Emotional Eating and how to combat it

Ok – real talk. I’ve had quite a few clients, non clients and posts on this page asking/talking about binge or emotional eating and how to combat it. We all know there are no quick and easy answers and that any solution will require some fortitude & self awareness. It’s not as simple as will power. At least not for most.

I’ve had a few clients begin to keep journals when this occurs and the events, emotions, people, circumstances & situations surrounding the behavior.

Let’s face it, we eat for 3 reasons: hunger, boredom, emotion (good & bad- for purposes of this post we are discussing the negative ones)

We should know when we are hungry. If you’ve lost touch with true hunger, then go without breakfast (or any scheduled meal) tomorrow and wait 5-6 hours until your stomach is empty and growling for longer than 15 minutes. That’s hunger.

We all know boredom. I sit at my desk working and reading most of the day. Sometimes I get up and walk to the refrigerator. Just to see. lol. Bc I’m bored and need a break. I know I’m not hungry. But I may end up eating if something looks good. (And ice cream always looks good to me.) This is where controlling your food environment becomes important. If you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it. If someone else does, well then plan for a serving ideally AFTER you’ve already eaten a meal. Usually, I’ll opt for an apple. If I’m bored, I won’t want it and it will pass. If I’m hungry and it’s between meals, the apple works well.

And then there’s emotional eating. Who hasn’t gotten into an argument with someone and immediately felt the need to inhale a bag of peanut M&M’s? Oh – just me?! Lol Or you are feeling stressed over a long day/week of work, school, financial worries, sick kids, PMS, skipped training, etc., etc., and you know delicious food will somehow make it all feel better. And it does. Temporarily. Because highly palatable food triggers the reward centers in our brain and we feel less bad or sad. We feel happy. And feeling full feels good too. No one wants to feel empty. See the pattern? But the problem is that the monster needs to be fed continually.

So we must find different and better ways to cope. Replace bad habits with good ones. I like to take walks. Listen to podcasts. Play with my dog. Catch up with a friend. Return emails. Write. Journal. (Some days I’m extremely productive)

Here’s how journaling can be great. I have a few clients practicing this now. And they are staring to observe patterns to the behavior. Boredom, discouragement, sadness, loneliness, lack of support, being overworked, overwhelmed & feeling ‘off’ are leading to wanting to fill that emptiness with food and stifle those feelings with pleasurable ones that food can produce, albeit temporarily.

So if you can journal those feelings as they occur, you can potentially use the data to spot the negative trends and attempt a preemptive strike next time they happen, e.g. Everytime I talk to (fill in the blank) I immediately feel (judged, insecure, upset) and reach for the chocolate, cookies, wine or whatever. Try to identify the negative situation (work stress), person (co-worker) and feelings associated (insecure, under appreciated) with the negative behavior. I guarantee you will find some correlation.

PN has a worksheet you can download: http://assets.precisionnutrition.com/…/break-the-chain-work…

Have you tried journaling? Has it helped you identify your triggers? Has it helped you manage them? I’d love to hear your thoughts and insight.

See the group thread to join the discussion

*as always, if you suffer from any ED or binge/purge disorder, please consult a medical professional or therapist who specializes in same.


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