Emotional eating? Been there done that!
So I would be curious how many of you can relate to this, or to a story like this:
You are home and you are alone, maybe you live alone, maybe your family is sleeping already, but however, the circumstance was created you find yourself alone.
The house is quiet and dark and the sun is going down - another day is coming to a close.
It has been a day full of activity, full of hustle and bustle, of work and kids, and husbands/wives, and commitments and now you finally have some time to yourself!
You are looking forward to it until all of a sudden it starts - the fridge is calling you, or maybe it's the pantry - and just like that you have no control, you are on autopilot and before you know it you've eaten a bag of chips, a piece of pie, the leftover chicken wings and half a container of cookies!
When you come to again you want to cry!
You ask yourself "Why do you do this? What is wrong with you? Why don't you have any self-control?"
This was me for many, many years! I felt like I had a secret that I could never share with anyone - that every night I turned into this crazy eating monster that had no control!!
I was embarrassed and ashamed and I felt like something was 'wrong' with me!
Can I get an 'amen?'
Any of my sisters out there that have been through the same thing?
I feel ya!
Like so many people that are emotional eaters or binge eaters, I was careful about what I ate during the day. My days were filled with skipping breakfast, eating salads for lunch, and filling up on energy drinks in the afternoon - all in unconscious preparation of what I was going to do when the sun went down!
For more years then I care to think about I saw food as a gateway to feeling better instead of a way to nourish, feed, and take care of my body!
If you find yourself in the camp of emotional eaters one of the most important things that you can do is create a healthy relationship with food!
Here are 5 steps that can help you on the journey:
#1 Identify your emotional triggers - since so much of what is happening to us is processed at an unconscious level you have to become like a detective and bring things up to the surface so that you can take an honest look at them. Ask yourself "When do I find myself eating to feel good? What is happening just before I eat? Where am I when this happens? Why do I feel like I have to eat this?" When I first started to clue into the fact that eating was an emotional thing for me and was my tool to feel better I quickly saw that I was triggered at the end of the day, right after everyone was asleep, while I was sitting and reading or watching tv. This was the time when all of the things that I experienced during the day came up for me to process and I distracted myself with delicious cookies instead of doing the hard work of processing my feelings and thoughts.
#2 Understand why you are eating - which are the emotions that you want to avoid? Which emotions are you trying to access? What need are you trying to meet? When I would eat at the end of the day when my family was asleep I didn't want to face the feeling that I wasn't in control of my life, there were so many things I was responsible for and so many activities that I had to participate in that it all felt so overwhelming. I needed to feel like there was something I could control and I gave myself that relief and a sense of control with every peanut butter cookie I put in my mouth!
#3 Give yourself new options for creating the emotions you want and meeting the needs that you have. For me, I need a place where I could gain my center of gravity again, where I could get grounded and feel control, so doing yoga was a great and healthy replacement for me! It allowed me to get what I needed in a way that actually enhanced my life!
#4 Resolve the triggers themselves. To have lasting change we need to go deeper than just solving surface-level problems, we actually need to dig deep! Doing yoga was great and gave me what I needed but I needed to go deeper than that...I needed to fix the problem at the foundation level! I had to look at all of my responsibilities and activities and really be honest about which of them were actually important and which ones I needed to eliminate from my life - even if that meant I was going to disappoint people or let people down! I actually had to grow in my character and learn how to speak up and ask for help and not feel like I had to have everything together all the time!
#5 Implement self-care throughout the day - we can't just wait until the end of the day to process the things we are experiencing! Life can come at us so fast and we need to take the time to slow down and feel, express, and let go. Taking an extra 5 minutes here or there to check in with myself, journal a bit, go for a walk, or mediate was a lifesaver for me! When the end of the day came I wasn't at the end of my rope, but instead, I had the ability to relax and rest and rejuvenate in ways that were healthy! (And didn't involve a bag of chips or a jar of cookies!)
Overcoming emotional eating is possible!
We can get to a place were we can look at our food and see friend instead of foe!
Trust me if I can do it, so can you!