How to overcome emotional eating. Well what exactly is emotional eating?
Ask yourself: are you hungry or is there something else going on when you think about food? There are various reasons for deciding to eat.
Regrettably, not all of these are for sustenance, nutrition, or observing a balanced diet.
Hello and welcome to Fearlessly Holistic
My name is Irma and I want to share my journey to improved health by eating whole foods, moving my body and eliminating stress as much as possible.
It is my hope to inspire you to make daily changes.
Why? Because eating fresh, seasonal food and getting some sunshine is the best way to increase longevity. But you do not want just a long life.
You want a quality long life.
My blog posts are my opinion and the results of things that I have tried that either worked for me or didn’t. My opinions are for informational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. Medical advice should always be obtained from a qualified medical professional for any health conditions or symptoms associated with them. As well, there may be affiliate links in this post. Read more here.
What Is Emotional Eating?
If you’ve realized that you often like to eat for reasons other than hunger, then it might be time to sort out the problem.
One of the main reasons why you may find yourself eating is a way to avoid dealing with emotion. If this is an issue, then there are several ways to distance yourself from this type of eating.
Triggers for emotional eating could be:
- When you feel depressed, angry, or stressed.
- If you feel bored
- Setting yourself up with bad habits, like going straight for the fridge after work (you may not even realize it)
- Eating instead of being more pro-active in your life such as standing up for yourself at work. Or saying yes when you should say no.
If you suspect that you do have an emotional eating problem, the first thing you should do is to look at your feelings. Try to discover which emotions are contributing to the problem.
Monitor your behaviors and feelings when you are eating and try to be more aware at those times.
How and When
Notice when you eat and how much you eat.
Signs of emotional eating are:
- Eating when you are not hungry
- Gobbling down your food or eating too fast
- Ignoring something stressful instead of coping with it (I am so guilty of this!)
Try breaking up patterns and habits.
I had the very bad habit of eating to avoid stress. I knew that I was doing it, but since I was in the middle of a big project I couldn’t stop the stress.
I had to create ways to break my pattern. More on this below.
Emotional Eating Anchors: How They Come To Be
Anchors, like their name suggests, keep you stuck in one spot. Anchors are the reasons that cause you to attach to any behavior, bad or good.
Your personal anchors originated from extremely strong repetitive memory associations, which are triggered by your five senses of hearing, vision, smell, taste, and touch.
You are constantly being anchored in different ways through out your life.
For example, when you hear a certain song and it brings back a memory of a certain person, or a place in time, this is an audio anchor or an anchor triggered by your sense of hearing.
Have you ever met someone for the first time and noticed that something about them reminds you of someone or something else?
This is a visual anchor or an anchor triggered by your sense of sight.
Until now all of your anchors have been installed in your subconscious mind by someone else or by accident.
In most cases you were not even aware of them.
It is important to understand that your subconscious mind can be triggered into a negative anchored behavior without even pausing to consider what it is doing.
It is this type of behavior that is responsible for your worst eating habits.
I refer to this type of behavior as “Mindless Eating.” At the time of mindless eating, your subconscious mind has given no consideration to what it is doing.
And your conscious mind is not even aware that anything is taking place.
A good example of this is when you are feeling fearful, guilty angry, or bored.
You immediately look for something to eat, even if you are not hungry. In most cases you will look for what you refer to as your ‘comfort foods’, which is anything that is high in sugar, fat or both.
Let us say you come across a bag of cookies, without any hesitation you eat one and before you realize it, you are eating the whole bag.
Sometime during this mindless eating binge your conscious mind awakens to what is taking place. You stop your eating binge and now along with feeling fearful, guilty, angry, or bored; you are also probably a little nauseous.
The first thought that pops into your mind is: “Why Did I Eat That? I wasn’t even hungry!”
The second you asked yourself this question, your subconscious mind is triggered into action to find an answer, which in turn produces a correlating picture.
Surprise, surprise…what did it find in your subconscious eating behavior program?
It found you ate the cookies because you were feeling fearful, guilty, angry, or bored.
Naturally it, did because that is exactly how you were programmed as a child to react to fear, guilt, anger, or boredom.
Once again your subconscious mind will take this answer and the correlating picture of you being overweight and use it to anchor you even deeper to your childhood program.
What you can do to change your existing negative anchored behaviors of mindless eating
Restructure your question from its negative form of “Why did I eat that?” to a positive form question of “How can I stop this no thought eating when I am feeling fearful, guilty, angry, or bored?”
Your subconscious mind will now produce a positive answer to your new positive question such as: When you are feeling fearful, guilty, angry or bored, find an activity you enjoy in place of eating.
Once again these new answers will produce empowering correlating pictures that will move you toward your weight goal.
It is truly that simple; positive empowering questions = positive empowering results.
It is a sad sign of the times that very few people are in charge of their brain! You have to boss your brain around.When you catch yourself going against what you want, it’s old brain programming.
To summarize this point:If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always got.Click To Tweet
From this time on, it is essential that you are always conscious of your inner voice, thereby insuring that all of your self-questions are positive ones and insuring that you always maintain a positive emotional state.
What About Cravings?
If I were to ask you which foods tempt you, I bet they would be ice cream, potato chips, pizza, or something along those lines.
New theories on cravings pop up like mushrooms. I have my own theory, which is that we are craving certain nutrients that our diet does not provide.
For example, we crave something fatty, so we go for ice cream. A few ice creams are made from real cream, which is a saturated fat.
Many ice creams are made from a mysterious ingredient called ‘milk solids’.
Milk solids are made from: lactose, casein (milk protein), whey protein, and minerals (ash content…wth?). Milk solids use skim milk…aka fat-free milk.
So definitely not cream. You can eat tons of ice cream, but it is not giving your body the fat that it needs.
Try frying eggs in butter or dicing avocado into your salad.
I know that when I eat adequate fat and protein, I rarely have cravings. My blood sugar levels stay steady, I have no brain fog, and I am happier in general.
Eating processed and non-food items just pollutes and confuses our body.
I’ve said it before…vegetable oils are not real food.
You do not get soybean oil from squeezing soybeans. Read this article from PerfectKeto.
It requires the hydrogenation processing, solvents and multiple steps to turn plants into oil.
The end result is an unstable product that breaks down when used for deep frying (i.e fast food french fries).
Most processed foods, like bread, cookies, crackers etc also use these trans-fats. See this article from the Mayo Clinic.
You also end up with more Omega-6’s in your diet, which are pro-inflammatory.
So you never get rid if your cravings for fat when you eat ‘non-fats’ like canola, corn, soybean, safflower, and cottonseed oil.
Ditto for sugar.
If you crave something sweet, eat whole fruit. Not fruit juice, not fruit roll-ups, not jelly-filled donuts.
Craving salt? Shake Himalayan pink salt on your food. Standard table salt is a garbage food that contains extra ingredients to keep it free-flowing. See this article from Healthline for more info.
Your body requires a specific amount of salt to function correctly.
This is why, when you go to the ER with trauma, they give a saline IV automatically. They’re giving your body salt.
Eat whole foods, as close to their natural state as possible:
- Un-processed meat (like roast or chops)
- Fresh fruit and veggies in-season (because who knows what other countries spray on produce when growing)
- Good quality fats. Read my post: 24 Healthy Fat Foods
- Use flavor enhancers like: fresh lemon or lime juice, sea or pink Himalayan salt, onion, garlic, fresh ground pepper.
10 Emotional Eating Habits Keeping You Trapped
Ideally, food should be a source of bodily fuel and nothing more. When you eat for fuel, you make healthy food choices and you eat only enough to satisfy hunger.
People with unhealthy eating habits do not pay attention to the body’s normal biochemical hormones that tell us when we are hungry and when we are full.
This is typically a major problem for emotional eaters.
We use food as a coping tool for life’s problems and uncomfortable emotions.
Emotional eating can have devastating effects on one’s self-esteem. Food does not solve problems or alleviate feelings.
Instead eating behind emotions only piles more problems on top of what already exists.
Many people overeat unhealthy processed foods while stressed, sad, lonely, or heartbroken.
This reactionary habit of reaching for food when problems arise also leads to guilt, shame, and low self-esteem. Eating like this means that you lack the coping skills to deal with life in a healthy manner and intuitively knows that food is not a solution.
Here are ten unhealthy eating habits that anyone should avoid.
I have given some basic ways to stop these habits, but your circumstances may vary wildly. The idea is to start putting processes in place.
As you move through the list, decide which bad habits you want to fix first.
1. Eating in front of the television.
When you sit down in front of the television to eat, the focus on what and how much you are eating is less than the focus of the television program and you tend to overeat, stuffing yourself rather than eating just to relieve hunger.
How to stop: Eat only at your dining table with the T.V off. And no mobile devices either! You will be surprised at how well this works.
2. Eating processed foods.
These “non-foods” contain ingredients that are technically not real food ingredients. The ingredients extend shelf-life or replace real food ingredients that make manufacturing expensive.
The result is that your body does not get the nutrients it needs to function optimally.
How to stop: Eat whole foods in their purest form. Fresh apples instead of packaged apple sauce. Real butter instead of margerine. Plain meat, like roasts and chops instead of processed chicken nuggets.
3. You eat most of your food later at night.
In such cases, food has become a way to cope with daily stressors.
Maybe you ate sparingly during the day because you were super busy. When you roll in at 7 p.m. your first thought is to eat your daily allotment of calories while processing your day.
How to stop: Prep breakfast the night before and pack a lunch. Time-block lunch to encourage yourself to eat. Plan out you evening meals; only eat what is on plan.
4. You prefer to eat alone.
How to stop: If this sounds like you, ask yourself why you would want to eat alone. Then ask again. And again. If you can try to trace your reasoning back far enough, you should be able to recognize a reason or two.
Does it allow you to eat foods you shouldn’t? Are you allowing yourself to binge unhealthy foods? Are you eating food that you do not offer to others in your household?
5. You use food as a reward.
Very rarely would a food reward be something nutritious.
You may have a deep belief that your treat foods must be “junk” to be an actual reward.
Or you may want a reward that is outside of your normal diet.
How to stop: Again, ask yourself why your reward is food. Make a plan to only reward yourself with non-food items, like a new planner or a new book. Remind yourself that food is only for mealtimes.
6. You associate food with guilt.
If you feel bad about something, do you eat to numb the pain? I do. Or I did. It took a bit of detective work to discover my reasons for guilt-eating.
Guilt eating can happen for multiple reasons:
- Family history
Many “guilt-eaters” have a past history of trauma or emotional abuse, but anyone can fall into this trap.
How to stop: Mindfulness.
Try a process like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to draw a line between the food and the guilt. See the below video on how to stop unhelpful habits with CBT.
7. You have no relationship between having a full stomach and the need to stop eating.
Binge eating am I right? For some reason you are out of touch with your hunger signals. There is no physical reason to eat, and yet you desire to eat. And then maybe eat some more…or until the package is empty.
How to stop: Keep a food journal, for at least 2 weeks. Write out what you eat as well as what you are doing when you eat. Also write down how you feel.
Here is a link to a Binge Eating Scale from Psychology Tools.com. Use it to see if you have an eating disorder, so you can get specific help.
8. You make unhealthy food choices.
We all do this. Government eating guidelines are so out of touch with how people should eat. They are mostly based on commodity agriculture and keeping farmers working. Not that I have a problem with farmers, only what they farm. #grainsareunhealthy
How to stop: This may be a challenge but you have to replace ‘junk’ food with real food. If it’s not in your home, you can resist eating it. Get in the habit of eating raw fruits and veggies, which take longer to eat but are nutritionally superior. Your body will thank you.
9. You see food as a friend.
This is by far my biggest baddest food habit. I can trace it back to being a teenager and living in the country. My family was not willing to be constantly driving us back and forth to visit with friends who lived in town. So I ate to make up for my lack of a social life.
It doesn’t help that food commercials (I’m looking at you Haagen Daaz!) tend to show women in the throes of ecstacy when eating treat foods. Look at her…ice cream is her fiend. I want it to be mine! Ugh.
How to stop: Call a real friend. Go for a walk. Take a bath. And be sure to try this tip from Mel Robbins. I find it helpful at the oddest times, but I am okay with that.
10. You are overweight or obese.
Most overweight or obese people are eating foods that their body just does not like.
I know for myself that when I eat ‘off-plan’ I get immediate inflammation. My gut gets firm, my allergy symptoms flare up (and I thought I just had hay fever for years and years), and I feel like crap.
Please note: inflammatory foods are mostly junk foods. But if you have legit food allergies, they cause inflammation as well. My food allergies are: beef, egg whites and casein (dairy protein).
When I eat beef, I feel gross. But sometimes I just gotta have a burger or some roast beef, so I weigh the pro’s and con’s.
When I switch back the inflammation goes away. If you have enough inflammation, you can look 9 months pregnant!
How to stop: Change the kinds of foods you buy and prepare. If you suspect a food allergy, stop eating that food for at least 8 weeks. Then eat it again and watch for a reaction.
Mental Challenges of Emotional Eating
Beyond creating bad eating habits for ourselves, we also create challenges that work against healthy eating.
These challenges may stem from how we are raised. Or they could be something that we read and believed and now is deeply ingrained within us.
Either way, we need to look at these challenges and figure out how to eat more intuitively.
One of the primary goals for intuitive eating is to give yourself permission to eat anything.
There is a lot of fear around giving yourself permission eat anything. Getting past this fear begins with recognizing it and questioning it.
- What are you afraid of?
- Why are you fearful?
- Is your fear realistic?
- How bad can it be and what’s the worst that can happen?
Beliefs (myths) About Food
What do you believe about food:
- Do you believe that cookies are bad and carrots are good?
- Does fat actually make you fat?
- What about calories?
- Are food items all created equally?
- Must you eat everything on your plate?
We all have beliefs about food that we’ve grown up with. As obedient children, we ate what we were given, usually without questioning it.
I’ve met people online who think nothing of eating Taquito’s as their family’s traditional food at Thanksgiving. It’s not an ethnic food, just something mom did when they were young. Now they gotta have it.
We adopt these concepts over time and don’t often question whether they are good, helpful, or healthy.
Start writing down what you believe about food, eating, and health. Then start exploring why you have those beliefs and whether they’re really true.
When you’re tired, it’s difficult to pay attention to your body. It’s a common issue and it’s part of living a hectic lifestyle and fueling your body with foods that don’t support good health.
Rest assured that as you begin to pay attention to your body and fuel it well, the fatigue will go away.
You’ll have more energy from your food choices. You will also likely sleep better and you may be more relaxed about food and eating.
While fatigue will become less of an issue for you as you begin to eat intuitively, it’s also a part of life.
Sometimes you’re just tired.
That means it’s also important to learn how to manage it and still make the right decisions for you and your body, regardless of how tired you are.
Intuitive eating not about deprivation. It’s about paying attention, moderation and awareness. When you know you’re not restricted, you won’t feel deprived and you won’t overdo it.
You will receive external pressure from your peers and family members…that’s a fact. If you shift away from your traditional family foods, someone is bound to notice.
People who criticize your food choices believe that they are trying to help you.
It can take some well-thought out arguments to convince them that you’re making intelligent choices. Be aware that this can take time.
If you know that some foods or situations trigger you, stick to your guns. Wear your friends and family down by acknowledging their concerns while continuing on your path.
It is so challenging trying to sort through the opinions on T.V., the internet, magazines and newspaper, and even billboards.
In some cases, people in power have had good results with a specific way of eating. Now they think everyone should eat this way.
That’s what happened in the 1970’s when the government created dietary guidelines based on a low fat diet. Suddenly there was shame associated with eating certain traditional foods, like meat and eggs.
Tuning this out can be difficult. Consider affirmations. For example:
- I listen to my body and pay attention to what it wants and needs.
- I’m honest with myself about the reality of what and when I eat.
- Healthy eating is my birthright.
- Eating food that is healthy for my body puts me in control.
You can repeat this to yourself when you feel pressured or criticized for your choices.
Your body is amazing and it can show you how to eat right for you. Start listening to it. Tune everything out and enjoy the tremendous benefits of intuitive eating.
If you want to try a new way of eating, I recommend Ketovore. Ketovore is more meat and less veggies than normal Keto. It’s great for helping you regain control over food.
Holistic approaches never just address symptoms of specific health problems, but instead aim to return or keep the patient in a state of balanced health between mind, body, and spirit. Holism targets overall wellness, and when we are well, we only get better with age.
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Until next time, here’s to our health!