I am sure you have heard the term… Emotional Eating….
Yes, we all do it. Some of us just have more willpower than others.
Some of us give in to the temptations to “cover up” what we are currently feeling emotionally.
Question for you, do you stress eat? This means when you feel overwhelmed by something, food will help create a relaxed environment.
Is opening the refrigerator door and looking for something to munch on a common occurrence after work? This could mean you are lonely or just experiencing some boredom. If you are finding yourself hungry right after dinner, this could also be an example of stress eating. A good tool to use in these situations is to ask yourself “Why am I hungry?”
Overcoming An Emotion Within The Moment
HALT is a commonly used acronym that is used to help create an action plan in the moment.
- Am I HUNGRY?
- Am I ANGRY?
- Am I LONELY?
- Am I TIRED?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you have discovered you are an emotional eater and now you can change the behavior.
Age Does Matter
Are you over 35 years old? Unfortunately, when we get to this age, the same diet and exercise plan no longer works. If you find you struggle with this, you are DEFINITELY NOT alone in this frustration.
Many of us learn to medicate ourselves with food when very young. Our parents may have made our favorite food to help soothe us when we were sick. Perhaps we were offered ice cream after school if we had a bad day. If we did a GOOD thing, we would get a treat. Even the school systems reward good behavior with a piece of candy. Does this sound familiar?
I could go on and on…..and on…..
Harmless? Yes to some extent, as our hearts are in the right place with our children, but what are we teaching them?
What did we learn from our parents medicating all our emotions with food? We learned how to lose control and get fat. Right?
How about we get real here? My mom and dad used to tell me to eat everything on my plate because the starving children in Africa didn’t have it as good as we did. My parents weren’t trying to hurt me. They were trying to teach me not to waste and be grateful for what I had. However, I still struggle to this day to leave anything on my plate. It doesn’t matter how full I am. I was trained to not waste food. Do you know what I do now? I have learned to put less food on my plate 🙂 (not always perfect here!)
So What Do We Do Now?
We MUST change this mindset. We MUST learn to deal with our emotions and not soothe our feelings with a cheeseburger.
When you are standing in front of the refrigerator, not hungry, but searching for something to eat, STOP and ask yourself, WHAT AM I FEELING RIGHT NOW?
Are you bored?
Do you live alone and are lonely?
After putting a name on the emotion, change the result! WALK AWAY! Go for a walk outside. Go to bed. Drink some water. Pray! Just do something else to take your mind off what your feeling.
YOU are in control of your emotions! YOU!
Redefine Your Purpose With Food
Why do you eat?
Why do we need to eat?
We eat for 2 simple reasons, one is to fuel our bodies and and the other is to appreciate flavors.
Are these the only reasons you eat? I have so many clients that struggle with the “taste” of food that I often think how much easier it would be if we couldn’t taste. Do you agree? Absolutely! But I think God intended us to enjoy food because he made us with taste buds. However, God also tells us we need to have self control. If we are self medicating on a piece of chocolate when we are stressed or sad, what has control? Definitely not us.
How about the glass of wine when we get home or a can of beer? Lets redefine the purpose for food and take control back of our lives!
Eat More Frequently
Next, do not wait too long between meals to eat. Ever heard of low blood sugar? Well this little word can add up to huge problems. If you skip meals or eat too many sweets or starches, your blood sugar drops and the result is irritation, lack of energy, and ravenous hunger!
So we eat….. but we eat WAY more than we should. Some of us may consume everything in sight! Is this you? One of the problems with binging is that we commonly do not reach for healthy foods like chicken and broccoli, but chips and sugary foods. Subconsciously we are trying to bring our blood sugars back up, however, in turn, we our just raising our risk of causing more health concerns.
So the goal should always be to eat regularly and NEVER let you body feel so ravenous.
When you eat in regular cycles, you are in control. You will feel energized, sustained, and strong. The temptations that creep up are easier to fight off.
HEAD VERSUS HEART HUNGER
What is the difference between head versus heart hunger?
Let’s try to distinguish the emotional connection to food between head hunger and heart hunger. Head hunger generally pops up quickly and you have an intense desire to get something specific. It will consists of something chewy or crunchy. Your emotions, when this desire comes on, starts from the need to chew on someone else! Are you upset about something? Are you feeling stressed in that moment?
Head hunger is usually prompted by pressure-type emotions such as frustration, anger, or resentment. This hunger is generally remedied after the craving is sustained by the desired food, as the emotions can settle down and you can move on with your day.
- Do you find yourself eating the same foods every day?
- Do you have to get into the snack machine every afternoon?
- Do you stop by the donut shop on your way home from work?
- Do you open a bag of chips when you get home and eat the entire bag?
What are you feeling? Take stock of what is going on in your life.
Are you having problems with your boss? Is your spouse frustrating you? Ask yourself if eating that bag of M&Ms will solve your problem. Dont deal with the problem with food. Acknowledge the problem and deal with it. Go see a counselor. Talk to your boss about what is going on. Turn your phone off and dont let the person on the other end say things you dwell on. Take a deep breath….. or two. Pray.
Heart hunger has a different connection. It is connected to our heart. This goes a bit deeper.
Do you ever catch yourself walking around the house thinking, “I want something to eat, but I dont know what?” Heart hunger isn’t usually about something specific you are craving. You just know you want something! When the decision comes, it will be something creamy, soft, or smooth. This could be ice cream, pasta, or another creamy “comfort food.” You might choose foods that you ate during “happier times.” Heart hunger is found in hollow or empty sensations. This could be when you feel sad, lonely, or bored. It could also manifest when you feel you are invisible or when you should have been acknowledged about something and wasnt. Heart hunger fills those empty holes and soothes our emotions and makes us feel like “everything is going to be okay.”
Do you crave sweets or sugars? These could come from times as a child when you had birthday cake or ice cream when you were nurtured, supported, and loved. Food is used more as a drug in this category. If we eat, we will numb our pain. It helps us avoid our sadness or acknowledge that we have any pain at all.
This is dangerous territory if you have weight problems. This pain comes in day after day and you keep overeating to avoid dealing with what is really going on in your life.
When this happens, ask yourself, what is missing in my life? What is empty? Will eating fix this? Then make a list of activities you can do to change this behavior.
For instance if you are bored or lonely, join a club, find a new hobby, get involved in something that will take some of your time. If you need a hug, volunteer with kids or a nursing home where you can never give too much love out and you will receive a ton in return.
Bottom line, you must replace the emotional connection to food with something else that brings you pleasure. Life is hard, so food becomes easy. However, food is hurting your body, your self esteem, your health, and sometimes your relationships. Take the control back of your life.
I hope this was helpful. For more help, check out my Simplified Solutions Club where we dive deeper into the awareness of triggers and behaviors.