3 Things you can do NOW to reduce your emotional eating
There are lots of different reasons that we overeat:
- We could be responding to a physiological craving, likely perpetuated by the sugar cycle.
- We could be doing it out of habit, either as a response to boredom or tiredness, or related to other things we do, also called association eating, for example eating a much bigger tub of popcorn at the cinema that you would at home, or eating snacks when driving on a long journey
- We could be doing it as a form of self-sabotage, or
- It could be emotional eating.
Emotional eating is seeking to get your emotional needs met through food and it can be a hard habit to break, but it’s not impossible! Watch the video or read on to find out more.
When we consider emotional eating objectively, we can all see that it’s not going to work; food will not meet our emotional needs. And yet many of us do it quite regularly, and we keep returning to it. Perhaps in the past, you’ve had experiences where eating has helped; going back to childhood you might have been given some chocolate to ‘make you feel better’ if you fell over and grazed a knee. Even now, when you take kids for injections, they’re offered chocolate buttons. So from a young age, we are taught to associate eating with being made to feel better and reducing pain, so it’s no real surprise the association continues for us as adults.
You might have had evenings where you’re not feeling brilliant, but which turned out ok. You collapsed on the sofa watching telly with a big box of chocolates or bag of crisps, and you got through it. But if you’re here reading this blog, you’ve probably got to the point now, looking at the bigger picture, that you realise eating chocolate isn’t the answer. It doesn’t help you in the long term, and it’s not really what you want. Perhaps emotional eating actually makes you feel miserable, perhaps you experience a physical sugar crash, or perhaps you experience feelings of guilt or anxiety when you overeat. And it may be having the added effect of making you put on weight or feeling sluggish.
If you are at the point where you don’t want to be bound by this behaviour anymore and you just want to break free, there are lots of things you can do. Emotional eating is an area of life that it takes a little bit of time to properly sort out, but to be able to live free in this area and lose your emotional tie to food is amazing and so worth doing. I know that because I used to be there and I’m not anymore. That’s not to say I don’t have evenings where I just want to relax with a glass of wine or a few chocolates, but it’s not a massive part of my life anymore and I am proof that you can break free.
It is a long process, but there are some things that you can do now to help you feel positive and to help you feel like you’re making some progress. These 3 tips can be especially helpful at the time of year coming out of the holidays when you may have overindulged, when you may feel your emotions are getting the better of you, and it’s hard to see how you can bring back some balance.
1. Practice feeling the emotion. It might be the case that you’ve used food to cover up your emotions for so long that you haven’t been feeling them lately. So, practice and allow yourself to feel the emotion. You could promise yourself that after an hour if you still feel like having a whole Toblerone, you can! But you’re going to allow yourself to feel the emotion first. And that’s how you get healing for your mind, body, and emotions. You need to work through things that could be painful, but as things knit back together again, you can become whole.
2. Put some obstacles in the way, so that you have to think twice before reaching for food. This could be a time obstacle, like committing to count to 20 (or more) when you get the urge to reach for a snack. And if you still want it when you’ve finished counting, then have it! It could be putting some physical barriers in the way, like putting the snacks in a box on top of a cupboard, so you have to get a step ladder to reach them.
You could hide or lock snacks away, not have them in the house for a while, or keep them in a place where they are just more difficult to get to. Another option is to create some distractions that you could turn to instead of eating, like craft projects, magazines, or something else you like to do. Think about the obstacles that you could put in the way to give yourself a little bit of time, or that little bit of resistance to stop you from going straight for emotional eating.
3. Consider what would actually soothe the original need? How are you feeling? What are you emotional about? Try to see yourself from an outside perspective: be your own coach or your own friend and ask what you are feeling and what would help? If you are feeling sad, consider what could cheer you up a bit. Would speaking to someone help? Would writing a card help? Would doing something you enjoy make you feel happier? Or if you are angry, what could help with that? Maybe punching a bean bag, writing it all down, or having a good cry? What could help meet the original need?
If you want to delve a bit deeper into this area, Fitfish offers two options. Our ‘End Emotional Eating’ course is just £27, it’s self-led, and you can go at your own pace. If you’d rather work through these things with others, our next Healthy Whole and Free course starts NEXT WEDNESDAY 12th January. It’s 12 weeks’ long, and I teach live every Wednesday evening to support you through the journey. We’d love you to come and join us to experience finding freedom in this area of your life!