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Manage Emotional Eating for a Healthier You

If you are an emotional eater (I am!!), it is a monkey on your back.  To be healthy and happier, it is imperative to manage emotional eating.  Before we can manage emotional eating, we have to know what it is and isn’t.

What is emotional eating?

Emotional eating is a behavior we’ve turned to so we can cope with negative or uncomfortable emotions.  The emotions aren’t necessarily negative, but for many of us, uncomfortable emotions.  Rather than experience the uncomfortable or negative emotions such as boredom, anxiety, stress, anger, disappointment or sadness, we turn to food as a form of self-medication to calm and soothe ourselves from the impact of those emotions.  In an effort to comfort ourselves from uncomfortable emotions, food in the form of emotional eating works (temporarily).  More accurately, we think emotional eating works but it just magnifies the emotions.  We experience or begin to feel an uncomfortable emotion or even begin to think about an upsetting occurrence, we get “hungry” – head hungry, and begin to eat.

We are triggered by an occurrence —> uncomfortable or negative emotion —> turn to food as a comfort, calming agent, numb out, self-medicate —>feel better but very temporarily —> occurrence and emotions still remain plus have added making you feel worse, guilt, shame and disappointment in yourself for emotional eating.

This this flow chart, you can see that emotional eating is obviously a no-win for us.  So, now the question is how to manage emotional eating so we can be healthy, happy with a strong sense of well-being.

Purpose of emotional eating and how it works:

Emotional eating usually occurs when we are at our weakest point emotionally.  Someone says something upsetting, an incident occurs that rouses uncomfortable emotions, we feel as though we are a victim to a circumstance are common triggers for emotional eating.  You may turn to food for comfort, either consciously or unconsciously, when uncomfortable emotions occur, during a difficult situation, stress or as simple as eating to fill time and keep yourself occupied.  Food isn’t meant to be a recreational activity but we use it that way.

The bad news of emotional eating is if we’re working to lose weight or maintain a weight loss, emotional eating is a big saboteur to any weight loss or maintenance.  Emotional eating results in eating too much, usually grazing throughout your day, and the food choices are calorie dense (high calorie), sweet/fatty foods.  Emotional eating can also lead to being off track for more than just a day but trigger long-term eating off track.

Emotional eating is usually a mindless process.  Many times, when we emotionally eat, we eat mindlessly and aren’t even aware of what (or how much) we’re eating.  Emotional eating rarely results in enjoying what we’re eating.  We aren’t eating in response to our body’s cue that we are physically hungry but we are emotionally eating with the cue from our emotions/avoidance of them.

Emotional eating can be so interconnected that when something happens and we even start to feel a emotion that we immediately go to our favorite food (self-medication) to soothe ourselves.  There’s no pause, we automatic and instantaneously engage in emotional eating without giving it a second thought.

Another purpose for food is that it can be (ab)used as a distraction.  If you’re worried or concerned about something or upset over a conflict, eating our favorite foods to comfort us is a temporary fix rather than deal with the painful situation or uncomfortable emotion.  If you are a procrastinator or easily bored, food can fill both of those too.

If you don’t know how to manage your emotions without food, it will be difficult to control your eating habits, lose weight or maintain a weight loss.  Diets don’t work because they mostly focus on the logistics of losing weight and diets.  They offer nutritional advice but the biggest piece of  gaining weight/losing weight but that knowledge alone isn’t enough.  In order to manage emotions and enjoy a healthy weight and lifestyle, we must manage emotional eating and take control of our eating habits.  The best diet in the world won’t work when uncomfortable emotions swoop in, hijack your eating habits and put you on auto-pilot to emotionally eat.

Change your auto-pilot from emotional eating to manage your eating and improve your life.  The benefits when you manage emotional eating are immense.  Among the benefits are higher self-esteem, self-confidence, inner strength, acceptance of yourself and improved health.  Don’t be at the whim of external circumstances and emotions that come/go.  When we manage our emotional eating, we take charge of our lives.

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