Emotional eating is the impulsive eating that occurs when we’re feeling down, bored, angry and we find ourselves reaching for the crisps or the biscuits, or pretty much anything we can get our hands on.
When you experience a negative emotion you may experience a strong craving for food. You may feel you deserve a ‘treat’ to comfort yourself when you’re upset or have received some bad news. When this pattern repeats regularly then eating becomes your default response to stress or negative emotions.
The fact is that the majority of people who struggle to lose weight and maintain their new weight will also struggle with emotional eating. Food can distract you and make you feel better but only while you’re eating it, as soon as you’ve finished that slice of cake you will still have the negative emotion you started with but with a side order of regret and guilt from what you just ate! Basically you will feel even worse than when you started and still be no closer to solving the problem.
It may not even be bad news or feeling sad, it may be that you’re just bored or trying to procrastinate. You are probably not even aware of what is triggering you to head to the kitchen.
Habit breaking – steps to take…..
Breaking the habit of managing our emotions with food can make us feel stronger and more in control, it’s also a relief to realise that food no longer holds that power over us.
Firstly, accept that all emotions are useful – what feels like a negative emotion is just an alert to a problem that we may be able to solve but if we can’t then we can choose to just accept it until we can solve it. It would be possible to distract ourselves in some way that does not involve food
Then create a list, either in your head or a real list, of other things that distract you and benefit you – this may be calling a friend to talk over the problem or reading a book, taking a relaxing bath, going for walk, exercise or even cleaning the house.
Just trying these alternatives will make you realise that you are stronger than you think and you don’t need to use food as a coping mechanism because you have all these other options.
I offer NLP coaching, both as part of a nutrition program or as single sessions. It is an effective way to help with emotional eating. We can find ways to change your responses to emotional eating triggers and create new, lasting habits so that you no longer have guilt or shame associated with food.