FEEDING INSTEAD OF FACING Understanding Emotional eating and learning to overcome it.
We don’t always eat simply to satisfy hunger or to fuel ourselves. We also turn to food for comfort, stress relief, or as a reward. It would be great if this fixed these issues but it doesn’t. Instead it tends to amplify the negative feelings and make us feel a whole lot worse, ashamed even. Learning to recognise what triggers your emotional eating can be the first step in gaining control of it and developing a more positive relationship with food. Learning to face your feelings and not feed them, discovering that food is not the underlying issue and addressing what is.
So are you an emotional eater?
· Do you eat more when under stress?
· Do you eat when you are not hungry or when you are full?
· Do you eat to make you feel better/as comfort? (When sad, stressed, angry or bored??)
· Do you use food as a reward?
· Do you regularly eat till you are stuffed?
· Do you feel out of control/powerless around food?
If you answer yes to more than one of these questions then chances are you are an emotional eater. I can admit now that I have done all of the above throughout my life. I recognise within myself the emotional attachments and comfort I have derived from food and how I used this attachment as a crutch that I used to prop me up and beat myself down. This is however something you can break or at least learn how to manage. I now thankfully can love food and enjoy it for all the right reasons as I know now that it’s not the enemy.
For me the underlying issue to overcome was struggles with self esteem that I battled on and off for many years. I focussed this lack of self esteem primarily on disliking my physical appearance as it was easier to focus on the physical than face internal feelings of sadness, loss or social anxiety. I’ve been overweight and I’ve been underweight but neither truly changed the underlying issues, at all stages I still battled. I felt out of control and food was one of the ways I dealt with it, no matter how many times I thought I’d escaped my feelings they just kept trickling back into my life until something had to give and they had to be addressed.
I reached a point where I had to make a decision, I chose to face up and feel.
For me finding a passion and drive for exercise was a huge step in helping to conquer my issues.
I had ignored at times the love and support I had from family under the assumption that they had to love me and think I was great, I now see how foolish and unfair of me that was. Being lucky enough to have good people in my life and allowing positive healthy relationships(believing I deserved them) in helped me to slowly learn to like myself and feel calmer and content in my own skin.
I’m not saying I don’t still have bouts of self doubt or moments of anxiety but facing up to these feelings now means I regain control and know it will pass.
Self esteem was my underlying problem that emotional eating and body image issues were a symptom of, to control your emotional eating you need to find out what your cause is and face up to what feelings you are feeding .
Common causes of emotional eating are:
Stress – Some people can’t eat when stressed but for others it makes them ravenous! When stress is chronic it releases cortisol which can trigger the urge for salty or sweet high fat food.
Emotions- Eating can be a way to silence or stuff uncomfortable emotions like anger, fear, loneliness, anxiety, sadness, low self esteem or shame. Feed rather than feel
Boredom –Simply to give yourself something to do, fill a void! Occupy yourself. It’s a distraction
Childhood habits –Were you rewarded with food for good behaviour? When you cried or were sad did you get a treat to make you feel happier? If you threw a tantrum did ice cream make you stop?
Social – Getting together with people for a meal can lead to over indulgence by using it as an excuse to over eat. Or you may also overeat in social situations due to nervousness.
So how can we prevent this?
Some options are:
If you are sad or lonely call someone who makes you feel better, play with your cat or dog. Read a favourite book, watch a loved movie.
If you are anxious expend that energy, dance to your favourite song, move, walk, exercise!
If you are tired treat yourself to a warm drink, a nice bath, a hot water bottle and snugly pyjamas.
If you are bored read, exercise, watch a movie, go outside find a hobby or activity you enjoy
Most emotional eaters feel powerless over their food cravings. When the urge to eat hits, it’s all you can think about. You convince yourself that you just don’t have the will power. Take 5 minutes before giving in, just tell yourself to wait not that you can’t. Reflect on why you might be feeling that way. Give yourself a small window of opportunity to choose differently and figure out what’s going on emotionally.
It can seem that the entire issue is food and its control over you but it’s more likely you feel powerless over your emotions.
You don’t want to face them so food is the distraction. Allow yourself to feel even if it’s uncomfortable. It may be the way to gain control over those triggers that lead you to emotional eating.
I cannot reiterate however 2 points I believe will have a huge impact on helping you break the cycle
Exercise –Emotionally and physically it’s imperative that you get active. It will release those feel good endorphins, cause a welcome distraction, relieve stress and make you stronger in every sense of the word
Sleep – Lack of sleep will affect your feelings of hunger and amplify stress and that’s just the tip of the iceberg on how important it is to get your zzzz’s.
Just always remember you can gain control and you can do whatever you set your mind to. Allow yourself to feel
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