I am being asked the same thing from so many clients at the moment and it is all about emotional eating and exactly what to do it about it. There, of course (and annoyingly), is no clear cut answer to this, but here, I am going to try to answer this question for you.
Lets start with the signs of emotional eating because before you can do anything about it, you must acknowledge the fact that you are actually doing it. And I can tell you that most people actually have no idea that emotional eating is not only what they are doing, but the exact reason they are struggling to lose weight.
What does emotional eating look like?
Eating in response to emotions - sounds pretty obvious right, but it isn't just feeling sad that can send you to the fridge, for many of us, even feeling happy can be a reason to eat.
Food is a source of comfort - we often learn as children that food will be a comfort to us. As adults, when we feel the need for some quick comfort, our subconscious will send us to food before we even realise we feel sad.
You are out of control - when we emotionally eat, our own bodies and our own hunger cues are not in control. Our emotions are completely taking over.
You are struggling to lose weight - if you don't separate emotions and eating, losing weight will be tough. Emotions aren't going anywhere and neither will your negative eating behaviours.
You are never satisfied - feeding emotion isn't possible, so whether you are aware you are emotionally eating or not, you will never feel satisfied.
You eat when you are full - emotional eating has nothing to do with being hungry. Emotional eating feeds your mind, not your body.
If you notice of these symptoms, there is every possibility you are emotionally eating.
So why does it happen?
So I am going to put it out there right now…as absolutely cliché as it is…it 9 times out of 10 comes from childhood. Yes I am blaming the parents! Sorry! (and of course this isn’t always the case but lets be honest it usually is).
So remember when you were 9 and your hamster died and you were really upset?...what did your mum do cheer you up…chocolate right? OK so this may not have been your exact scenario but you get the point. And I don’t blame your mum for doing this, it’s a normal reaction isn’t to try and cheer up a child who is upset. However, what happened was this behaviour was learned by your subconscious mind.
The subconscious mind stores all information, feelings, thoughts, behaviours and everything you have ever experienced in your life. Even experiences you don’t remember, your subconscious has processed how you felt about those experiences which means you might feel a certain way and have no idea why…you might not know but your subconscious does. So over the years, your subconscious mind has learned that when you feel sad, chocolate (or whatever your go to is) will give you an instant emotional boost. So while your subconscious is doing what it can to help you and it thinks its protecting you which is its job to it, because its learned this negative behaviour, you are now being driven to act in way that isn’t helping for you.
However you have come to learn this behaviour, its time to move forward. Mixing food and emotions is dangerous and a game you will not win. We always have emotions both positive and negative and if you are heading to the fridge when you feel emotional, you will put on weight fast.
If you can separate food and emotion, 2 things will happen:
Your weight will not depend on how you feel
You can bring your emotions to the surface, experience them, and do something about them!
What can you do to stop emotionally eating?
Time for the disclaimer…emotional eating doesn’t come with a one size fits all answer. Disappointing I know. We all have different journeys that lead us to emotional eating and we often have very different paths that lead us away from emotional eating. Below I am sharing with you 3 tips that could help you take control of your emotions and your eating.
Firstly, it is so important to recognise and understand exactly why you are emotionally eating to begin with. As I already said, you can’t choose to do anything about it if you don’t know it’s happening. Once you realise its happening and you have made the decision to do something about it, we then need to look at the why as this is the key to moving forward. But let’s be honest, this is the hard part. Emotional eating is usually an instant reaction to our feelings driven by our subconscious thoughts, so we don’t always consciously recognise it. When this happens, I suggest writing down exactly how you are feeling and what you are thinking throughout the day. If you write everything down, you may find you spot triggers that are causing you to eat. Once you find your triggers you know exactly what you are working with.
Second, focus on your thoughts. When you start to recognise those negative thoughts that are triggering your emotional eating, you can start to flip them. For each negative thought you recognise, you can spend time each day telling yourself the opposite. When you do this, you can overwrite that old negative belief system with your new positive thoughts. When your subconscious starts to believe these new positive thoughts, the need for emotional eating will be gone and therefore you will no longer be driven towards that behaviour.
Lastly, focus on your feelings. The final key to moving on from emotional eating is to slow down and give yourself time to think. Most emotional eaters are in the fridge before they know they are even feeling a certain way. If you are heading to the fridge and you know you aren’t hungry, just stop for a moment. How are you feeling in that moment? Whatever those feelings are, explore them. Let yourself feel whatever it is rather than avoiding it with food. Bring them feelings to the surface and if you can begin to deal with them in a way to doesn’t include food, not only will your weight no longer depend on your feelings, but you will also be finally dealing with feelings that you may been supressing for a long long time. So what is it you need that you think you will get from food? Could something else give you what you need – a good film, a bath, a chat with a friend? Take the time to realise what is it you need right now and put your focus into that rather than food.
I know all these steps sound simple, but when you are undoing years and years and automatic thinking and negative behaviours, it takes time, practice and belief in yourself! I promise you can do this. I work with women each week to help them move on from emotional eating and achieve their goals without even the sniff of a crappy diet!
If you would like free support feel free to join my free facebook group think yourself thin https://www.facebook.com/groups/181814803051583