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The Disconnect of Emotional Eating

Posted Mar 09 2010 1:40pm

When I emotionally eat, it reminds me of a commercial from a long time ago for Calgon – “Calgon, take me away.”  Cookie and/or chips, take me away.  Take me away from my boredom, stress, upset, overwhelm, you-name-it!!!

Who’s in charge?  Our emotions or us?  I don’t know about you but I want to be in charge of myself and my life.  Feelings are actually great barometers if we use them wisely.  When we are triggered and want to emotionally eat, it is a good gauge for us to know something is going on with us that we need to pay attention to.  Visualize yourself walking down a road and you get the urge to emotionally eat with your head hunger screaming at you.  You come to a fork in the road – do you eat or do you pause, spend the time to deal with the uncomfortable emotion or situation?  To lose weight and maintain the weight loss, it is imperative that we learn to deal with emotional eating.  If we don’t, we stay disconnected from our emotions and ourselves.  Emotional eating results in a total disconnect from ourselves.

We need to stop allowing our emotions drive your eating habits.  When we adopt healthy eating habits, that will drive our emotions, making us feel better. That emptiness that we feel cannot be filled with cupcakes and junk food as much as we’d like. If you are an emotional eater like I am, we must get to the root of our psychological problems without turning to food. In fact the answer is never found in food. It never is nor has it ever been.  The answer is always found in each of us. If we take the time to stop eating and do some inner search we’ll know this to be true.  The gratification of food is instantaneous yet very short-term.  The effects of the food are long-lasting in gaining weight and jeopardizing our health.  The gratification of finding the answer in ourselves takes time, patience and some effort.  However, that is the ultimate way to lose weight, maintain it and live a happy, fulfilled, our very best life.

To stop emotional eating, we need to be able to distinguish the difference between physical hunger cues and emotional (head) hunger.  The main difference is that physical hunger cues build up over time.  Emotional hunger comes on suddenly and usually craves something sweet, salty or crunch – normally an unhealthy food choice.  A person is able to satisfy physical hunger by eating something, however, can never satisfy emotional hunger. Emotional hunger is like an empty hole that is never full or satisfied. 

Usually when we feel the effects of emotional hunger, it is a craving for a specific food, that isn’t healthy most times. We feel a burning desire that cannot be quenched by nothing else. We must have that food. Physical hunger, on the other hand, can wait and we can eat any food we have to make it go away.

What makes emotional eating so dangerous to our health and waistline is the fact that after we eat we are still hungry. Emotional eating is irrational eating. It can never be satisfied and, in time, we will gain weight if we succumb often to emotional eating cravings.  When we gain weight, we feel worse which, in turn, makes us eat even more.  It is a viscious cycle of emotional eating – feeling badly about ourselves – since we feel bad about ourselves, we eat!  It starts an unhealthy eating spiral that gets worse and worse as time passes.

If you are an emotional eater like I am, don’t beat up on yourself.  All that will cause is for you to feel badly about yourself and dive further into the cycle of emotional eating.  Acknowledge that you are an emotional eater so you can get back connected to your emotions and yourself.

Here are some of the strategies I use to help me stop emotional eating:

* Learn to distinguish the difference in true physical hunger versus emotional/head hunger.  Sometimes head hunger can be so strong that it masquerades as physical hunger.

* Make a list of distractions or things you can do to ride out the craving and urge of emotional eating.  Some of mine are to call a friend, cruise the Internet for interesting, healthy websites, read a book, go outside to get out of the environment and change my perspective, brush my teeth, play a video game or my Nintendo DS, take a shower or anything else that comes to mind.  I have a list that I add to for things to do instead of eating.  Do anything else but eat!

* I imagine a tug of war – me versus the urge to eat.  Who wants to lose tug of war to some food choice?

So much of losing weight and maintaining our healthy weight is in our head.  It is a fantastic tool, along with our surgery, if we use it to our advantage.  Food has no power – we hold all the power. 

All the above methods work and will help you stop emotional eating.  The best strategy of all to put an end to emotional eating is being true to yourself, checking in with yourself to manage your emotions before you supress and stuff  them by overeating.  Remember, you are more than any external circumstances or emotions that can happen to you.

Believe In Yourself,
Cathy, ACC-ICF, CLC
Certified Life Coach, Weight Loss Surgery Coach
Certified Back On Track Facilitator

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