For many, emotional eating feels like a runaway train. They want to stop themselves and feel powerless. There are a few reasons for this.
- You hate yourself. This might seem harsh, but every person I have encountered who is entrenched deeply in emotional eating tends to have a deep sense of self-hatred. Emotional eating serves two purposes in this case. It allows you to feel numb and in the case of binge eating, it allows you to punish yourself.
- You don’t have any other coping skills. As we engage in emotional eating, the relief we associate with food becomes so powerful, we stop using our other coping skills and, like muscles, they atrophy. In addition, the emotional release that we feel when we eat for emotional reasons is just like what an addict feels when they use drugs and alcohol. Going for a walk or reading a book doesn’t step to that level of intensity because you don’t get the dopamine release. That can be very difficult to give up.
- You have never addressed underlying emotional issues that contribute to your relationship with food. I cannot understate this point. When we have painful experiences which we cannot fight or escape, food becomes a temporary way to feel ok. At some point in your life, it may have been the only path for survival. Now, it isn’t working for you anymore, but you can’t seem to break free.
- You are completely out of touch with your emotions. I can’t tell you how many people cannot articulate emotions in the beginning of their treatment for emotional eating. Not only can they not articulate what they are feeling, they can’t name emotions beyond the basic, mad, glad, scared variety. We treat emotions like they are the scariest thing in the world. The reality is that they don’t last long when we take time to acknowledge them.
- Sleep and stress. If you are not getting enough sleep and your stress is off the charts, you will struggle with emotional eating. There are biological reasons for this. By getting enough sleep, you help keep food cravings in check and your body can manage hunger and fullness much more effectively. Stress keeps your body on high alert which requires constant replenishment of sugar.
- You shame yourself into deprivation. If you constantly tell yourself you can’t or shouldn’t have certain foods, you will probably obsess about them which increases the likelihood of emotional eating. Instead, opt for a more balanced view by practicing Intuitive Eating which allows all foods because nothing is deemed “good” or “bad”.
The good news in all of this is knowledge is power! Once you recognize your patterns with emotional eating, you know where to go for solutions. If you want help with breaking free from the emotional connections to food, call us today!