Are you someone who grapples with keeping your eating in control? This can be very frustrating, and you may be dealing with something called “emotional eating.”
Here is how it happens. Maybe you have a stressful day at work or a fight with a loved one. You then spiral out of control and start to eat everything in sight. This is frustrating because very few of us enjoys feeling out of control.
As this behavior compounds itself, it leads to a feeling of being “stuck.” Which again is not a good feeling. Most importantly, this behavior often leads to weight gain or sabotaging whatever good efforts you have in place.
You can be doing great all day, eating tons of green vegetables and doing some exercising. And then wham, some sort of “binge” behavior takes over and you feel as if all the work you did was for nothing. Not fun at all.
So how does one stop this pattern of behavior? The first thing to know is that you can stop it, and you can gain the upper hand.
The path to to stopping emotional eating is to simply understand what it is. There are all sorts of clinical terms and complex definitions of emotional eating. But in very simple terms emotional eating means that you do not possess total discipline over your eating behavior and eating habits. And that you experience times when you are simply out of control with your eating.
The triggers or causes of this type of behavior can be different, but the results are usually the same. You eat way too much, and you feel much worse as a result.
The odds are that you have just eaten way too many calories, usually from foods that are poor in nutrients and high in sugar. You probably were not binging on roasted broccoli. (Although that might be a pretty good idea!)
To add insult to injury, you are likely to feel emotions of shame, anger and depression for not being in control. It may be that you have told yourself over and over that you wouldn’t engage in the exact same behavior you just did!! We have broken down the path to stopping emotional eating into 8 different lessons.
Lesson 1: Replacing and Avoiding, Which One Are You?
Key Concept: Discover if you eat to avoid something or replace something. Then understand that this is a problem that you need to solve. It is often a major problem, but it can be solved. Key to beginning this process is changing your approach.
-Emotional eating, night eating, stress eating does not need to be who we are. So often we say “I am an emotional eater, I am a night eater.” You need to kill that sense of yourself. When you do this, your mind will begin the process of adapting to your new sense of yourself.
-People so often say “I am so disciplined, but I can’t solve this one.”
-This is not permanent. Change can be very easy- if you really want to.
-Your mind constantly accesses information to solve problems
-You need to find your reason to solve the problem. This is basic, but like everything else you are going to find your burning reason to change. It may be you find certain eating behaviors are your way of getting in control or taking control back from someone else!
-Truly deciding can get you on the right track.
-You problem solve by changing habits. Exercise- cross your arms right now. Notice which arm is on top. Now reverse the order. You just changed a habit. Feels funny, but by changing things up, you start to re-pattern.
-Replacing– example of the woman who eats to fill the void by the death of her brother. (Very moving story that we lead the call with). Do you eat to replace something in your life? Is there a tidal wave of sadness that you are trying to distract yourself from.
-Avoiding– do you eat to avoid something. Does food become a way to avoid dealing with finances or otherwise dealing with what is going on.
-Coping with stress. People who describe themselves as night eaters or stress eaters often use food as a coping mechanism.
Lesson 2: Learning To Understand What Emotion You Are Feeling
In the first session we went through a very simple discussion about some common reasons people eat in a way that does not represent total control. Some people eat to avoid, some to replace, others to deal with stress. And, yes, sometimes it is not this dark thing. We might just be lazy or lack awareness. Overall we got some good responses from that suggestion of asking yourself “why do I do that anyway??”
In this segment we are going to shift away from identifying the reasons why, and focus on the emotions themselves. The link to the call is further down on the page, but for some people getting the lesson right in the email itself very helpful. Some of you are on mobile devices, some are at work and can’t use audio.
Lesson Two Key Concept: When you understand what emotion you are feeling, you are then in the position to begin managing your emotions. Identifying the specific emotion you are feeling is like finding out where you are on a map. The feelings we have are often basic. The most common emotions usually fall into one of the five following categories: sad, mad, glad, scared and ashamed. We introduce this idea because most people can identify something that bothers them, can tell the story of what happened, but we usually don’t pinpoint the emotion.
Lesson Two Exercise: Go outside in a t-shirt but describe what the air feels like on your skin. Is the air humid, dry, breezy etc. Emotions are the same way, and there is usually something going on, and it is often very simple. This process is called “checking in with yourself” and finding out what is going on. Do this a few times a day, and ask yourself “what are you feeling right now?”
You might be surprised. The first step to getting control over your impulses is to find out what is going on. And you want to practice this when things are going great, it helps you do this when things are not going well. Develop a simple language of how you are feeling, and start to work at this.
You might want to start right now. Maybe you are reading this during the day. Can you describe how you are feeling? Then think about how you often feel during those times you are not in optimal control. What is that emotion usually? (As always, would love to hear your thoughts)
Important Note: We want you to think about each idea in these different lessons as simple building blocks. Some of these ideas might sound simple for many. But our intention is to keep stacking these up over time.
Lesson 3: Slowing Yourself Down When Intensity Revs Up (Blunting The Effect Of The Triggers)
Once you have a good handle on identifying some of the reasons you eat more than you might like, and identifying the emotions involved, you probably have a greater level of awareness.
But you will still be experiencing those “triggers” and there is usually an intensity involved. When you start to experience the intensity of an emotion, you might want to think of it as a thunderstorm, as something that has energy, but that will pass.
A helpful thing to do is start to work on slowing yourself down, when the intensity starts to rev up. There are all sorts of ways to do this, and each of the email segments of this program will have some ideas for you.
One we talk about in this session is simply breathing. What is interesting about breathing is that is has an immediate calming effect on our physiology. If you are familiar with Stu Mittleman, when you start deep breathing you literally get your body into “fat
burning” mode. Instead of the “fight or flight” that you experience when you let the intensity of certain emotions to overtake you.
Exercise: When you experience a rise in stress, immediately breathe into it. As you exhale describe the emotion that you are feeling. Say it out loud, write it down, jump on your favorite website and jot it down in your notes. Whatever it takes.
The more you practice this during the day when things are ok, the more it becomes a habit when you really need it, when an emotion or stress comes up.
This is another very basic tactic and suggestion, but I can almost guarantee you that if you start to practice this right now, you will start using it when the need arises.
Final Thought For This Session:
When we slow ourselves down during times of intensity, we give ourselves more time to make better choices. The quality of our life can often be measured by the quality of our choices.
How To Stop Emotional Eating: Lesson 4
As you work through the ideas presented in this guide, we want you to ask yourself the following question:
“On a scale of 1 to 10, do you really believe that you can be rid of using food as a key tool to bring comfort to your life?”
This is a biggies for a lot of people. It may be that you have lost all kinds of weight, but despite this you are still using food as a primary tool to bring comfort to your life.
As a follow up question, ask yourself if you have different choices. Can you decide to make a different choice? When it comes down to it, on some level have you decided that using food for comfort gives you greater benefit than staying in great shape?