First of all, let’s clarify what emotional eating is:
Have you ever experienced a craving for certain foods when you’ve been angry, sad, or stressed? This is emotional eating.
Can you think of a time when your eating seemed uncontrollable?
Understandably, most of us have some emotions tied up with eating – it’s an activity that surrounds many milestones in our life, for example religious rituals, family get togethers, and various other celebrations.
However, you are not powerless over food…fact!
Granted, there may be episodes when you feel like you’ve lost control of your eating, however there will also be those other times when you feel completely in control.
Controy to what some programs try to teach you, please be aware that emotional eating is not a disease.
This is good news, because it means you can begin to identify the triggers, develop alternative behaviours, and ultimately overcome it.
Something else we need to be straight about…
If you’re a compulsive dieter, who also eats in response to emotions, the answer to your weight loss is not another diet plan, it is to control emotional eating.
It’s extremely important that you get this:
No diet can work for you as long as you’re eating in response to your emotions.
Tracking your emotions
Knowing when you’re most likely to eat in response to an upsetting emotion can be very helpful.
To understand this better you need to keep a record of any episodes of emotional eating for about 7 days.
You don’t need to record everything you eat, just make a record of anything that seems to be paired with an emotion.
By asking yourself, “Am I hungry?” and “Is this a planned meal or snack?” it will help you determin if you are eating in response to hunger, or emotions.
For example, you could keep a record like this:
By the end of the week you should have a really good idea of some of the emotions that trigger this type of eating.
Once you have collected this info, go back and have a look over it again. Check for:
- Time – what is the most likely time for an emotional eating episode?
- Location/people – are there particular circumstances/people that trigger emotions?
- Food/amount – do you favour particular types of foods?
- Emotions/feelings – what emotions do you notice, for example loneliness, sadness, anger?
To demonstrate how effective this can be, let me tell you about Tanya…
Tanya is a busy single mum, with 3 young children. She doesn’t have problems with eating in the mornings, she’s so busy getting the children ready for school, and getting herself ready for work.
At the office, she has coffee on her breaks, then eats lunch with her colleagues. She gets home around 5.30pm, and rushes to prepare dinner. In fact up to this point, emotional eating isn’t a factor in Tanya’s day.
She gets dinner out of the way, dishes are done, the children are in bed. When she finally sits down to watch TV, this is when the cravings begin, and she starts to snack. She finds herself in the kitchen eating cookies, chocolate, ice cream – whatever’s handy. Most of the time she’s standing over the workbench, eating quickly, and not using a plate.
When she asks herself, “Why am I eating?” she’s not really sure; she certainly isn’t hungry, but the cravings are very strong.
Tanya’s situation is very similar to the experiences of many people. Can you relate to her?
Her daily routine is so busy that the emotions triggering her eating don’t get a change to surface until she is alone at night, and starts to feel bored, disastified, and lonely.
However, Tanya has been able to overcome this – you’ve probably guessed how – by recording her emotional eating patterns!
By recording her eating and emotions, Tanya was able, for the first time, to identify the times when she was most susceptable to overeating. She also started to get a better understanding of the emotions which triggered this eating, and the foods she favoured most during these times.
By identifying the patterns that triggered emotional eating, Tanya was then able to control her eating, and begin to successfully deal with these situations, without resorting to food.
Challenge for YOU
I challenge you to make a record of your emotional eating for one week, to help you discover the root of overeating. This could be the first step in helping you deal with these emotions. Will you give it a go?
Do you have any tips for someone dealing with emotional eating? Please share your thoughts, and experiences!