Are you an emotional eater? Want to know an important secret?
Stop searching for that one magical diet that is going to set you free because it doesn’t exist until you deal with the underlying issues.
If you’re an emotional eater, there isn’t a diet on earth that’s going to work for you – you need a total health and wellness plan that addresses your body, mind, and soul.
Most diets are not designed to deal with emotional eating. If you’re an emotional eater going on a diet to lose weight is like trying to open a lock with the wrong key!
Why Most Diets Don’t Work for Emotional Eating
Most diets address the physical; not the mental; not the emotional. And as women, we are emotional creatures.
Oprah is a classic example of what happens when you try to solve emotional eating issues with dieting. You may lose some weight for a while, just like she did, but it always comes back.
Why? Because you are focusing on a symptom – your weight; not the cause, which is your inappropriate use of food.
When you are stuck in this cycle it’s like being in hell. Then when the lightbulb goes off and you realize what you’ve been doing, its like being set free. It’s so exhilarating you want to jump up and down and scream and let every other woman in the universe in on the SECRET! You want to shout, “Stop. Stop. I’ve discovered the truth. Stop torturing yourself. Take this key and set yourself free.”
It’s not the food that’s the problem. It’s your inappropriate use of food that’s the problem. Confusing the two will make you crazy.
Dealing with Emotional Eating
You need an approach to weight loss that tackles the emotional component with lots of guidance and support.
Begin to focus on the real issue, which isn’t your weight. It’s the feelings and stresses that cause you to seek comfort in food. I know it’s scary, but that is where you need to focus your attention because then food begins to lose its power over you.
Figure out what you are really craving. When you find yourself standing in front of the open refrigerator ready to chow down on that leftover cake or chinese food (like I was tempted to do recently) pause and ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?”
If not, put the food back, close the refrigerator door and ask yourself what’s really going on? Are you bored? Are you lonely? Are you anxious? Are you angry?
Filling up with food when you really need a hug, a friend, a new job, someone to listen to you, is only going to make matters worse. Because you know what comes next – anger, disgust and self recrimination.
No amount of chocolate or Ben & Jerry’s can fix emotional emptiness. (And stuffing yourself full of vegetables or brown rice till you burst isn’t much better.)
Don’t get me wrong. I love chocolate and ice cream. But I prefer to indulge for enjoyment when I’m happy, not as a coping mechanism that I’ll regret.
As my favorite teacher loves to say, “Don’t eat to get happy. Get happy and then eat.”
It’s not always easy.
You know how it goes. A stressful day at the office or argument with your husband sends you to the nearest drive-through.
If it’s any consolation, you are not alone. Science is beginning to show that women, in particular, are more susceptible to eating when stressed. Emotions can trigger physical hunger through the mood and appetite regulation chemicals in your brain. It’s not about lack of willpower. Your brain and body are trying to achieve chemical balance.
When you have a terrible day, your brain’s production of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that keeps you from feeling anxious and depressed) can drop, leading to irritability and increased appetite.
To maintain its proper levels, your brain wants carbohydrates, to help replace serotonin. That’s why, after an intense day at the office, you crave pizza or pasta, not grilled chicken and steamed broccoli.
Low serotonin can also impair your ability to tell when you’re full, making you more likely to eat when you don’t really need to as well as more prone to overeating.
Knowing what’s going on with your brain and body can make it easier to adjust your behaviors and go easy on yourself.
Begin with Understanding and Self Kindness
Be gentle with yourself. Stop beating yourself up. It’s much easier to change your behavior from a place of understanding and compassion.
You didn’t get to where you are right now overnight and you are not going to heal yourself overnight. That’s okay.
It takes time and practice, but you can change the way you react. You can train yourself to seek healthier comforts and/or distract yourself until the cravings subside. Expect setbacks. I’ve been working on this for years and there still are times when I end up off course.
Fortunately, thanks to my commitment and regular participation with the Weight Watchers Plan, I never stray too far.
The past two weeks are a great example. I’ve been staying with my Mom, whose mom just died and my Dad who has Alzheimer’s Disease, in a house loaded with every trigger food imaginable. And, guess what? I didn’t lose control enough to do any serious damage to my slim & healthy lifestyle!
Overcoming Emotional Eating – Health for the Whole Self
Emotional Eating – Geneen Roth
Emotional Eating Self Test – Psychology Today
Recipes for Overeating and Instinctive Eating – Eat What You Love Love What You Eat
Self Compassion – Dietriffic
You might also like…
- How to Find the Best Diet for You
- 8 Ways to Avoid Being Hungry All the Time
- To Lose Weight Stop Stressing About It
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