Emotional Eating and Self Sabotage – Part One

Nearly everyone does it or has done it – feeling like hell, rough day, guilt, stress, worry – it doesn’t really matter what the cause was, the result is often the same.  Foraging through cupboards or supermarket freezers for that tub of Hagen Daas, bag of Doritos, or brick of chocolate and giving in to whichever of life’s problems has bitten you today.

If you’re like me and catch yourself doing this stuff from time to time, ease up.  You already know this stuff. It’s nothing new, no big secrets revealed, you’re supposed to eat all-natural foods, with lots of fresh veggies, grass-fed proteins and fish … when you don’t, your body releases something called “now you’re gonna feel like hell” … it does this to let you know it wants you to give it better food. So give it what it wants and needs, right?  Sometimes in life something gets lost in translation between knowing and doing…  life’s little dramas pull us in and we forget the important stuff.

Healthy eating plans so often fail because they only offer nutritional advice as if the one thing keeping you from eating properly is knowledge. This kind of advice only works if you have conscious control over your eating habits and will not work when emotions hijack the process demanding an immediate payoff with food.

We often turn to food for comfort, stress relief, during times of boredom or as a reward but more often than not emotional eating usually leaves you feeling far worse. Not only does the original emotional issue remain post binge but you also have to deal with the feelings of guilt, shame and regret that come from having deviated from a healthy way of eating and of the fear of consequences such as weight gain.

Thankfully with the right education and coping strategies this destructive cycle doesn’t have to be something we are stuck with for life.

emotional eating

What constitutes emotional eating? 

It’s when you use food to make yourself feel better and fill emotional needs rather than fill your stomach.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing to use food occasionally as a pick me up or to celebrate but when eating is your primary emotional coping mechanism – when your first impulse is to open the refrigerator whenever you’re upset, angry, lonely, stressed, exhausted or bored – then you get stuck in an unhealthy cycle where the real feeling or problem is never addressed.

What is Emotional vs. Real Hunger?  Fortunately, there are some clues you can look for to help you to tell them apart:

  • Emotional hunger comes on suddenly – It feels overwhelming and urgent and hits instantly.
  • Emotional hunger craves comfort foods- Emotional hunger craves fatty or sugary foods that provide an instant ‘high’.
  • Emotional hunger leads to binge eating – Before you know it the entire packet of biscuits or box of chocolates is gone without you really enjoying the experience of eating them.
  • Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied once you’re full – Even when you’re uncomfortably stuffed you still keep wanting more and more.
  • Emotional hunger isn’t located in the stomach – instead of a rumbling in your tummy you experience a craving you can’t get out of your head.
  • Emotional hunger leads to shame, regret or guilt – If you feel guilt or shame after eating its likely because you know deep down you’re not eating for nutritional reasons.

So, to start, accept yourself as you are—flaws and all—and change what you can change and want to change. Eat better, workout more, get some new clothes and a new haircut and pull your shoulders back so your posture is better.

Have a lot of self-doubt?  Good, it probably means you’re onto something big; go forward.

Part 2 later where we look at the common causes and some healthier coping mechanisms.

You can do this!

Steve