Emotional Eating

Do you ever watch weight loss shows where someone is able to lose a lot of weight? They have a trainer who teaches them how to eat and workout and within so many months they have achieved their goal. They look amazing and they are inspiring. You think to yourself, if I could just work out 15 hours a day I too could look like them.

Have you also watched follow up shows where they have gained back a lot, if not all, of the weight? Why is that? I believe our emotions play a huge part in the success of our weight loss journey. If we don’t acknowledge how important this step is we will probably continue to fail at keeping our weight off.

The Oxford dictionary definition of emotions is: “a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood or relationship with others.” Examples would be: stress, fear, anger, sadness, happiness, loneliness, shame, tired, bored, and the list goes on…So, if emotions can trigger our eating, it pretty much covers all moments when you are awake!

I have had several people tell me that they just assumed the reason I was so heavy in my first marriage was because I was unhappy. I truly wasn’t unhappy. I’m sure I had unhappy moments throughout the nine years but in general I was happy. I was just living my life and obviously enjoying food. I had started losing weight before we got divorced, but everyone had to tell me that I must have lost weight because of the stress and sadness of the divorce. For some reason this would bother me because it took away from the fact that I was working really hard at it. So basically, I had people telling me I was heavy because I was unhappy but also that I was losing weight because I was unhappy.  

Everyone has emotional triggers that cause them to look for comfort. For those of us with weight problems we turn to food. Not all people respond the same way to the same emotions. Obviously the people who thought I was overweight because I was unhappy probably turn to food when they are sad. And the people who thought I must be unhappy because I was losing weight can’t eat when they are sad.

They key is to focus on what our triggers are. I personally just love food and can eat when I feel all emotions. I have noticed the only time I don’t eat is when I am super nervous…which obviously doesn’t happen very often.

Once we know what triggers us we can learn to find other things to do than eat our emotions away. When you are feeling the need for food you can ask yourself the following:

  • When was the last time I ate?
  • Am I really hungry or am I feeling an emotion?

If you feel you are really hungry, and it has actually been a while since you ate, then feed your body. If you realize you just ate an hour ago, and you are feeling an emotion, then you need to find a way to deal with or process that feeling.

Some examples might be:

If you are sad: Cry it out. Journal your feelings. Talk to someone to help you process what you are going through. I also recommend keeping foods that are temptations for you out of the house.  If ice cream is your go to when you are sad, don’t buy it.

If you are bored: Go for a walk or do some kind of exercise. Start a project you have been wanting to do. Read a book.

If you are tired: Take a nap or just go to bed.

If you are lonely: Reach out to a friend or family member. Maybe join a group for something that interests you.

If you feel deprived: We can tend to feel sorry for ourselves when we don’t get to have pizza or nachos with everyone else. Try and find a low-calorie recipe of the food you crave instead.

There are truly so many things throughout our day that can set off our emotions. The best thing to do is realize that food is only a temporary fix and comfort. Emotional eating will never fix our emotional problems. Coming up with a plan to deal with your emotions will help you be successful with your weight loss and also help you manage your mental health. If you are unable to come up with your own plan, you may need to seek help. Therapy is a great tool to help you process your feelings, your past patterns and to help set up new goals.

I know that so many of us don’t want to feel or deal with our emotions. I think you will see that confronting them will be so much healthier in the long run for all areas of your life.

3 thoughts on “Emotional Eating

  1. Thank you for the reminder that food is only a temporary solution to dealing with our emotions!! I love the alternative ideas you gave!! I will try to put those into practice!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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