We get caught up in emotional eating. We all have feelings that we don’t want to feel. That’s when we reach for food – and usually in those moments, we make the worst choices – the least healthy comfort foods. Nobody says, “Gee, I’m feeling lonely and sad. I think I’ll steam some broccoli.”
The problem is it doesn’t really help. Because it is not usually about true physical hunger. Emotional Eating is about trying to feed emotions with food. It’s the wrong fuel. Using food to “stuff the feelings back down” only works for a few minutes. Then the feelings are not only back, but you may now have more emotions – such as remorse -- if you have binged or eaten unwisely.
Once we have food and comfort linked in our brains, it is easy to keep going down that same path when we are feeling blue, or frustrated or empty. We reach for the food-drug of choice -- whether it is sweets, fried foods, salty chips, macaroni, sodas…the worse it is for you, the more we are drawn like m
f the feeling is being empty inside – that is an EMOTIONAL HUNGER – and food can’t fix it. It might numb it for a twenty minutes. But then the feeling returns because it hasn’t really gone anywhere. So the food was a distraction. But eating unhealthy food makes you feel worse about yourself, and may add to weight gain, negative health consequences, and further self-recrimination. If you have an emotional need, you have to learn to simply face it on an emotional level.
There are certain situations that trigger emotional responses and needs. Begin to recognize this in yourself and plan for it. For example, if seeing your ex or speaking to him or her causes you to go into an emotional tailspin, know that you have to be prepared, and be extra vigilant about how you handle your emotions. Plan what you will eat afterward that will not be so destructive.
When you feel like you have a craving – like you just have to have that ice-cream or that pizza, or whatever it is that is seducing you -- see if you can wait ten minutes. Don’t give in right away. Turn your attention to something else. Literally, physically move away from the point of contact. Redirect your senses. Move away from the cookie store in the mall, so the smells aren’t tempting you. Move your eyes to something else so your eyes are not compelling your forward.Drink a glass of water to give your mouth something to do. These physical actions redirect your emotional hijacking long enough to allow your sense of what is right to reemerge.
When you are in the grip of emotional eating – you are not fully here. You are actually being held captive by an emotional state. Take a moment and just breathe. Ask yourself two simple questions: “What am I feeling right now?” and gently listen to yourself, like the world’s best friend would do. Then ask, “What is it I need?” Take this simple step and do this Present Process because it will be like reconnecting with your core need. It allows you to access the part of your brain that can make better choices. Just be present with this emotion. Think of it as holding your own hand, in emotional terms. You are not trying to fix the problem; you are just witnessing it. This simple method of just being present for your emotions for a few minutes will help you to feel more personal mastery.
Then, after you have done this Present Process, if you still want the comfort food, have it. Or have half of it. It may be enough to have just a little. Then, as you develop more trust in this process, you may be able to bypass the unhealthy food altogether. If you do end up eating the comfort food, let yourself enjoy it without beating yourself up. Because beating yourself up is just beating you down.
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