora’s Box, once you open the lid you won’t be able to stop the flow of your emotions and you will feel horrific. The truth of the matter is when we don’t obsess over or suppress our emotions, even the most painful and difficult feelings subside relatively quickly and lose their power.
I encourage you to take a few deep breaths and before you reach for food ask yourself, “What Am I Feeling?” Maybe, you are feeling lonely. By identifying this emotion, you could determine that you need to deepen your relationship with your husband or partner. Maybe, you crave friendship and realize that you have to make more of an effort to join some meet-up groups to make this happen. The key to diminishing emotional eating is to take some form of positive action once you’ve identified the feeling that is arising.
2. Learning to Say NO
Break the habit of always saying yes to others’ requests. By saying NO, you are saying yes to what fulfills you. Taking this action will lessen the possibility of overeating out of frustration and resentment for doing something you don’t want to do.
You may feel that you are becoming selfish, but the reality is you are moving into a more self-full way of being. When you nourish yourself, you’ll discover that emotional eating lessens.
Learn to ask yourself this question developed by Patrick Williams, Ed. D, President of the Institute for Life Coach Training.
By saying yes to others’ requests how are you saying No to yourself?
3. Learn How To Become A Mindful Eater
Mindful eating is based on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, which involves being fully aware of what is happening within and around you at the moment. Applied to eating, mindfulness encompasses:
• Eating at a designated dining area for every meal
• Noticing the colors, smells, and textures of your food
• Chewing slowly and savoring the taste of your food
• Getting rid of distractions like TV, electronic devices, and reading material
Psychologist Jean Kristeller at Indiana State University and colleagues at Duke University conducted an NIH-funded study of mindful eating techniques for the treatment of binge eating. The mindfulness-based therapy seemed to help people enjoy their food more and have less sense of struggle about controlling their eating.
Kristeller and her colleagues discovered that mindfulness helps people recognize the difference between emotional and physical hunger and introduces a “moment of choice” between the urge and eating.
Today can be the day that you put emotional eating to rest. Begin to integrate these new practices into your lifestyle and you will establish a healthier relationship with food. You’ll learn to recognize its purpose; to fuel your body so that you can live life to the fullest.
If you are in need of further support with emotional eating, don’t hesitate to contact me for a hypnosis session. This is a proven effective modality to curb emotional eating by identifying the root cause of what is eating you.