Do you ever eat when you’re tired, stressed, bored, angry, sad or… heck there are plenty of other reasons we eat, right?
Well, I know I do.
And we do it for a good reason – it works.
When we eat food that gives us pleasure, that leads to dopamine production and in turn activates the reward and pleasure centre in our brain.
So eating that chocolate bar when you’re feeling down makes a lot of sense.
Good news then, you can stop right now with the guilt about emotional eating. In fact, think of yourself as pretty clever – you’ve found a temporary solution.
The issue is, it’s a temporary solution, not a real fix for what’s going on in your life.
Which is why you and I are here right now, right?
If you google “how to overcome emotional eating” you’ll find thousands of posts with tips ranging from “take a bubble bath” to “eat carrot sticks with hummus”.
And sure, either of those would be great if that’s what you really felt like doing.
But neither is solving the real problem – the negative emotion that inspires you to eat, eat, eat.
How To Overcome Emotional Eating In 2 Simple Steps
Now I’m going to give you 2 simple steps to fix that emotional eating.
But I’m not promising a quick fix.
You need to take those 2 simple steps and make them your own.
One woman’s fix will be another woman’s nightmare.
So we need to personalise it. But the basic theme for fixing emotional eating is this, when you feel like eating for emotional reasons:
- Stop and ask yourself what emotion you’re feeling now – identify and name the emotion.
- Ask yourself what do you need right now, to cope with this feeling?
Two simple steps – but like any habit, it can be hard to break it.
So to start with, don’t expect yourself to stop emotional eating right away. Instead, stop and ask the questions, find your answers, and then allow yourself to eat for emotional reasons if you still want to.
In that way, you’re starting to build a habit of checking in with your emotions.
1. What Emotion Am I Feeling Right Now?
Often we live on autopilot and don’t even know what we’re feeling – is it anger? sadness? frustration?
Don’t feel ashamed if you don’t know (that’s just a wasted emotion), lots of us become disconnected from our difficult emotions for one reason or another.
Just try to dig in and find out what negative emotion it is (cos it’s not usually a positive emotion that causes emotional eating).
If you need some inspiration and guidance, check out the emotions wheel right here. It gives a good breakdown of the many different emotions we can experience.
You could even try asking your kids or yourself at various random times during the day what emotion you’re feeling.
Just start getting in touch with what’s going on inside – maybe you feel irritable with your kids, but when you stop and ask yourself the question “what am I feeling?” the response will be “I’m actually angry at my husband because he didn’t help me with the kids this morning.”
Once you know what emotion you’re dealing with – whether it’s sadness or anger. You can move to Step 2.
2. What Do I Need Right Now, To Cope With This Feeling?
The thing is – emotional eating is a tool we use to cope with difficult emotions.
But we need to have more than one tool in our toolbox for life. You can’t pull a screwdriver out to fix everything, it won’t hammer in nails (well, not very well), and you can’t use it to unblock the drains.
What we need to do is discover more tools we can use to cope with different emotions.
And those tools will differ by emotion. For example, if you’re sad, you might really need and want a cuddle from your husband. If you’re angry at your husband though, a cuddle may be the last thing you need; instead you might need to get out for a run or a kick-boxing class (ahem).
In general we can group our tools for emotions into four categories:
- Distraction – e.g. go to a movie or listen to music.
- Support – e.g. phone or text a friend, go to a counselor.
- Deal directly with the feeling – e.g. journaling how you feel and why, reframe your thoughts – is there another way to look at the situation?
- Self-care – e.g. alone time, go for a walk, rest/sleep, that bubble bath 😉
Summary – The Eating Habits Will Change When The Emotions Are Resolved
It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen (thanks Pantene and Rachel Hunter).
It just takes a bit of effort to get started – and don’t expect the world from yourself. Maybe you’ll eat for emotional reasons 4 times of week, instead or 5-6 times. That’s progress, we’re not looking for perfection.
Remember – you’ve got a reason why you want to fix this, right?
So ask yourself – do you want to keep emotional eating? (I’m assuming the answer is no).
Why is it annoying you so much?
Why not just keep eating for emotional reasons?
There’s your answers for why you want to do this.
So take the 2 steps and give it a go. Build up a toolbox with so many tools that even your local builder will be impressed!