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Wallowing on the couch in self pity with a tub of ice cream, post break up. Snacking on treats out of ‘boredom’ right after work or school. Rewarding yourself with candy in your efforts to complete a research paper and/or study for an exam. Sound familiar? You are not alone - but does that mean you are off the hook? Could you be an emotional eater?
Here’s the thing, emotional eating isn’t something that happens solely in the midst of negative emotions. You can also engage in emotional eating when you experience positive emotions. In fact, it is typical for the majority of people- yes, even “normal” eaters to engage in emotional eating from time to time! Typically when persons’ eat emotionally it is out of boredom, happiness or sadness. It’s when you notice patterns and themes of emotional eating (daily or weekly) —this is when you have the potential of categorizing yourself as a true emotional eater. It doesn’t stop there. The tendency to engage in emotional eating can not only result in poor nutrition but moreso shame, guilt, depression and eating disorders.
So What is Emotional Eating, What are it’s Causes and How Do I Overcome it?
Emotional eating can be used to mask intense and uncomfortable emotions (e.g. stress, anxiety, sadness, irritability, anger) either consciously or unconsciously.
Emotional eating can be used as a reward system (e.g. celebrations, vacation, recovery, weekends, family outings) as a means to cope with positive or negative emotions.
This type of emotional eating is a temporary solution, an unhealthy maladaptive strategy for coping with difficult and/or uncontrollable emotions that can ultimately be considered as a form of disordered eating in addition to a classified “eating disorder”. It is important to note that after this type of eating occurs, one is often met with guilt, shame, as well as physical and emotional discomfort.
Emotional eating is more often than not a symptom of unmet emotional, spiritual and physical needs. It’s not about the food itself but rather about what you’re muddling or covering up within yourself by using food. Emotional eating can be the direct result of unconscious eating and is to be addressed by a professional.
In order to overcome emotional eating, we must first understand and distinguish between emotional hunger (think - craving, urge, discomfort, compulsion) and physical hunger (think - hunger pangs, grumbling and nutritional needs not associated with emotions).
Next time, before eating ask yourself if you are physically hungry or if you are seeking to eat for another reason.
The hunger scale (0-5) below can help to assist with determining whether your hunger is emotional or physical.
1-2 degrees of hunger
4 feeling comfortably full
5 is uncomfortably full
Tips for Navigating the Pitfalls of Emotional Hunger
Make a list of non-food activities will help you cope with the emotion (I.e.music, journal, drink water, TV, read, call a friend) even if you can’t just yet identify how you’re feeling.
Delay your reaction time if you have a strong urge to eat when you know you’re not physically hungry. Challenge yourself to wait one minute then two or three etc. before you give into your urge to eat. The more you practice this exercise the more easily you will be able to rewire and strengthen the pathways in your brain to refrain from compulsive eating over time. Be patient with yourself.
Avoid negative self talk, shame attacking, polarized, catastrophic thinking. Don’t feed into the negative thinking. Challenge yourself to imagine a stop sign or a red light the moment you start to notice yourself going down the rabbit hole. You don’t have to believe every thought that comes into your head for your mind will believe anything you tell it. Nourish yourself (mind, body, soul) in other ways that do not involve food. Listen to your body. Challenge yourself to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. Honor yourself and acknowledge the beauty of the mind-body connection.
If you continue to struggle with emotional eating it’s OKAY to seek additional help. Perhaps it is the most noble and courageous thing you can do. Talk to a health care provider, a mental health counselor, and/or a registered dietician.
Remember to be kind to yourself because no one is perfect and progress is greater than perfection.
STOP AND THINK!
What does social media mean to you? How does it make you feel? What thoughts come into your mind as you scroll through your instagram news feed? Are you scrolling through the worlds’ most traveled places? Next top model? Maybe you’re more focused on pop culture. Next movie trailer? Very cinematic, baby.
Social media can be inspirational, motivating and innovative i f y o u l e t i t . . . . .
WARNING! READ WITH CAUTION:
If your view on social media comes from a place of comparison, envy, resentment, shame and defeat - get ready for the ride of your life. From anxiety and depression, to obsession and trauma - - you may literally be creating your own hell. Your take on social media may even cause you to rehash old wounds, force you to relive past hurts, ultimately leading to emotional turmoil. Self-entrapment. Yuck!
YOU HAVE TWO OPTIONS:
A) You can allow yourself to get caught up in the self-loathing, polarized, catastrophic thinking patterns and continue to blame yourself for not being enough.
B) Know that you can free yourself from the prison you put yourself in. You have the key. You don’t need to hold on to that weight anymore.
Follow the tips below to get started on forming a healthy relationship with social media:
Don’t write the narrative - rather than looking at an image and coming up with a narrative for it (negative or positive), look at the image, acknowledge it and then let it pass just as quickly. Let it flow like rain.
Identify to don’t compare with - when you identify with something or someone in an image it becomes easier to foster a healthy relationship with it, solely because of how relatable it is. It’s when we compare ourselves to the image is when the negative thinking patterns start to come into play.
Plan accordingly - consider utilizing social media as a form of networking, collaboration or a 10 minute reward after all of your hard work - find an allotted time to use social media - make it productive and purposeful - don’t let it consume your day and zap every waking hour. What a waste!
Look inward- Ask your self what you want social media to mean for you. What message(s) does your social medial convey? To yourself and to your viewers? Ask yourself, why certain feeds might be triggering for you. How can you re-frame your thinking around that? Perspective is key.
I know what your thinking. Often times when you’re depressed, you over eat and/or under eat. You can’t sleep. You feel restless and irritable yet all you want to do is sleep. You have poor focus and concentration and maybe you experience feelings of hopelessness. So, how could it be you ask - that you can truly eat your way out of depression?
I’ve been there. I understand how difficult it can be to get yourself out of this cycle. Luckily, I also understand the impact that diet has on our blood sugar levels, focus and overall mood.
Next time you start to feel depression creep it’s way back in, come back to basics. Plan for and make an effort to eat 3 meals a day, even if it means that you are only able to get down a bite or two of food at a time. Doing so will aid to structure and routine which is critical for managing mood, ultimately preventing yourself from falling into a dark space.
Think about combining one item of food from each of the three categories listed below for optimal functioning:
Protein Rich Foods - chicken, tuna, beans, yogurt etc., contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which may help you make serotonin. Eating protein rich foods can boost your energy, help you clear your mind - improving your focus and concentration.
”Smart” carbs / Root Vegetables - sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, radishes, beets etc., all have a grounding and calming effect as they are legitimately vegetables that are derived from the earth. Additionally, complex carbs release serotonin- the same mood boosting brain chemical that protein makes.
Healthy Fats - avocado, coconut oil, almond butter, fatty fish, flax seeds, olive oil (to name a few) not only helps to balance your blood sugar levels (works to sustain energy) but more so - research suggests that those who do not consume enough omega fatty acids are more susceptible to and/or experience clinical depressive symptoms.
Sick and tired of not following through with your New Years Resolutions? Beating yourself up for not sticking to last years plan? Overwhelmed by the possibilities of all that you could have accomplished - if only you could quit getting in your own way? Put the bat down. Changing your behavior may be an easy concept to grasp but it’s not a simple task && they call it New Years Resolution for a reason. It takes a series of small successes to create change that lasts a lifetime. && unfortunately that means committing to working at something for more than one year. But here’s the thing, you don’t have wait until NYE to take small steps towards changing your behavior, addiction, relationships, mental health etc., you can begin today. (Right now in this very moment, its already happening).