What is Emotional Eating?
Emotional eating is when we turn to food to help us cope with some type of emotion or psychological stimuli we are currently experiencing. Emotional eating can be conscious, but it often occurs unconsciously…I call this, “mindless eating”. Bottom line, it's using food, even when we are not hungry, to put off doing or feeling something else.
I’m sure you have seen kids eating a bag of chips when they get home from school to put off doing homework. And we can all relate to eating something like a jar of jelly beans, or another snack that is easily accessible on your or a coworkers desk, to help deal with work related stress or other anxiety.
For me it runs even deeper than that...
My Personal Experience with Emotional Eating:
I straight up struggle with emotional eating a lot. During my dieting / show prep phase, I struggled with emotional eating because I was hiding behind the feeling of "not being good enough”. Additionally, my body was craving food because I was in starvation mode.. a/k/a consuming far less calories than I was burning.
After my show, I was so food deprived that I was emotionally or mindlessly eating two to three times a week. The worst episodes occurred at night. In just a weeks timespan, I ate a whole jar of peanut butter, huge bag of chips, 2 entire boxes of ice cream sandwiches (the big ones), and a box of grahm crackers. And yes, I ate these things in addition to my “normal meals”, which were kind of on the larger side. I would sneak things to my room and eat with the lights off…as if not seeing it made it less embarrassing. I noticed that I used mindless eating as a form of punishment when I am feeling unworthy. So, if I missed my workouts, felt bad about not logging my food, had a hard workout, or put off work, or when I felt like I wasn’t loved, I would mindlessly eat.
I’ve written about other emotional eating experiences. You can find them on my blog Here.
An effective tactic that I have used to cope with emotional eating and curb mindlessly stuffing my face, is to create an awareness to these behavioral triggers by journaling during and after the experience. It is not easy to do because we have to be honest with ourselves and examine, rather than forget, the experience. This way, we can learn from it.
Below is an example of one of my journal entries surrounding a binge...
| DoritosAreTheDevil |
"I had an emotional eating episode last night. I also ended up listening to a podcast by Marc Davis on binge eating and all I am left with is this thought of, “mother fucker”…. I have a lot more work to do on understanding and creating awareness on this whole emotional eating thing.
(Following is some of my journaling during the binge….)
"I have anxiety
I’m making myself sick
too spicy to stop eating
it numbs the pain
with a slow burn
itching your gums
It is searching
masking the pain
the only way you know how"
I was mad at him I wrote as I tore open the chips. Realizing you’ve been vulnerable with the wrong person makes everyone hard to trust, even yourself.
Today reflecting. There is no damage. No calories to be turned off, no behind on reaching my goals or moments to far and too cross (Part of me feels I am just telling myself this, but that is ok. That is what mantras are all about!). I am trying really hard to not put myself down today. Negative self talk keeps circling in my head.
This is just a simple reminder
that there is work to be done.
Coping with Emotional Eating:
Please know that it's ok for you to struggle with emotional or mindless eating. I do…heck, we all do. The key is to find the triggers, the cause, and ultimatley how to improve. When we diet, it becomes even more difficult to avoid a binge episode, because we are depriving ourselves. This is why the structure of the diet must be carefully considered. Correctly examining your diet for the proper balance of calories, macronutrients like fats and proteins, as well as micronutrients, like vitamins and minerals, can really help your body from craving food, because it is less deficient.
Now if you find yourself mindlessly or emotionally eating, the first step is to create awareness. If you are reading this and find yourself nodding your head and whispering to yourself, “I’ve totally done that”, then congratulations! You have already created some awareness and are ready to take the next step to understanding.
4 key Steps to Creating Awareness Around Emotional Eating:
- Am I Biologically Hungry?
- - Honor hunger and eat. If you do not, you might end up eating more in the next meal or having a binge that night because you do not feel satisfied.
- move to question 2
- What am I feeling?
- Am I angry, stressed, sad, depressed, bored. Sit with your emotions and state them out loud to yourself.
- When was the last time you felt like this? When was the first? What was going on in your life or just before the binge?
- Feel free to sit with your emotions and:
- Journal about it
- Talk to a friend about it
- Empathy and Determining What you need?
- Forgive yourself and accept the emotions you are feeling
- Take out a picture of you as a child and talk to yourself in a loving way
- Give yourself permission
- Give yourself permission to eat the food tomorrow or after your next meal. This will decrease the urge. If you still want it tomorrow you won’t feel bad about it because you gave yourself permission.
- Ask for help
- Speak up for what you need
- One of my clients found herself always eating chips and snack food around 4:30pm, right before her husband would get home from work. We found out she was not ever hungry but she was eating as a way of creating some “alone time” from the kids. So she asked her husband to give her 30 minutes of uninterrupted quiet time when he got home from work. You see she did not really need food she just needed some space.
- Speak up for what you need