Are you an emotional eater? No, really…are you? It’s ok to admit it! In fact, if you admit it, then you can figure out how to move beyond eating your emotions. Emotional eating doesn’t mean that you only eat when you’re sad or stressed. You can eat when you’re happy or on some type of high as well! It’s so easy to allow this type of mindless eating to creep into your life. Think about it…
You’re sad—ice cream will make it better!
It’s your birthday—have some cake!
You got a new job—let’s go out for dinner to celebrate!
You’re bored—eat some chips, that’ll pass the time!
You’re lonely—mmm mashed potatoes and meatloaf will make you feel warm and fuzzy!
Your relationship ended—go out for drinks with friends!
You get the idea…we use food to celebrate, to fill time, to fill voids. Hell, we use food to celebrate holidays—I mean, Thanksgiving is about turkey right? And, Christmas, it’s about candies and cookies and ham…gotta have a Christmas ham! As a society, our social time and family time seems to center around meals and food or drink. So, for those of us who are emotional eaters by nature, it’s hard not to let that take over. How do we separate what’s emotional hunger and what’s physical hunger though? You really have to have some tough inner dialogue and practice listening to your body. You’re not going to get the hang of it right away. First, I want to start by acknowledging that most times when you thin you’re hungry, you’re actually thirsty. Your body is telling you that it needs something, but our natural instinct is to reach for food. So, start with a glass of water. Did that do the trick? Good! Moving on…
What happens when the water doesn’t do the trick? Are you eating out of habit, out of boredom, some other emotion? Or are you really hungry? Is it around a normal mealtime for you? How long ago did you last eat? These are all questions you need to learn to ask yourself before you reach for whatever it is that you’re going to use in an attempt to satiate this hunger. If you’re sad or feeling low, force yourself to go for a walk first or get a little physical activity in. The endorphin release will make you feel better without reaching for food that your body isn’t even asking for.
Once you can understand what your really experiencing. Recognize the emotion…feel the emotion. If you’re sad, it’s ok to feel that…but do something to pull yourself out of it. Listen to your favorite music, sit outside in the warm sunshine, go for a bike ride. If you are celebrating an achievement…you don’t have to go to dinner to celebrate. You can treat yourself to some pampering or spend a day with your family outdoors. Don’t use food as your crutch or your excuse. Food is fuel. Fuel for your body. You wouldn’t go get an oil change and then drive to the gas station to throw gasoline on your car in celebration! No, gasoline is fuel…it keeps the car going. You might go to the car wash and make it look nice in celebration of your oil change. So, don’t go throwing food all around either. It’s fuel for your body….it keeps you going.
You really have to change your mindset and find new ways or outlets for your emotions. And, once you do that, the rest will fall into place. But, it will take practice. I can’t say that enough. Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself halfway through a bag of potato chips after a bad day at the office. Stop. Acknowledge that you’ve made a bad choice. Recognize the emotion. Feel the emotion. Find an activity to counter that emotion. Don’t beat yourself up or give yourself the excuse of…”Well, I’ve blown my day so I might as well eat the rest of these chips.” It’s bullshit and you know it. So, stop eating your emotions. Food is fuel. Food is not your feelings.