Everyone has a reason why they Eat. Maybe they eat because they are truly hungry, or maybe they eat for other reasons such as a celebration, to calm, boredom, sadness. Or maybe there are other reasons. How you feel about yourself, believe it or not, can be enmeshed in your relationship with food.
Believe it or not, if you are an emotional eater it can be keeping you from reaching your Weight Loss goals. Here in this post, I will be listing some reasons why you might be eating emotionally and some tips on not eating when you are feeling emotional, but to eat only when you are hungry.
The first step to discovering how emotions affect your eating is to understand your relationship with food.
I’m an Emotional Eater
Eat when you’re not Hungry
If you do this then you are not alone…. many people eat when they are not hungry. Many people eat because the clock tells them it is time for a meal. Or, maybe because someone else is eating. Or, simply because a food looks or smells good. They key is to pinpoint when this is the case and realize that you are not hungry. Of course, if you ARE hungry then you should EAT.
Always Clean your Plate
I remember as a child that my grandmother would say, "Who is going to be a member of the Clean Plate Club?" I would hurry to finish my plate because not only did I want to be a member of the "Clean Plate Club", but I also loved making my grandmother happy. And, me eating ALL of her food made her VERY happy.
Whether you were trained to clean your plate as a child or whether you are afraid of not having a meal that good again… you have to retrain yourself to knowing when you are full. Many times when we are always cleaning our plate it is because we were conditioned to do so as a child. We no longer know what it feels like to feel full. We have to retrain ourselves to know when we ARE full and stop eating at that point.
Emotional Eating Tip – We will do a whole post shortly on learning when we are truly full. In the meantime, if you go to a restaurant order a kids size meal or an appetizer… that way even when you eat the entire plate you will not be overeating. And, chances are…. you WILL be actually full when you finish.
Eat Instead of Working
I am totally guilty of this one. It is known that when a dieter is bored or is procrastinating on an important or cumbersome task they have a tendency to nosh.
How many times have you had planned on cleaning your house and instead found yourself fist first in a bag of chips or a box of cookies. Or, perhaps you were bored and you couldn’t come up with anything else to do, so instead of grabbing a book to read you grabbed a container of chocolate. I know I have many times.
Emotional Eating Tip – Again, this is when you have to be in tune of your emotions. If you realize you are putting an important task off instead of grabbing food…. get to the task and finish it. If you find you are still hungry…. grab some carrot sticks. Or, if you find you are bored… have a back-up plan for this. Start a book and always grab it when you are bored. Or, run to the movie rental store and stock up on the movies you have been dying to see.
Crave Favorite Foods
If you can’t resist your favorite foods you are probably responding to a craving rather than being truly hungry. How do you know the difference? A craving is based on emotions; hunger is rooted in biology. When you are truly hungry any food will satisfy it. When you are having a craving only that food you are craving will satisfy it. A craving is very intense. When you are having a craving the desire is sometimes so strong that nothing can stand in your way… you "have to have it".
Emotional Eating Tip – Here are a couple of Craving Tips that might help…
- Substitute Foods – Try a glass of low fat chocolate milk instead of a chocolate bar.
- Use Portion Control – Buy smaller servings of your favorite foods.
Eat when Stressed, Angry, Lonely, or Tired
This category of emotional eating is probably the biggest downfall for many overeaters…me included. It is sometimes easier to distract yourself with eating yummy food than to deal with these emotions. But, after overeating the feeling of guilt can make the underlying terrible feelings even worse. Knowing when you are feeling stressed, angry, lonely or tired and dealing with these feelings is the best scenario and it might keep you from overeating. But, how do you do this…. how do you stop yourself from eating and to deal with the real problem instead? That’s tough… and we will spend an entire post on it soon. But, in the mean time… here are some tips to help you not eat and to deal instead.
Emotional Eating Tip – Deal with the real underlying problem
- Cry if you need to.
- Practice breathing exercises to calm yourself.
- Talk with a friend.
- Release anger by pounding your fist into a pillow…. or even scream into a pillow if that works.
- Go for a walk.
- Confront the person who is making you angry.
- Ask for time out or help on a project.
Feel Unworthy to Eat or Feel Guilty about Eating
This is a classic way for dieters to think. Eating and hunger are part of the human condition…. "you have to eat to live". But, for many of us eating and food is a moral issue. But, this shouldn’t be the case.
Emotional Eating Tip – Instead of letting the inner voices say, "Do I deserve this?" instead ask yourself, "Am I truly hungry?". If the answer is, "yes"… then please eat.
Eat Healthy Around Others, but Splurge Alone
It’s that inner voice again that is causing this to happen. You know what voice I’m talking about…. the voice that says, "You shouldn’t eat that!". What happens is that you are so good (probably restricting too many calorie) when you are with others. And, when you restrict too many calories you will snap eventually…. usually when you are alone so that nobody is there to judge you. It is during this time alone that you dig into everything that is around you because you over-restricted yourself when you were with others. Allowing yourself to splurge occasionally with others is a good thing. It keeps you happy and it won’t damage your diet. Don’t listen to those negative thoughts telling you that you shouldn’t have that piece of chocolate cake. Have that slice of cake…. just watch yourself the rest of the day.
Emotional Eating Tip – You need to replace negative, irrational thoughts with positive, rational ones. One way is to get away from all-or-nothing thinking. Pull back from the extremes and stay moderate. Get rid of should and shouldn’t. No food is all good or all bad, and neither are you.
Top image by gagilas