Emotional Eating, Do you do it? Many have defined Emotional Eating as eating in response to negative affect. Emotional Eating is, in my opinion, one of those things that are common behaviors and that is far more accept by others than say binge eating. We have all seen it on TV shows or movies, a character (typically female) will be shown having a bad day, bad breakup or some negative experience of some sort followed by them being shown eating ( or allegedly eating) a box of donuts, a pizza or eating spoonfuls of ice cream.
I have had many friends before who joke about eating a crap load of food in response to x,y and z. The difference between them and me is that I actually acted on it, it wasn't something I just said. One of the most important things about Emotional Eating is actually identifying the fact that you do it. I know for me, having a stressful time would always result in an episode of emotional eating that led to a major binge and sometimes ( not always) a purge. This is a vicious cycle and one that I have found very hard to break away from.
In my own experience, I have found that Emotional Eating happens, at least to me, in two different ways The first is a short term episode that is usually a direct result of an emotion and the second being related to an specific event and the mixture of emotions it stirs up.
The first type of Emotional Eating that I have experienced is usually easier to deal with for me. It is more short term and eventually as the situation that brought it on either lets off or I blow some steam, I can pull through it. This is, for example, when you've had a huge argument or situation with someone and your first instinct is to reach for pieces of chocolate, a box of cookies or a quick stop at a fast food place. You are not eating because you are hungry, you are eating in response to the emotion. Sometimes that emotion is easy to identify : boredom, anger, sadness or loneliness to name a few.
My second type of Emotional Eating comes during specific times of the year or as a result of major life events. Major life events that can trigger Emotional Eating can be losing your job, Health Problems and Relationship Issues. I find that February is usually hard for me. It is when I lost my dad after struggling with cancer for several years. I was having a hard time dealing with school, rotations and keeping my mom from having a breakdown. As an only child ( and Daddy's girl), I had to be the rock for my mom. Because of my training, I was expected to understand and rationalize. This left no room for me dealing with all my emotions which ranged from frustration, anger, tiredness, sadness and dread for what I knew would happen. Afterwards, any major Holiday, Father's Day or Birthday had me a conflicting mess of emotions and a void that I kept trying to fill up with food.
It was during this time that my Emotional Eating and binging got out of control. I knew better, but I did not do better. After time has gone by and I have let my heart heal, I can identify these emotions and the havoc they wreaked on my body and mind. I can also start learning and working on retaking control of them and of my resulting choices. I can't say it will never happen to me again or that I am past it. But what I can say is that I am in a much better place emotionally once I have been honest to myself and allowed myself to feel.
Emotional Eating, can sometimes happen more during the Holidays. Depending on your particular situation, stress from family gatherings, financial issues on your mind, loneliness and even just needing comfort may have reaching for food. Emotional Eating needs to stop for me, for you, for everyone, It does not have one positive thing, on the contrary it can have negative effects on us and our health. Being on a weight and Lifestyle Change journey, Emotional Eating can be a big challenge and one that may be difficult to navigate. Here are a few things that are currently working for me:
1- Be Honest.
I have been good at deceiving my own self for many years when it comes to food. Being honest and identifying that there is a problem is the first step towards healing. If you eat as a result of an emotion but don't work on the emotion itself. It will happen again. It will lead to a never ending cycle.
2- Talk it out!
Whether it is on the phone, face to face or even writing, talk your feelings out. If we keep it all inside you will get to a point where you feel like you will explode. Lean on family and friends.
3- Distract yourself.
Find an activity and blow off some steam. Whether it is through exercise, music, meditation or any other way, try to reframe and refocus.
4- Seek Professional Help.
If you have continuously tried to cope with Emotional Eating and feel you are getting worse or just plain overwhelmed, consider seeking therapy with a mental health provider. I know that there is still some who have a hard time accepting this kind of help. Therapy can help you discover and understand the reasons for your Emotional Eating and well as teach you ways to cope with it.
Remember that things can always get better and if you are dealing with this, eventually we can all regain control and get back on track with our life and/or our journeys. Until next time!