You might not even realise that you are picking up weight due to emotional eating
Eating is filled with emotion. We talk and connect with others around the dining room table. We might even eat for a sense of adventure (isn’t it nice to try a new milkshake flavour combo? Perhaps strawberry marshmallow?). And, of course, food is comforting.
If eating is emotional, what exactly does it mean to suffer from emotional eating?
Emotional eating has to do with numbing negative feelings. If you regularly use food to soothe, comfort, or otherwise cope with uncomfortable or overwhelming feelings such as stress, sadness, loneliness, anger, fear or boredom, you might suffer from emotional eating.
Are you numbing your emotions by eating?
It’s a behaviour many people engage in, which can lead to weight gain and other health problems if it becomes a habit.
You might not even realise that your weight gain is linked to emotional eating.
Read on to find out more about this problem and what you can do to stop eating your emotions.
Why is food so comforting and soothing?
Eating boosts your dopamine levels. Dopamine is the brain chemical responsible for you feeling happy. When you feel stressed or sad you might turn to food to push down these feelings and make you feel better. You might not even realise that you developed habits and routines associated with food.
Why is it so difficult to stop emotional eating?
Breaking the habit of eating your feelings is no simple task. The media bombards us with images of delicious treats which makes it difficult to resist buying those yummy things when you are experiencing negative emotions. It also doesn’t help that you can buy junk food anytime during the day or at night. You can even get it delivered straight to your door.
Are you an emotional eater?
Some signs of emotional eating include:
- You feel a sudden and urgent need for food or snacks.
- You only crave specific comfort foods. You might only want to eat chocolate, for example.
- You eat at unusual times.
- You may feel a sense of happiness and gratitude after eating a normal meal, but if you are binge eating you may often experience guilt and unhappiness after eating.
- You suddenly put on lots of weight.
4 steps to beat emotional eating
It’s not an easy feat to stop numbing your feelings with food. But you can do it! Here is a step-by-step action plan to help you beat emotional eating.
Don’t tackle the problem with self-control
Despite the common assumption that emotional eating is caused by a lack of self-control, this is generally not the case. You can probably demonstrate excellent self-control in many areas of your life. You don’t want to restrict certain foods from your diet or follow another fad diet. What you want to do is understand and manage your emotions.
Understand and manage your emotions
If you are able to figure out what triggers you to experience certain emotions, you can learn how to manage your feelings instead of numbing them by eating.
Understand your emotions
When you can identify how you are feeling about tough situations in your life, you can give yourself compassionate self-care and figure out a better way to meet your needs.
Once you understand the deeper reason for overeating, you can start to have a new conversation with yourself when you feel like binge-eating. Instead of thoughts like “I’m greedy” or “I’m out of control,” try to recognize the feelings that are inspiring you to eat. Identifying these feelings can help you understand the root causes of your overeating, such as feeling betrayed by a friend or feeling like you’re not doing well enough in life.
You can use the following structure to figure out how you feel about tough situations in your life:
- I am….
Some examples of this could be:
“I am angry with my friend because she forgot my birthday”.
“I feel disappointed with my boss as I did not get a promotion.”
Even if all you do for now is carry on eating, but successfully identify the reason why, you’re making progress! Understanding your inner world is a giant first step in the right direction.
Once you understand your feelings better, you can find ways to manage these emotions.
Manage your emotions
Once you’ve identified the real story behind the impulse to eat, what’s next? If someone else is causing your emotions, you may be able to express your feelings to them. This is not always possible though.
Here are more ways to express yourself:
- Write out what you feel, even if you tear it up afterward.
- Express yourself by doing some exercise.
- Distracting yourself with something enjoyable.
Here are some more things you can do if you’re experiencing negative emotions:
- If you’re stressed – try breathing exercises, meditating or finding a quiet place to take a walk.
- If you’re lonely – text, call or video chat with a friend or loved one.
- If you’re sad – have a good cry or make a list of things you’re grateful for or laugh along with some comedy.
- If you’re bored – finish a project or start a new hobby.
- If you’re anxious – confide in a friend, spend time with your pet(s) or consider reaching out to a counsellor or therapist.
It is difficult to combat emotional eating if you are not having your meals at regular times during the day. You don’t want to struggle with emotional eating and be “hangry” too!
The term “hangry” is often used to describe a person who gets irritable when they go too long without food. To prevent this feeling, try to incorporate meals with proteins that will keep you fuller for longer.
Feeling satisfied after eating your regular meals can combat binge eating.
If you struggle to eat regularly, make mealtime easy. You can order pre-cooked food and just defrost it before meals or try Manna’s Low GI Shake.
The Manna Low GI Shake is the healthiest shake on the South African market and has helped tremendous amounts of people lose weight.
This shake helps curb cravings, suppresses appetite, and controls blood sugar levels. A glass of Manna Low GI Shake mixed with water contains only 99 calories making it the perfect shake for weight loss.
Show yourself kindness
Do not get discouraged if you feel like you’re making progress one day and then seeming to take a few steps back the next. It takes time to change the way you manage your emotions and eating habits, but it is worth it so stay patient with yourself.
With the help of these four steps, you can start your weight loss journey afresh with a solid understanding of your inner world.
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