Emotional eating is now a very common phrase and many women use it to describe their eating patterns. But what does it actually mean and how can you get it under control?
Using food to avoid difficult feelings or to make you feel better does give a short term relief but often ends up making you feel worse. Not only are the emotions still there but now guilt at what you’ve eaten is too.
Experts estimate that 75% of overeating is due to trying to relieve the distress of boredom, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, anger, stress and low self-esteem. Do you know what is the trigger for your emotional eating?
You can tell if your food craving is down to emotions rather than physical hunger when:
Your hunger comes on suddenly and wants to be satisfied instantly
You crave specific comfort foods
You’re not satisfied even when your full
You feel guilt and shame when you’re finished
Traditional diet advice is to identify your personal triggers for emotional eating by using a food diary and then to find other activities to replace eating with when you get the cravings.
When I work with my clients I believe there is a much deeper mindset change needed and this is about showing yourself more compassion. her are 4 steps to help you get started:
Step 1 – Drop Your Restriction Rules
Healthy eating isn’t about having rules that you must follow and if you don’t you’ve failed, it’s about eating to nourish and sustain your body.
I’ve been there with my own rules like “No bread during the week” or “alcohol only at weekends”. These restrictive rules are a stick to punish yourself with, not an encouragement to eat healthily.
The basis of these rules is usually that you don’t trust yourself to make healthy choices for your body. So have a think about what your eating rules are and whether they are nourishing and sustaining you in a compassionate way.
If not then drop them and start learning to trust your body and what it wants and needs to eat. That still means you can have indulgent treats at times without feeling the guilt and shame.
Step 2 – Don’t Eat in Secret
By this I mean, don’t hide what your eating from others by sneaking extra’s when no one is in the kitchen or only eating small amounts when your out with friends but going home to satisfy your hunger.
The problem with secretive eating is that it draws you into a cycle of guilt, shame and low self-esteem. If you can be open in your eating and not see it as something you are ashamed of then you are also feeding your self-worth.
Step 3 – Believe you’re good enough as you are
For many women the drive to lose weight is based around not feeling okay with themselves as they are. By accepting that you are good enough at this moment whatever weight you are, it doesn’t mean you can’t get healthier or drop a dress size, but instead it becomes something “I could do” rather than “I must do to feel better”.
To start the process of believing you are good enough, think about the times in your life when you have achieved something you’re proud of, how the people who really care about you would describe you and use this information to challenge any self-doubts.
Step 4 – Learn to accept and feel your emotions
Now you are starting to change your mindset and be more compassionate to yourself the next step is to learn to accept your emotions, both good and bad.
Sticking with an uncomfortable emotion can feel scary and out of control. But if you can stay connected to the feeling and observe how it is affecting you, the emotion will subside quite quickly, as will your craving for food.
The benefit of this process is it will allow you to make the long term sustained changes to your eating habits which I’m know you are capable of making.
Begin by listening to your body and what it needs to be nourished and sustained and being kind and compassionate to yourself.