I’ve labeled emotional eating a “saga” because …
… often times it seems that the theme of emotional eating is a never-ending story.
Since coming back from my trip to Greece/Italy it has been difficult to get back on my clean-eating habits. I typically eat 80-90% clean and allow 10% give/take of some fun food. But 5-weeks later I haven’t been able to get back on board. I’ve actually been sliding deeper and deeper into bad habits. I’ve had to take a time-out and pin point the cause. I’m not unhappy. I am stressed, but I think overall it’s manageable. After some soul-searching, I’ve realized what a deep impact this last trip to Greece made. I miss my family and I want to see them more often. I haven’t met all my goals to be able to see them as often as I’d like. So I feel the pressure. I’m being impatient with myself. I’m putting extra pressure on myself. I’m talking to myself negatively. Even if it’s happening quietly in the background, it’s impacting me.
Although I haven’t completely stopped eating healthy I have to admit I’ve had my fill of pasta (my comfort food) and anything bread, cheesy or carrot cake.
And I’m in health and fitness!? What?! Yup … and I’m still human. So if this is happening to me … I’m sure it’s happening or has happened to you. And it’s okay. The important thing is to notice it, pay attention and do something about it. I know I am!
95-98% of diets fail, and emotional eating is a key contributor to this discouraging statistic.
Why is it so Cyclical?
But why is it so difficult to stop it … or at least learn how to manage it so it doesn’t get out of control?!
It’s difficult because it’s directly tied to YOUR EMOTIONS. And by nature, we humans are driven by our emotions.
Using food as an occasional pick me up, reward, or to celebrate isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It gets ugly when eating becomes your primary emotional coping mechanism. Eating whatever junk food or over-indulging may feel good in the moment, but the feelings that triggered the emotional eating are still there. And on top of that, you often feel worse than you did beforehand because you ate too much, which makes you feel sluggish, fat, and powerless <insert self-bashing and negative self talk>.
Whatever emotions drive you to emotionally eat, the end result is often the same. The emotions return, and you may also now bear the additional burden of guilt about setting back your fitness goals. This then can lead to an unhealthy cycle: your emotions trigger you to overeat or eat crap, you beat yourself up and talk poorly to yourself, you feel bad, and you overeat again.
Different Forms of Emotional Eating
It’s not just limited to over-eating … emotional eating comes in a variety of forms like:
- Comfort Food — When you’re hungry, your appetite can be physically satisfied with healthy foods like lean meats and veggies. But when emotional hunger strikes you instead crave fatty, sugary or salty foods and feel like you need pizza, cookies, or chips and like nothing else will cut it.
- Mindless Eating — You blink and you’ve eaten an entire pint of ice cream or bag of chips.
- Sudden Hunger — It hits you instantly. You feel like your hunger is overwhelming and urgent. Where physical hunger, on the other hand, comes on more gradually.
But, unfortunately 5 minutes after you eat emotionally you instantly regret it, feel guilty or shame.
Don’t workout to eat. Eat to workout!
Emotional eating is a means to suppress or soothe negative emotions, such as stress, fear, sadness, anger, boredom, worthlessness and loneliness. Both major life events and daily life stresses can trigger negative emotions that lead to emotional eating that disrupt your healthy lifestyle efforts. These triggers include:
- Work stress
- Financial issues
- Health problems
- Relationship conflicts
- Lack of exercise
Tips to Overcome Emotional Eating
- Identifying your triggers — What situations, places, or feelings make you reach for the comfort of food? This can be negative or even positive emotions so keep that in mind.
- Keep a journal and write out your feelings — This is a good tool for so many things, not just emotional eating. If you’re consistent in keep up with this effort, you’ll not only see a pattern emerge about your eating habits, but also other areas in your life that you may want to work on … or even celebrate!
- Feed your feelings in other healthier forms — When your triggers arise, call a friend, blast some music, read a book, watch a funny movie, take a bath (not shower) or take a walk. Distract yourself with something else that will soothe you.
- Wait 15 Minutes — This is a great trick! Literally… wait 15 minutes before you cave, and I bet that craving will most likely go away. This will give you time to talk to yourself to identify your triggers and feed your feelings with something healthier!
- Create NEW Healthy Habits — make exercise part of your daily routine, find new ways to relax like meditation, read personal development books, pick up a new hobby.
30% Gym. 70% Diet. Eat Clean … Train Dirty. Be Patient. Push Forward.