Jacqui Lewis - BHSc Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine
Overcoming Emotional Eating
You may feel you need a padlock on the door to the pantry to prevent access to the cookies. And maybe another one for the freezer because that's where the ice cream is. Not to mention the leftover macaroni and cheese in the fridge… So a padlock there as well.
The result of having this idea is usually a repercussion of emotional eating - the inability to control yourself to stop eating. Emotional eating on a physiological level prevents weight loss and can even lead to weight gain. On a psychological level, emotional eating causes an unhealthy relationship with food and, ultimately, yourself.
Reasons for Emotional Eating
Referred to as "unconscious eating," this type of emotional eating occurs when you're not aware of what or why you are eating. For example, this could occur when you are finished with your meal and keep picking at the food you intended to leave behind even though you are not physically hungry.
Unconscious eating also happens when you eat food just because it happens to be in front of you - that bag of chips or candy lying around while your attention is elsewhere, such as the new show on Netflix.
One of the best tactics to correct unconscious eating is through mindful eating.
2. Food as Your Only Pleasure
After a hectic day at work or a zoom meeting, what do you have to look forward to? Without thinking, you're eating the box of soft-baked cookies or devouring a large bag of potato chips with a creamy dip. Why is this happening? Studies show that eating sugary and fatty foods releases opioids in our brains, giving you that temporary "high” feeling.
Chemically, this is exactly what happens if you were to abuse a narcotic such as cocaine or heroin. Learning to curb emotional eating is the same as becoming clean from drugs. This reason for emotional eating is mitigated by self-soothing activities that do not involve food, such as taking a bubble bath, calling a friend, or even writing a novel.
3. Inability to Tolerate Difficult Feelings
If you are dealing with losing a loved one, going through a divorce, under pressure at work, or buried in credit card debt, these examples have similar effects: Difficult feelings arising. Most of our society has learned to deal with difficult emotions with self-destructive behaviors, including eating emotionally.
You can not control the events that happen to you, but you can learn to control your reaction to the emotions that arise. This involves developing coping skills that are positive instead of self-destructive. This is why staying in a support group after Bariatric Surgery is so essential- so you can learn how to deal with difficult feelings properly.
4. Body Shaming
When you look in the mirror and analyze every inch of your body with negative thoughts, this develops into what therapists refer to as body hate. Instead of reaching for the veggies and hummus as a snack: You'll grab an ice-cream tub, thinking to yourself, "So what? I’ll never lose weight. It’s hopeless."
And then the next time you look in the mirror, you have the same thoughts and repeat the same emotional eating. Many patients think, “I'll be happy with my body only when I reach my goal weight.” This may sound rational, but this type of thinking hinders your path to weight loss success.
It would help if you learned to appreciate your body at every step of the weight loss journey. One way to do this is by practicing gratitude. It may be difficult at first, but eventually, it will get easier and help to self-soothe the negative thoughts.
You tossed and turned all night; the kids needed a ride to school, were late for work, and were called into a meeting as soon as you walked in. Before you know it, the day has flown by, and you haven't eaten anything. When you finally sit down to eat, your brain is in overdrive, and the only thing you can think of is food.
And chances are you aren't taking the time to prepare an egg white omelet with veggies; you're heading straight for the pizza. No matter the type or combination of emotional eating you struggle with, the result is always the same after gorging - guilt or even depression.
Overcoming emotional eating is not something that can be done overnight, solved nutritionally, or by adding a dietary supplement. There are several reasons for emotional eating and several steps to control this. It involves identifying triggers that cause binge eating and learning healthy activities to replace emotional eating. Regularly attending support groups led by a therapist will help you overcome emotional eating.