How I Avoid "Emotional Eating"
If you've got an issue with emotional eating, maybe you can get some ideas from how I deal with my emotions. This is a process I learned as part of my eating disorder recovery program, but I believe anyone can benefit from it (if they are willing to do the work!). :)
How do I define "emotional eating"?
For me, emotional eating is when I am eating instead of dealing with my emotions. Perhaps I am jealous that I can't eat what the people around me eat if I want to be healthy. Perhaps I don't know what to do about a stressful situation in my life. Perhaps I am sad because I am apart from my loved ones on a holiday. Perhaps I am mad at someone for treating me unfairly.
If I eat to numb myself, instead of working through these emotions, I will very likely overeat, and usually on foods that are not in my body's best interests.
How do I avoid eating over emotions?
Here is the process I use to work through my emotions, thereby avoiding emotional eating.
1. Be mindful of the warning signs.
- Opening the refrigerator or cabinets and “looking”
* If I’m truly hungry, I’ll eat whatever is there (ie, bell peppers)
* If emotional, I "graze" for something mouth-watering.
- Eating my normal-sized meal, then looking for something else to eat because it feels comforting to eat
- Desiring more “exciting” flavors or heavier “numbing” foods (fatty raw, cooked, processed “comfort foods”)
- Can’t work on whatever I am supposed to be working on (sometimes feel a sort of “paralysis”; keep going to distractions to “numb out”
* Browsing Facebook, YouTube, or internet for hours at a time
* Watching TV or movies
* Thinking about foods that might help me feel better
* "Zoning out", replaying the troubling situation in my mind
2. Start writing!
- Get out the laptop and start typing, to get it out of my head!
- Make a list of all my “wants” that are making me crazy. Examples:
* I want that person to not say bad things about me
* I want my friends to “get” my diet
* I want to have money so we don’t have to worry about cutting costs
* I want my family to eat the way I do
* I want to not have health problems
- Make a list of all the fears that are making me crazy. Often, the “wants” I list are very strong because there is a deep fear underneath them. Examples:
* I’m afraid if they say bad things, other people will think poorly of me
* I’m afraid that I am doing the wrong diet
* I’m afraid we won’t be able to afford this diet for the rest of our lives
* I’m afraid I can’t continue this diet without my family on board
* I’m afraid I will never heal
- Make a list of any ways I am being dishonest. Examples:
* I never have actually spoken up about the truth in this matter.
* I haven’t actually done the research that I need to do.
* I actually haven’t looked into all the options for getting food cheaper.
* I haven’t supported family members with their goals.
* I’ve been “cheating” on my diet, yet still expecting good results.
- Make a list of any other ways I’ve been selfish. Examples:
* I’ve been pretty “short” with my hubby because I am stressed.
* I've wasted money on comfort foods and going out to eat.
* I’ve been wrapped up in my own head and not helping others.
* I’ve been wasting a lot of time on Facebook lately.
* I’ve been holding onto some resentments at people.
- Pray that God will show me anything I’ve missed, that is bogging me down. Keep praying/writing until everything is out and I feel like my head and chest are clear.
- Go through every item on the list and pray about it, making sure to sit quietly and LISTEN!
* Ask God to remove my selfish wants/dishonesty/resentments/fears
* Ask God what He would have me be/do instead. Write it down. * Become willing to make amends for my selfishness to those I’ve affected
* List who I need to honestly talk with/apologize/make things right
* Ask God’s forgiveness and for any action I need to take. Write it down.
- By this time, I am feeling very at peace. Send the full writing piece off via email to my mentor and accountability partners and ask them to pray and send any feedback that God brings to their mind for me to consider (things that may not have occurred to me).
3. Take the action God has directed me to take to get reconciled/”clear” with the people in my life.
This process has worked for me every time.
Other: If the thing that is troubling me is "small", or I am out and about when I realize I’ve got something I need to deal with...
- I do the same process (in abbreviated form) via text message to my mentor. For example:
* Resentment: Irritated that this girl is not doing her part for the project.
* Wants: I want people to do right. I don’t want to waste energy or time.
* Fear: that I won’t succeed without her help.
* God, please remove this fear. What would You have me be?
(Listen, then write.)
* God would have me rely on Him, not people, and leave the results to Him.
* Action step: I need to apologize to her for my negative attitude and body language. I need to release her from her obligation to continue on as my partner, and move forward on this project, no matter what she chooses to do.
When I keep the “wreckage” cleared in this way, I lose any desire to eat emotionally. I feel at peace, no matter what is happening around me.
Thanks for taking the time to read all of this! I hope hearing about my process can give you some ideas to sort out your own emotional eating issues! :)