Food is a wonderful thing! There are so many tastes, so many varieties, and quite frankly, we can’t live without it. We typically eat to satisfy hunger, to provide the proper nutrition and sustenance needed to get through our day. However, we sometimes eat to relieve stress or reward ourselves. While this behavior is not necessarily problematic or harmful when done in moderation, we have to be careful not to cross the line. It’s perfectly acceptable to reward ourselves with a special treat, or to indulge in something savory after a hard day.
It’s when this type of eating becomes a coping mechanism that we find ourselves being emotional eaters.
Our first response to emotions should not be to indulge in food. Emotional eating is dangerous for your physical and emotional well-being. Emotional eating doesn’t fix our problems. In fact, it often makes us feel worse. It can leave us with feelings of guilt, shame, or depression.
I’ve dealt with emotional eating issues. I was depressed, working too much, feeling very under-appreciated in every aspect of my life, and food was comforting. It felt easier to eat than address the deeper issues of feeling inadequate or worried about something. Finally, I grew tired of feeling helpless and being a victim. And in the same way I now teach my clients, I confronted the fears in my life one at a time. As I faced these things, I realized that many of my problems weren’t issues at all. I had made them seem larger than they were and given my power away because I was afraid.
Once I took action, I was motivated and determined to use food as an essential part of my health instead of a crutch. I changed my mind set, instead of depending on food to make me happy, I reminded myself that food is fuel for my body like gas is for your car. Every time I went to grab something to eat I would grab a large glass of water, If my craving subsided, I was eating because I was bored, if it didn’t obviously my body was hungry. I still use this method today.
Many people, without realizing it, use food as a distraction from dealing with their emotions. It’s easy to eat something that makes you feel good and temporarily forget about your worries. Unfortunately, emotional eating keeps you trapped in a cycle of avoiding problems and feeling lousy about yourself. The only way to break this pattern is to recognize it and face your problems head on.
You know if you’re participating in emotional eating if you’re consuming food when you’re not hungry (or when you’re past the point of hunger). It’s one thing to enjoy life and celebrate with food, but when you’re chronically stuffing yourself with food, engaging in late-night binging, or searching for food when you’re not hungry at all, you have given your power over to food.
As long as food controls you, you’ll feel stuck in many areas of your life. When food is used as a distraction, problems are being covered up and avoided. That keeps you at a stand still in life.
Not only does binge eating and emotional eating cause health problems, it also affects our self-esteem. No one can feel good while ignoring stresses and worries. When you deal with problems and face your issues, confidence shows up and you feel as if you can handle anything.
Break the cycle of emotional eating by facing your fears, worries and “problems” one at a time (remember, you’ll find that many of your problems are minor issues and easy to deal with!). This will bring you the self-confidence you need to handle anything that comes your way.
Action Step: Take time today to observe where you’re avoiding problems and distracting yourself with food. One issue at a time, deal with it and practice confronting the issues so you take back your power and feel confident to handle future situations that arise.
The next time you want to eat when you’re not hungry, stop and ask yourself, “What am I trying to distract myself from?” Then choose to address your needs in a healthier way.