emotional eating

Emotional Eating

Friday, November 08, 2013

Have you heard the term emotional eating?  The phrase typically carries with it a negative connotation.  You always hear about the girl who drowns her break-up sorrows in a pint of Ben & Jerry's or the girl who wants nothing more than chocolate during "that time of the month."  People eat when they're sad, when they're happy, when they're bored.  Google emotional eating, and guess what you find?  You find ways to stop it, to fight it, as if emotional eating is inherently bad.  But here's the thing:  eating IS emotional.  There's a reason we reach for food to celebrate or comfort.  We do it because it WORKS.  Does that mean we have carte blanche to eat whatever we want to feed our emotions?  Of course not!  But denying those emotions is not the key either. 

The key to emotional OVER-eating is to acknowledge that the urges are natural, but they don't have to rule us.  So how do we deal with emotional eating in a healthy way?

First, identify whether you want to eat because of actual hunger or because of something you feel.  Emotional eating is usually urgent, sudden, and insatiable.  Actual hunger comes on gradually, can be postponed, and subsides after you've eaten. 

So now you've identified that you want to eat for some emotional reason.  What now?  If you're going to indulge, only do so with something you really really want.  Make it worth it, and don't settle for a "substitute."  The substitute won't satisfy the emotional need and may even cause you to binge further until you finally satisfy the craving with the actual thing you are craving.  Also, if you are going to indulge, do so mindfully.  Eliminate distractions for the small amount of time that you will be indulging.  Make it special; again, make it worth it.  Finally, limit the indulgence.  Eat one slice of pie, not the whole thing.  Eat one piece of Belgian chocolate, not the entire box.  Portion out a serving of ice cream instead of mindlessly eating the entire carton.  By limiting the indulgence, you can also eliminate the guilt that frequently accompanies emotional eating.  Indulge, but don't lose sight of your goals or your plan.  Don't wreck an entire week's worth of progress for one moment.

Remember, eating is emotional.  We can't change that.  What we can change is our reaction to emotional eating.  We have the choice to manage it and still indulge.  Indulge, but do so responsibly.

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