Are You An Emotional Eater?

If you are an emotional eater, here’s what to do

You have probably heard the term “emotional eating” or even emotional and binge eating and this may conjure up ideas of a sad person crying into his or her pint of Ben and Jerry’s after a bad break-up, or wolfing down an entire large pizza followed by a pitcher of soda and a giant dessert. It may surprise you to know these are two stereotypes of emotional and binge eating and they may or may not reflect your experience at all.

Emotional eating can happen if you are feeling an excess of emotion, good or bad. Or it can be happening because you are not allowing yourself to feel anything at all and have instead been “eating your feelings” for so long that you have stuffed them down, rather than acknowledged and processed them. But just knowing you are doing that will not stop you from doing it. More on that later.

Also, a “binge” for one person may be three cookies while for another it is an entire package, or anywhere in between. We are all individuals and while there are certain clues in behavior, it’s more the intent and consequences around your eating that point to whether or not it’s problematic—for you.

There are common patterns that many emotional eaters may share such as:

  • Having been on and off diets most of your life, often from childhood
  • Obsessing over your weight, body size, your appearance, certain foods
  • Labeling certain foods good or bad and feeling that you are good or bad based on your food choices that day
  • Having significant weight gains and losses throughout your life, often tied to stressful times
  • Eating mindlessly, often quickly or secretly, or having more than you planned
  • After eating a large amount, feeling as if you were not aware, almost like it happened in a trance
  • Grazing all day long or all evening and not remembering half of what you ate but still being compelled to search the kitchen for “a little something” to munch
  • Often eating based on cravings or desire to eat rather than actual hunger in your body
  • Not knowing when you are actually hungry and when you are looking to fulfill some other unmet need with food

Many times, those of us who struggle with emotional eating are:

  • Women
  • People pleasers. We were raised to be “good girls” who keep our feelings to ourselves so we do not upset others
  • Did not feel seen or valued as a person growing up due to negligent or emotionally distant/unavailable or highly demanding parents
  • Have difficulty establishing and enforcing personal boundaries, at home or work
  • Perfectionists, Type A, high achievers but can’t seem to solve this one issue
  • Stressed out and exhausted but may not even know it since they are so good at appearing to be “fine”
  • Have stress-induced chronic illness, like fibromyalgia, chronic pain syndrome, chronic fatigue, high blood pressure, mood issues etc

So what has to happen to “fix” this issue? In a nutshell, and similar to most chronic health issues, you can only solve the problem if you get to the root causes of the behavior and then take specific actions to heal. The behavior of overeating, or eating too many foods that don’t serve you, is only the symptom. Weight fluctuations can be a symptom, and just going after the excess weight with “diet and exercise” will not solve this long-term.

When someone is emotionally eating, their nervous system is dysregulated. Generally, this person is not taking care of themselves—usually because they have been raised to put everyone else’s needs before theirs. Mommies, sound familiar? Sandwich generation, taking care of kids AND aging parents? Self-care is essential and that includes much more than trying to get a massage once or twice a year or going to the salon or spa. A strategy to calm the disordered nervous system response is crucial.

What should you do if this sounds like you?

  • Restrictive diets only set you up for more overeating, so that is not the answer. Trust me, I’ve done them all, sadly beginning at age 8. You can force your body to lose weight but diets never give lasting results, until we uncover the root causes of overeating. Diets keep the yo-yo cycle going and it’s demoralizing and unhealthy.
  • Start working on awareness, which is the first step. Begin identifying and actually feeling your feelings. If you have suppressed them for years, it may be time to get help sorting this, so that you can regulate your emotions and your nervous system and heal your relationship with food.
  • Identify what unmet needs you’re trying to fix with food and use alternative tactics to meet these needs.
  • Tap a certified health coach with training and experience in emotional eating for support and accountability.

I can help with these and other issues. I guide you to the important work of unravelling long-held beliefs and habits that do not serve you and figuring out the root causes for your emotional eating, so you can release and process the emotions once and for all. Once that happens you are no longer in the wild swirl of being ruled by food and can break the “restrict then overeat” cycle.  True freedom!

I invite you to set up a complimentary Health Discovery Call HERE to discuss my emotional eating healing program and see if it’s a fit for you.

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