I am intimately acquainted with emotional eating. It is something I have worked with my whole life. In my family, food was used for everything. We celebrated with food, grieved with food. Our family passed the time with food and spent time with friends around food. Often, we showed love with food. I don’t think my family was particularly unique – centering things around food is pretty common. But it also lends itself easily to developing habits of emotional eating.
A difficult event found me curled up with a bag of chips in my lap, something that hasn’t happened in a long time. It reminded me why we call it a “practice” of healthy eating. Sometimes we just need more practice! The experience reminded me of some of the tools I use to overcome emotional eating.
There are some things you can do to ensure you are only using food to nurture your body.
Five ways to stop emotional eating
- Know your trigger foods. If there are foods that you know are easy triggers for you to turn to in an emotional event, either limit the serving sizes by placing those foods on a plate or in a bowl OR don’t keep those foods in your kitchen.
- Figure out what feeling you are trying to avoid with the food, then feel it. Feeling negative feeling can be scary. But there is good news! The negative feelings will begin to dissipate shortly after we begin feel them and acknowledge them. When we resist them, those feelings get stronger. The only way out is through the feelings. Honor your feelings and do what you need to do to find a safe space to feel them. Journal, talk to a trusted friend, take a walk by yourself, have a cry. Then pick yourself up, make a plan to make yourself feel better and move on it.
- Eat to live, not live to eat. Focus on your nutrition. This may not work for everyone. But I find that if I track my food (and thereby my nutrition) it is easier for me to make sure I’m eating wholesome foods. I can be a little competitive with myself and want to make sure I exceed my daily anti-oxidants. The only way to do that is to eat very well. This also takes the emotional focus off of food because knowing you are eating to nurture your body takes away the temptation to binge eat junk food.
- Plan something that brings you pleasure or joy that isn’t related to food. Many times we seek pleasure with our food. Finding other things that bring you pleasure especially when you are stressed can help You can even make a lit of things to do and keep in view. This will make it easier for you when that moment of stress comes for you to look at a replacement behavior rather than eating a bag of chips (or carton of ice cream). I keep my list in the kitchen on the pantry door.
- If you slip up and feed your feelings with food, forgive yourself. By quickly forgiving yourself you allow yourself to get right back on the nutritional wagon and begin to eat to live again. If you don’t forgive yourself, it’s easy to fall in to a dark hole of emotional eating to forgive the emotional eating. You know, chasing a bag of chips with a carton of ice cream. Forgiveness keeps us from staying in that place and allows us to get right back on the path we want to be on.
I hope this serves you! If you enjoyed it, please click “like” or consider sharing.
All my love,