Do you eat over emotions? Do you want to stop? Most who come to Raw Food Boot Camp list emotional eating as the number one problem they feel they have no control over. This is valid. Face it, we were raised to use food to settle emotions. When you were little and skinned your knees, oftentimes that bandaid came with a sweet. After winning that soccer match, you went out for pizza. A big breakup happens and your mom pulled out the ice cream. When people didn’t know how to help you, they fed you.
Let’s just state the fact that eating over emotions is a learned behavior and not our fault we learned it!
With that out of the way, we don’t have to feel shame or guilt that we do this. But, we do have to accept that eating over emotions is not a behavior we can continue if we want to lose our fat suits and keep the weight off for good.
Emotional Eating step 1: Accept the fact that while it was a learned behavior it is not a behavior you want to continue.
But how do you stop an ingrained behavior? How do you go cold turkey from emotional eating? You may not like my answer. After over twelve years of working with women on this subject, I can tell you this is doable, but takes work, courage, patience and practice. In the end, only one thing works. You must learn to live through the emotion and not feed it. Ouch, right? Who can do that? Well, I can and about half the women at Raw Food Boot Camp can. For me it was easy. I had this great epiphany about my own emotional eating even before I lost my weight. And I can honestly say I have not eaten over emotions since that day. Sure, I ate over other reasons, emotional eating isn’t the only reason for obesity, but no eating over emotions.
Others have worked closely with me at Raw Food Boot Camp to identify the emotions they do eat over and to feel those emotions instead of eating them.
Emotional Eating step 2: Accept that stuffing or numbing the emotion with food doesn’t really eliminate the cause for the emotion.
Wow, now that is scary right. Most people use food to distract themselves from an emotion by stuffing it down with food. But what good does this do? The hurt, the anger, they are still there. The food may have given you a moment’s respite, but it didn’t pay that bill or make that hurt or pain go away. Numbing emotions by binging doesn’t always work either. Because while the reason you were emotional eating may have passed now you have to live with the guilt and shame binge eating brings. In the end, that can be far worse than the original reason for the binge.
So what’s an emotional eater to do?
Emotional Eating step 3: Identify the emotions that eating over them doesn’t help.
Look around. Life is an emotion waiting to happen. From the jerk that cut you off on the way to work, to the hummingbird that caught your pleasure. As humans, we can go from complete anger to bliss in a matter of minutes depending on the circumstances. Say your teenage daughter on the drive to school just utterly pisses you off. On the way home, you are fuming so you stop by a drive-thru to settle that anger. Then when you get to work your boss calls you into her office and tells you you just got a raise and promotion. All of a sudden that anger turns into excitement. The fight is forgotten. And now you will reward yourself with food.
Neither of these scenarios are going to work for weight loss or even maintenance. At the moment you think they are the right choice. But are they?
In the fight with your daughter. You eating gives her the win, doesn’t it? You’re on a diet and now she has pushed you past your limits and made you her victim. You eating has not changed her at all. This fight will happen again and each time you eat over it, if she knew, she would snarkily chuckle at you for giving her the power.
In the promotion, sure this is a great thing. But is food the only reward you can think of?
Our problem is we want instant gratification
Emotional Eating step 4: Give up that impulse to medicate with food and let the emotion expire on its own
Wait, don’t run away. You can do this. Food is not the answer to emotional eating. We only think that because it was taught to us. Emotions are part of being human. We cry, we scream, we rejoice, we love, we hate, we are adored and reviled sometimes by the same person. It is natural to feel these emotions. Stuffing them or numbing them may for an instant make you feel better, but it’s not a true dismissal of the emotion.
On the scenarios above, you still have to confront your daughter when she gets home or if you don’t, you are going to have the same fight, the same feelings again and again. That is just the truth when you live with a teenager. Wouldn’t it be better to find a different solution other than eating over emotions?
On the promotion, how great would it feel to lose weight and stand tall? Wouldn’t getting your nails done, your hair, or buying a new outfit represent the event better?
If we keep doing what we have been doing then we can never be thin and healthy because face it, in the throes of emotions we don’t choose healthy foods, we go for our addictions of fat, salt and sugar. It may feel like we are medicating ourselves, but in truth, we are using food as a drug just like an addict goes for their drug of choice to numb themselves from life.
Emotional Eating step 5: Be proactive to solve your emotions or let them pass
What I learned after giving up eating over emotions is that if I am really bummed about something, if I get proactive even if what I am doing won’t solve the issue, it allows me to feel as though I am handling the situation instead of it controlling me. Say you hate your job, but you can’t quit your job, your family depends on it. Wouldn’t updating your resume put you in a proactive mood? Sending it out? Just feeling like you were taking action instead of feeling you are a victim to your circumstances. That can do a world more good than any fatty, salty or sweet thing.
Grounding your daughter or taking away her cell phone for a week is a more appropriate response to her snarkiness. You are in control not her.
Writing up the changes you want to make in your new position is so much more powerful than just talking about it over food.
If you hate being fat, eating over emotions just creates bigger emotions like shame and guilt
Emotional Eating step 6: Own those emotions
We have to step up to emotions, accept they are ours and own them. Emotional eating may feel like the right thing to do, but if you are obese or even overweight and you want control of your life, you are going to have to learn to stop eating over emotions.
There is no other solution. Therefore, start small. Tackle first the emotions you think you can live through without eating over them and force yourself to do it. Experience them even if it hurts, even if you’d rather not. Eating over emotions makes you fat, plain and simple. You hate being fat, so to eat over them just makes you miserable, right?
When our body image and self-respect are on the line, we have to be willing to fight with ourselves to break old habits, to learn new habits. You have to work at it, for most it does not happen overnight, but if you practice, start small, and become proactive in life rather than letting it walk all over you, you may start to feel more balanced in life.
Life is a roller coaster, don’t sit their screaming waiting for it to be over, throw up those arms and embrace every breathtaking scary moment.
Don’t stuff or numb your emotions. Free yourself from the burden of emotional eating and let those emotions fly. Sure it’s scary at first, but once you start realizing you can survive those emotions, it is freeing.
Carlene’s Knowledge Base after 12+ Years of working with obese women fighting through emotional eating.
Please note that Carlene is not a professional therapist, nutritionist, or medical practitioner. She is just a woman who lost 136 lbs on her own in 9 months in 2005 and has been helping other obese women do the same ever since. Click here to read more about Carlene