Do you feel like you have read all the possible articles online on how to stop emotional eating, how to lose weight etc. etc… but you still find yourself repeating the same pattern? „Okay, today is a new day… let’s try with a healthy diet “ Maybe the first hours of the day go well… but then, all of a sudden, something pushes your buttons, possible anger, boredom, anxiety, frustration, sadness, loneliness who cares! Much easier to walk towards the kitchen on auto-pilot and hoon down a bunch of nutella toast, icecream, pizza, whatever junk you find and before you know it, you’ve endulged it all and feel pain in your stomach.
But then..the guilt sets in! You ask yourself „Why did I do that? I feel like crap now.. Whatever. This sucks. You cancel all plans for the day because you now feel miserable, fat and unattractive and decide to just watch bridget jones, south park, the simpsons, a silly chick flick or rom-com instead.
Now, what can you do to stop?
So one way that may be helpful is figuring out what it is that goes through your head when you decide to go to the fridge. What are you feeling? Sometimes our feelings remain unconscious because we do not allow them to the surface since they are too uncomfortable or painful to feel, so we develop a symptom such as bing-eating which allows us to suppress this uncomfortable feeling.
1. What are the causes of your emotional eating? Differentiate between when you are feeling physically hungry and when you are feeling emotionally hungry. Emotional hunger is when you crave specific comfort foods such as junk food, or eat without thinking and become uncomfortably full as a result, you feel regret, guilt and or shame.
2. It is helpful to identify the situation, feeling and the critical thought you are having in the moment. For example: I need to hand in an essay tomorrow and am getting bored of writing so I feel frustrated and angry that I am not writing anything useful so my critical thought is „there is no way I will be able to hand this in by tomorrow because all I am writing is rubbish that means I am stupid“. Now, before you storm off to the kitchen, what could be an alternative solution or rational thought? „Possibly, I have been working on this for an hour, maybe I should do a 20 minute meditation exercise, take a walk or do some sit ups and take a break so my head is fresh again and I can feel concentrated and focused again“. It is helpful to write this down where you have categories: Situation, current mood/ feeling, critical thought, rational thought/ alternative solution. The more often you do this, the easier it will be to change your pattern of always eating due to instant gratification and it will help you figure out your triggers of what is making you want to eat.
Other reasons why you may be eating could be because you are bored, feel unfulfilled and empty therefore you decide to fill the void with eating. Could it be possible memories of your childhood eating habits where you used to get rewarded if you did something good or got food to make up for a negative situation? Is it social pressure where you eat out of nervousness or attempt to blend in with everyone else so you eat in order to feel connected with others? Maybe friends or family set you under pressure to eat something that is unhealthy?
3. Keeping a food diary and using applications such as myfitnesspal can be helpful. You can directly scan the barcode of the food you just ate and it will count the calories for you and tell you how much you are allowed to eat every day as well as how much you will weigh if you continue eating this way and what you have to do to lose weight.
4. Talk to friends and family. Talk about your feelings and try to identify thoughts and feelings together to figure out the root of the problem. Often it is hard to figure it all out alone and brainstorming together on ideas can lead to new insights. Talk openly to those you trust, it helps and lets you blow off steam in healthier ways than binging. Be conscious of your eating and eat slowly, only have healthy food at home if you know you cant control yourself otherwise. Take one scoop of a portion and sit down on the table and eat that slowly, take breaks between your meal and put your fork down. After the portion wait 20 minutes to see if you are really still hungry. if not, jot down notes on why you want to eat and how you are feeling.
5. Get professional help from a therapist, psychologist or counsellor. If you want I can help you as well. You can contact me through this website. Though you may be able to recognize your triggers on your own through self analysis and through talking to those close to you, you may also want to reach out for a professional opinion on your eating.