What is emotional eating?
Emotional eating is the habit of turning to food whenever we are feeling something.
We may eat some extra food when we are happy and in great company, and that’s okay. It’s okay to love food. It’s okay to enjoy eating.
However, the purpose of this article is to reach the people who are struggling with this to the extent that it’s negatively impacting their quality of life. Those who are constantly turning to food in order to avoid discomfort.
First of all, know that this is a very common pattern. Secondly, realize that if you are struggling with emotional eating, there is a way out.
I also want to assure you that this is not your fault. This isn’t a result of your lack of will power. This is a habit we take on as children, and this dysfunctional pattern can be shifted and repatterned into something more positive.
As children – especially sensitive children – we are often being told to “stop being so emotional”. We may even be rewarded with ice cream and cookies for not feeling our emotions.
When our parents are practicing this kind of positive reinforcement with our emotions by rewarding when we avoid feeling something, we easily begin to associate food with love.
Further, we learn that certain emotions are bad and to be avoided in order for us to be loved and accepted.
The problem with constantly turning to food when we are feeling discomfort is that it doesn’t solve anything. Eating to bypass our emotions does not make them go away.
It usually provides temporary relief in that moment, however later on it resurfaces – many times with a vengeance.
So, then, how do we ditch the habit of emotional eating for good?
Here are some steps you can take in order to stop emotional eating and letting food obsession rule your life once and for all:
1. Accept that the habit is in place and identify your triggers
“We cannot change anything unless we accept it” – Carl Jung
The very first step in changing any habit is to acknowledge that it’s there. When we have admitted to ourselves that it’s a problem, we can work from there to change it.
Becoming aware of when you feel like turning to food for comfort is key. Is it stress eating, emotional eating, food obsession feeling? Keep your journal close by or use the audio recorder on your phone. Take note of what was happening when you felt the urge to run to your fridge.
Was there an uncomfortable emotion surfacing? Or maybe you were being reminded of something painful from your past?
Now, If you have the time to do so, then sit down to explore these questions:
“What am I running from?”, “What led me to be triggered right now?”
If you don’t have the time in that moment, take note of the situation and what you felt and come back to it later.
2. Train yourself to sit with your emotions and heal the trauma
In order to stop emotional eating for good, we must relearn how to sit with all of our emotions. When we take the emotional lid off this may feel quite challenging in the beginning.
Rest assured, however, that this is completely natural after years of suppressing them, however, this gets easier with practice. As infants we don’t suppress our emotions, we feel them all. This is your pristine state of being – you are naturally a feeler.
When it gets challenging, remind yourself that your emotions are not hurting you. Emotions are just emotions, and they are meant to flow, not to be trapped in the body.
Even though certain emotions feel uncomfortable, they are not bad, and they are coming up to be released so that we can free up more space for emotions like love and joy.
To end emotional eating once and for all we have to heal what needs to be healed. Healing childhood trauma is dealing with the root cause, and not the food obsession itself, which is only a symptom.
When we finally heal the original wound, we won’t be triggered by it anymore. We won’t be afraid of it and so we will not turn to food in order to feel comfort or safety.
3. Create a life you love that is truly yours
Fulfillment is a key component in beating any sort of addiction or an unhealthy habit like emotional eating. Again, being excited about a meal with close friends or family is not an issue.
However, if the only thing we are looking forward to at the end of our day is to eat our ice cream or drink our wine, we may have to change something.
If this is the case, ask yourself questions like:
“Am I truly living my own life or am I trying to please or impress someone else?”
“Do I feel deeply connected to the people around me?”
“What truth am I afraid to acknowledge?”
“What, if anything, do I need to let go of?”
When answering these questions, be completely honest with yourself. Creating a life that’s in alignment with our soul is essential for our emotional health. Here, the saying “the truth will set you free” is truer than ever.
4. Know how to handle it when you get the urge to eat
Asking ourselves powerful questions and doing the deep inner work is important. However, it is also very useful to know, at a practical level, what to do when we feel like robbing our cupboard.
When you feel something coming up, first of all, breathe deeply. And find a place where you can sit by yourself for a few moments.
Take out your journal if you need to and get it all out on the page. Everything you are feeling. And then, after a few minutes, when you calmer, work out your next move. Eat, but choose the right food
Now, if you’ve been sitting by yourself for a few moments and still feel like eating, then eat! Sometimes, nourishment is exactly what the body needs. However, before you go for the ice cream, I’d like you to first do an experiment.
Cut up an apple, have some wild berries, or have a banana with some raw cacao. Chose high frequency foods that contain minerals and nutrients your body needs.
The reason for doing this experiment is not that you cannot have the unhealthy stuff. You are free to have whatever you want.
However, if your body craves nourishment, then choosing food with little to no nutritional value will not feel satisfying. Therefore, we’d like to first make sure that our body has everything it needs.
If you go on a binge, practice self-compassion
We are not needed nor expected to be perfect. When we are in the process of getting rid of an old habit like emotional eating, we may slip from time to time.
This is totally fine, and the most important thing to remember when this happens is to be your own friend.
One of the biggest issues with emotional eating is not the actual eating, it’s shadow, shame. Shaming ourselves from slipping leads us into a terrible cycle of depriving and binging.
When you are in this situation, remind yourself that you are human and that you’re doing the best that you can. Acknowledge that you slipped but that every moment is a new moment.
Lastly, be patient with yourself
So, how do we ditch the habit of emotional eating for good?
Turning to food during times of discomfort is something we may have been doing for a very long time. Possibly for as long as we can remember.
Therefore, we have to be patient with ourselves when we are in the process of repatterning to a more positive pattern.
However, by putting the information shared in this article into practice, and most importantly, by being your own best ally, you’ll eventually be free.
To understand more about food, emotions, and having a healthy relationship with food, grab a copy of The Soul Frequency Book.
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