By Ranae Whitmore |
Emotional eating is the process where a person, either subconsciously or consciously, uses food to mask an underlying emotional need. It is a difficult challenge because many times the person who suffers with this knows only that they are compelled to eat; they do not understand why they can’t control it or the underlying emotion that is triggering such an event.
The truth is, emotional eating occurs at a time when “feeling-wise” you’re at your weakest point, when you’re faced with a difficult choice or because you are bored. It can be brought on by feelings of anger, sadness, loneliness, boredom, stress and defeat.
While initially the strong craving for food is viewed as the answer, it perpetuates the same feelings we are trying to flee from. You don’t think so???
How do you feel afterwards?
Are you happy or sad?
Do you feel compelled to continue with your weight loss goals or are you more inclined to give up??
Is your stress relieved or have you compounded the situation and it feels worse?
Are you more apt to go out and meet people or are you more than ever convinced you are alone?
In allowing the stronger feelings of food to dictate our behavior, we tend to feel we are somehow easing our pain by “treating” ourselves to decadent desserts, feasts set for a king or a trip to a fine restaurant or greasy burger joint. The truth is, we are sabotaging our weight loss efforts!
Part of the learning process comes when we begin to think of ways to avoid this behavior. We need to realize that emotional eating isn’t helping the situation; it provides only momentary pleasure. Later, and lasting much longer, are feelings of sadness, discouragement and disappointment in our choices … as well as the resulting increase in our weight.
An offensive plan is needed to correct our behavior, but first we have to identify the cause.A food journal holds the key! Writing down everything we eat, the portions and the calories is what is called for. Then, beside each meal, write down your emotions. Are you happy, sad, tired, loved, lonely, angry or happy? Write down enough of the events of the day to be able to recall it later as you review your entries. Do this for approximately two weeks to a month. I know it seems like a lot of work … and it is … but you are worth it!!! As you review this information, you will begin to see a pattern develop.
For me, I discovered the feelings of “loneliness” and “feeling unloved and unappreciated” were the times I turned to food for comfort. The act of eating was trying to fill the void in my life.
The feeling of being full and satiated provides a false sense of comfort. When we are full, we feel content…we use food to feel “content” when emotionally we are “not content”.
As we realize “what” the underlying feelings are, we are able to develop a plan of action to change our behavior.
We must learn to STOP and THINK and decide IF we are truly hungry. If the answer is “yes”, then we owe it to ourselves to make healthy food choices. If the answer is “no”,then we need to find another way of expressing our feelings.
Ultimately, we have to decide “how” to handle these situations. For instance … if we are “lonely” … we need to remove ourselves from home and the temptations of senseless eating. We need to get more involved with people, which results in a widening circle of friends and activities. It is a very “healthy” response to our emotions.
We have to realize that we are NOT being kind to ourselves. We have to LEARN to “Feed the Good Wolf” and realize that WE are doing more harm to ourselves than anyone else possibly could. How can we expect someone else to love us if I don’t love ourselves? We also need to realize that it is up to US to change it! Realizing that gives us “Power” over our life and our happiness!
We have to learn that each failure leads to success; if it is used as a learning tool, it is not wasted. Forgive yourself quickly, study the situation, make plans as to how to handle it the next time … and the emotional eating episodes will get farther and farther apart. Soon there will come a day when you succeed in beating one. This will give you the fortitude and self-confidence to KNOW that YOU HAVE CONTROL of this!
5. Reach Out
We must reach out to gain support, knowledge, compassion and encouragement from our friends. An online support community is an awesome resource.
Finally, emotional eating is a “symptom” to an underlying problem. It will continue until you address the problem and work to resolve it. In many ways it is the body’s “alarm” to pay attention!
As I am faced with this now … I have learned to look at what is going on in my life … to feel the emotions (emotions will not hurt you) … and deal with the situation. YOU, TOO, CAN DO THIS!!!
By Ranae Whitmore