The Keys to Ending Emotional Eating
When you’re seeking comfort through eating, that’s a sign that you’re using food to deal with your emotions. Sometimes, this is an act that you can do without even being aware that it’s what’s happening. It’s all on autopilot and you keep hitting the replay button.
Other times, it could be something you do deliberately. But either way, there is help for ending emotional eating. Don’t let it become a crutch that you rely on to get you through rough times.
Either way we use food to stuff down emotions that we really don’t want to feel and process. Some use food and others wine or sex or shopping. Food is the drug of choice for millions.
The real key is to stop what’s causing you to feel those emotions or to process them to a point where you can feel neutral about the issue.
Self-Talk to Help the Inner You
Your inner voice speaks to you with words that strike at the heart of your emotions and struggles. Unfortunately for most people it tends to be negative, telling you things like: “you’re a stupid person” or that “nobody loves you”.
This voice says that you’ll never have the life that you want. This persistent negativity can prevent you from being able to heal as well as to achieve your dreams.
Typically, you learned these thoughts from others when you were young. As a child you pick up the beliefs of those around you especially your parents and you start to believe what they believe. It could be from childhood, during your teenage years or even in your adult life. But the effects are still the same. The voice is critical of you and often puts the blame on you whenever something happens.
It shames you and steals your self-confidence. When it tells you that you’re stupid, you feel low. When it tells you that you’re fat, you feel shame. You’ll find yourself agreeing with the voice and you’ll listen when it says you’re a failure.
When you look in the mirror, you won’t see your beautiful self, the authentic or real you. You’ll see the version that the negative self-talk has created. Because it tells you that you’re ugly, when you look in the mirror, all you’ll see are the flaws you have.
Like a giant magnifying glass hovering over your body, that’s all you’ll see. You won’t notice the positive things about yourself. You won’t celebrate your accomplishments and victories. If this self-defeating inner monologue is allowed to continue, you’ll accept the words as truth and won’t see them for the lies that they are.
There is an emotional toll negative self-talk has on you and can lead to anxiety and even depression.
There is a way to end the critical self-talk but it’s often left unchallenged.
Instead of listening to that inner voice, interrupt it. That inner voice is not you but we tend to accept it as defining us. Talk to it like it’s your employee and tell it to shut up. Start to purposefully say positive things about yourself.
It’s very powerful to look in a mirror and say positive things:
“I love you”
“I’m a genius and I apply my wisdom”
Now at first this will feel goofy and awkward but if you keep it up it eventually sinks deep into your psyche and you start to embody these thoughts and feelings.
Muhammed Ali was famous for saying “I am the greatest” but later on he admitted when he first started repeating that phrase he really didn’t believe in it but eventually he took it on and now he is considered by most boxing fans to actually be the greatest.
Focus on all of the good things that you’ve managed to accomplish. Be proud of who you are and what you’ve done in your life.
Be your own friend. Speak kindly to yourself. Find something throughout the day, every day to speak positively about yourself.
Be grateful – celebrate your life and who you are.
Tell yourself how smart you are, how great you look in your outfit, how talented you are, how worthy you are and so on. If the negative self-talk says something to try to bring you down, immediately correct it with a positive truth. Remember that just because your inner talk says something, it doesn’t make those words facts.
Meditation Make You Aware
Emotional eating isn’t always a conscious decision that you make. Sometimes, it happens just because it’s an ingrained habit. You eat to feed the emotions because you’ve done it for months or even years and you do it on autopilot.
When you get upset, you turn to food. It’s your response because food fills up your stomach and tricks your emotions into thinking you’re happier and satisfied. But that feeling only comes because the pleasure and reward center in the brain is activated when you eat.
It never lasts, which is why people who are emotional eaters subconsciously turn to food again and again in an attempt to silence their thoughts and feelings and find that emotional release.
When eating is your emotional outlet, it becomes easier to turn to it time and again because you do it without even thinking about it. It’s cause and effect. Learning how to practice meditation can make you more mindful so that you break that automated response process. You need to be in the present moment and that is what meditation is great at doing.
When you engage in meditation, this can make you aware of the choices that you make. You’ll be able to recognize the times when you’re turning to food in an attempt to appease an emotion.
What medication does is it opens your mind and thoughts to the realization that you can forego reaching for food and instead stay in the present with the emotion as you work through it.
Sometimes people think that if they use meditation, they won’t have to deal with the emotions that drove them to eat in the first place. But that’s not how meditation works.
With meditation, you’ll learn how to see your feelings for what they are and be able to disassociate them from finding relief through food.
You can discover how to have the thoughts and emotions that you have without blaming yourself or beating yourself up with negative self-talk or behaviors. Meditation teaches people how to stop running away from the things they don’t want to deal with - including feelings.
It shows you how to be open to the feelings, to allow them to simply exist without the need to solve or fix them through a habit like emotional eating. By being open to your feelings, this can allow you to handle them instead of letting them leading you to destructive habits.
One of the keys for successfully overcoming emotional eating using meditation is found in mindful eating. When you engage in mindful eating, it lets you understand the habits that you have and the patterns that you fall back on. It enables you to recognize the difference between true hunger and emotional hunger.
Mindful eating is done by:
Eating your food slowly and purposefully. Put down your fork after every bite.
Ask yourself if you’re eating this food for nourishment or for emotional reasons
Really savor every bite. How does it taste? What is the texture of the food? Can you pick up on the different flavors? Is it salty, bitter, sweet or sour?
Action Steps to Take
Emotional eating is something that requires a concerted effort. There are lots of books and articles on the subject but the most important thing is for you to be aware of you’re eating habits and be aware of your feelings as you go through a meal and then find a way to process those feeling through tools like EFT (Tapping) or hire a coach who knows how to clear your emotional root causes.
I key thing you can do is to learn how to vent your feelings in healthy ways, such as through journaling.
Journaling helps you to not only identify the emotion that you’re feeling, but it lets you liberate yourself from them.
Because you won’t be running from the emotion, but will face it instead, it won’t be able to generate the push for you turn to food. Identifying what you feel through journaling properly categorizes your emotions and doesn’t allow them to feel so overwhelming.
Emotional eating can sometimes be about the moment, but it’s usually about a past issue that’s causing you pain. This is what drives you to eat. Feelings that are written down allow you to see them more clearly and lets you be mindful of the present.
Why are you eating this way? Do you feel stress, pain, sadness, anxiety? What emotion do you feel and then ask why?
Sometimes, the answers that you need to find to end emotional eating are within yourself. By taking the time to unplug from everything - even if it’s something you do on your own for an hour or two - you can uncover the direction that you need for your situation and for your life. You’ll be able to tap into the inner strength that you possess.
Confronting Your Issues
The reason that people sometimes turn to emotional eating is because it becomes a shield. They use this shield to keep pushing back things that weigh heavily on them. When they’re angry, they’re turn to food.
When they’re feeling anxious or depressed, they head for the kitchen. Hunger has no part to play to in this. Instead, it’s the emotions that drive people to eat. This might be something that you’ve simply come to accept.
But if you want to end emotional eating, then you need to examine why you feel pulled toward food when your emotions feel like they’re too much to deal with. The key to overcoming the habit is to find what it is that’s powering the feeling.
It might be that you turn to emotional eating because you don’t want to face the issue.
Maybe you’ve locked something inside yourself and you don’t want to deal with it. It could be that you don’t want to deal with something because you’ve tried in the past to do that, and the effort wasn’t successful - so now you feel that there’s no use in trying again.
But maybe you weren’t ready then, or you weren’t completely honest with yourself. The things that drive you to overeat might be something small like having an argument with someone that you care about - or even a colleague or a neighbor.
And the stress from that causes you to feel anxious, so you’ve turned to food instead of taking the time to handle the issue. When you don’t handle the smaller things, they can turn into bigger issues and can lead to habitual emotional eating.
Maybe what’s driving you to eat isn’t something small. It could be something that you just don’t want to face - like a cheating spouse. The worse the emotional issue is, the more it can drive you toward food.
While it might seem like the food is helping, all it’s doing is forcing those emotions down deeper. Ignoring them - or what’s going on - won’t solve anything. By facing whatever it is that’s happening, you will find a solution.
It might be that you don’t want to examine your feelings because you’re afraid of the solution. For example, if you have a cheating spouse, you might think that it’s easier to turn to food because if you confront the issue, you might end up having an argument or you might end up separating and divorcing.
Regardless of what happens when you examine what’s locked inside of you, facing the issue will set your emotions free. You’ll be able to break the connection between trying to eliminate what’s hurting you and food.
Asking for Support
The urge to eat can hit you out of the blue. When you feel driven to use food as a soothing mechanism, you usually have an emotion that creates the craving. This feeling is telling you that the answer - the relief that you want - is found in your pantry or in your refrigerator.
You might know that’s not true. You know it’s not healthy to turn to food to deal with an emotional issue. But in the moment, that doesn’t always matter because emotions can be powerful and difficult to resist - even for the strongest of people.
So, you give in and turn to food and then feel worse afterward. An important key to breaking up with emotional eating is have the support that you need. Recognize that you’re feeling the need to eat for emotional reasons, your support system can be there to help you stay strong.
Your support system can be whoever is able to walk you through the moment. This person should be someone who’s able to help you overcome the temptation to turn to food and instead, helps direct you to better choices.
Your support person could be a friend or a family member. Maybe you don’t have a friend or family member that you can turn to when the urge hits. Or you don’t feel comfortable sharing that part of yourself. If that’s the case, then you can find online support for emotional eating.
An online support group or person can help you find strength during the struggle. It can also be a way to encourage you when you feel overcome with negative emotions that are linked to eating.
You’ll be able to find acceptance and others who’ve been successful in working through certain issues that might have triggered emotional eating. You’ll see that you’re not alone and that can be empowering.
Ultimately you probably want to seek someone who has experience in clearing these issues. Your friends and family can help you get through the moment but that won’t give you a long-term solution.
There are many reasons to address the issue of emotional eating. Not only is it unhealthy to stuff your feelings with food and keep them bubbling beneath the surface, but it’s also something that can contribute to many health issues.
What’s more important is that it has the ability to contribute to morbidity health woes, such as diabetes, heart damage, high blood pressure and more. You don’t want to add on to your stress by developing a serious health condition.
Your plan of action going forward:
First, make a promise to yourself that you will begin to explore your emotional eating issues. Don’t feel as if you have to solve everything in one day. Admitting you have a problem and committing to tackling it is half the battle.
Next, examine why you’re relying on food to help you through rough times in life. There are many soothing hobbies you can turn to other than food to alleviate stress. Make a list of things you enjoy that bring happiness to your life.
Make a plan to focus on awareness first. Identifying moments of emotional eating will be important as you learn how to weed out the unhealthy behaviors. Once you’ve mastered the art of identifying times of stress eating, you can implement a plan of action to change course.
Replace emotional eating little by little with new, healthy habits such as engaging in arts and crafts, using laughter to subside the emotional turmoil, growing a garden, volunteering to help others or even using spa products to create an instant sense of calm in your life.
Just remember you can solve this. There are solutions. Permanent solutions. You just have to look and take action.