I designed a five step process to help my clients in overcoming emotional eating. I think most of us have found ourselves eating for reasons other than to nourish our bodies which is my definition of emotional eating. We turn to food when we’re sad, discouraged, feeling unloved or not appreciated. We turn to food when we’re happy, celebrating, and in good spirits. We use food to both enhance and stifle emotions. This type of eating promotes excess calories, sugar and fat as well as a sedentary lifestyle and ultimately, weight gain. So, how do I help my clients overcome emotional eating? I teach them to slow down, think about what’s happening, and to respond appropriately.
Overcoming Emotional Eating
Overcoming emotional eating won’t always be easy, but you can learn how to stop emotional eating and how to change your behavior. The first step is awareness. You must recognize that a problem exists. The second step is identifying the root cause and naming it. Once you name it, you can begin to understand what’s going on. Then, you’ll be able to confront the real underlying issues and replace emotional eating with healthier options. Let’s take a closer look at each step in the process.
Overcoming emotional eating begins with awareness! You must see that at least a portion of you eating patterns are tied to emotions. You must make the connection that when you’re feeling a certain way, you find comfort or turn to food to enhance or avoid certain emotions. Some people turn to alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. Some people turn to food. But knowing that you’re using food for reasons other than to nourish your body is only the beginning.
The second step in overcoming emotional eating is to name it. To stop emotional eating in it’s tracks, you must recognize when you’re about to eat or overeat for reasons other than to nourish your body. For example, you’re at a buffet with family or friends. You’re satisfied and could stop eating now, but you’re thinking about going up for more. Does the need to be social drive you to go for a second round? Could you be social with an after dinner tea instead? Or perhaps you have childhood memories of not having enough or live paycheck to paycheck not knowing what you’ll be able to put on the table next? Could you be avoiding these feelings of scarcity by overindulging in the abundance of the buffet? Before you eat for reasons other than your body needs food, name it. Just naming the feeling will alter your desire.
Once you start to name what you’re feeling, you’ll begin to recognize when you’re hungry and when you’r not. Are you sad or hungry? Are you craving love or ice cream? Are you angry or want to binge to tell yourself that everything’s okay? Some common emotional eating triggers include stress, boredom, anxiety, comfort, and eating to reward yourself. Own the feeling. Know that what you’re feeling is okay. Understand that you’ve been feeding that feeling with food.
The next step in overcoming emotional eating is to confront the feelings that are driving you to overeat or to make poor food choices. Confront them and know that you press the button with emotional eating every time. You and you alone make the decision in what, when, how much and how frequently you eat. So, what do you do when you know you’re on the verge of indulging in emotional eating? Separate the emotions from the act of eating. Replace eating with the things that will truly speak to your feelings.
Overcoming emotional eating is a process. It’s easy to use food to hide, stuff, or enhance emotions. It’s not so easy to see and name the feeling you’re actually experiencing. It’s not so easy to understand what you really want or need. You can replace eating with other actions. With time, you’ll be able to do this with less effort. In the beginning, you might want to seek the support of your family doctor, a therapist, a support group, a trusted friend, or a weight management specialist.
What I teach my clients is to slow down and to think about what’s happening. What is their body and mind trying to tell them? What void are they trying to fill? What discomfort are they trying to ease? Do they know when they’re about to engage in emotional eating? Can they name the underlying emotion, want, or need? Do they understand why they go to food and how food causes chemical reactions in the brain? Are they ready to confront and overcome emotional eating? Are they ready to replace these destructive eating patterns with more supportive choices? What about you? Overcoming emotional eating is within your grasp. You can stop emotional eating. Get support and follow this five step process.
Julie Butts is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition® (IIN™), the American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA), and the American Council on Fitness (ACE). She is a certified health coach and weight management specialist who combines holistic and conventional wisdom to support women who crave lasting weight loss. Her personal mission is to inspire, educate, and promote lasting weight loss through healthy balanced living. She offers a variety local and online programs to support her clients and is known as The Lifestyle Mentor for Lasting Weight Loss™. Subscribe to her newsletter to receive your free copy of Awareness! Weight Loss Success For The Average Woman and to gain access to her free monthly mentoring calls.