6 Steps on How to Stop Emotional Eating
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.
Stop 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 thirteen 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.
They admit that at first, it was very scary. All their lives they used food to numb or stuff down their emotions. To feel those emotions was so different they were surprised. Yet, in the end, they are the biggest advocates for our method to not give into the emotional eating habit but to live through it.
Stop 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.
We lose many to emotional eating. Not the eating itself, but because of how much damage a big gain from binge eating does to their psyche. The gain becomes the reason to give up, to quit and call another diet a failure.
Self-esteem tanks and before they know it they’re eating over the emotions caused by eating over emotions. It’s a vicious cycle. One that can be stopped before it gets started by learning to not eat, but survive the emotion.
So what’s an emotional eater to do?
Stop 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?
Regardless of the emotion, day to day emotions, if fed, will undo all your hard work. If you go through your day and list each of these emotions and purposely examine how eating over them will actually rectify whatever brought them on you’ll find food won’t resolve anything. Sure it will give you a moment’s joy on your tongue, or let you go into a food coma for a few minutes so you can pretend what happened didn’t affect or scare you. But whatever happened still happened and now you’ve gained weight over it.
We have to stop punishing ourselves with food. Eating over emotions resolves nothing!
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.
Stop 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? Feeling like you are taking action instead of being a victim to your circumstances 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. Then when emotions die down for both of you, talk it out. Don’t react to her, respond to 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. Yes, I get we were raised to celebrate success with food. Now, things are different. You are taking care of your health along with succeeding in your job. All that excess food won’t make you better at what you do, but feeling confident in that new outfit that fits right and makes you feel powerful certainly will.
See, some emotions like feeling powerful, feeling in control, are not ones you want to miss out on because you are hung over with bad 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.
Click here to listen to Carlene’s Podcast on a way to stop eating over emotions: Ikigai Finding Your Center Instead of Eating to Fill it
Carlene’s Epiphany On Her Emotional Eating that Let her Stop Cold Turkey
Long before I found raw, I had an epiphany regarding my own emotional eating that allowed me to give up the habit right there and then.
I was driving home after having a blowout fight with my daughter. I don’t remember what it was over, but on the drive I was fuming, the anger festering. As I pulled close to my turnoff from the main road I realized I could have my favorite fattening food – Ruffles. I refused to buy them on a regular basis but allowed them after a fight with my daughter. Instead of turning home, if I kept straight there was a convenience store I would stop at and enjoy my favorite food.
To understand my love of chips, let me just say my favorite uncle by the time I was five called me his little potato chip girl.
The idea of that blue bag in my hand made me smile. I could see it, smell it, taste it. All I could think about was that blue bag. The fight with my daughter, all that anger was history. All I cared about was getting my chips.
That was when it dawned on me. If the idea of a bag of chips, the joy of that bag of chips was more powerful than my anger could I possibly have used my anger as a way to get the chips I always denied myself?
Had I possibly used anger as a way to get to chips? It was crazy but it felt so right. Was I igniting these fights with my daughter to manipulate my rational mind and give myself permission to eat a food I had given up? The idea was a little mind-blowing for me but I knew the truth when I saw it.
I laughed at myself and instead of going straight to get to the convenience store, I took the turn and went home.
This epiphany gave me a lot to ponder. No one wants to be manipulated and I hated the idea I had been doing it to myself. I made a promise that night that I would never fall for this trick again. This was years before I found raw food and lost my weight, but I am happy to say, I held true to that promise and have never eaten over emotions since.
More remarkably, the fighting with my daughter died down and were few and far between. I hated to think that I was the instigator to elevate those fights just so I could eat chips, but it seems that is exactly what I had been doing.
You may not see this in yourself, but over the years of sharing this story with women at Raw Food Boot Camp, others have noticed similar situations. It’s crazy right?
Our fat brains are powerful, they are smart and have learned over the years how to mask their input and make us believe we have no other choice but to follow their direction.
If we stay open to our own methods to rationalize foods we have decided not to eat, we can learn to stop using them and instead stand firm in our desire to change.
I changed. So can you. Stop emotional eating. Don’t wait for it to stop by itself. You have to make the decision that it is something you just don’t do anymore.
Free to You from Carlene
I offer two workshops on Emotional Eating, that you are welcome to take for free if you join our free area of RFBC.
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