Most women who are experiencing emotional eating are not aware that they are actually in the process of it or do not have a clear understanding of what it really is. They think that it’s a bad habit that needs to be broken, a disease that is to be treated or simply a lack of self-discipline. Maybe it’s about math – the more calories you consume, the heavier you get. There IS a better way to control your appetite, watch what you eat, and hit your goals. You too can stop emotional eating. Here’s how.
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Today’s article is compliments of Stephanie Dodier, Clinical Nutritionist, author and host of The Beyond the Food Show and founder of The Beyond the Food Academy. Stephanie is a very dear friend of mine and THE REAL DEAL. I too had a past issue with emotional eating. I thought that because I was healthy and thin, it didn’t matter. Regardless of your weight, size, or health, if you are an emotional eater, Stephanie’s message is for you.
My Experience with Emotional Eating
The problem was that the process of losing weight was difficult, painful, and filled with deprivation (or at least the process I went through). It was a constant mental game of not giving up. I told myself that once I hit my weight goal, it was going to be easier because I would be perfect and therefore happy.
One of things I did was have a weekly “cheat day” and it was something that I always looked forward to. It was usually on a Friday or a Saturday. I had a free pass to eat anything I wanted — sweets, mayonnaise on my sandwich (I once thought fat was bad), butter with my eggs, bacon for breakfast, and a whole bag of barbecue-flavored potato chips. I binge eating like there was no tomorrow!
It was like I was making up for something. Perhaps it was my way of making amends after allowing myself to feel deprived. Gosh, it felt great!… Then, the guilt of not achieving my goals follows.
Obviously, I was mainly dependent on willpower and discipline to achieve this goal I set for myself. At that time, I wasn’t aware that there’s a whole bunch of things to discover that will finally give me the consistency and confidence to change my eating habits… yes, without willpower or discipline!
This is the very reason why I created this powerful audio training – How to Change ANY Eating Habits: Specifically, the One Sabotaging You! – to share this secret, which is not really a secret, but we are all puzzled why we don’t know.
What Is Emotional Eating?
When you eat in response to feelings or you use food to relieve negative emotions, you are emotionally eating. It’s eating for reasons other than providing your body with the nourishment it needs.
Emotional eating is prevalent in women. It is normal because we are emotional beings with an emotional relationship with food. It started from the day we were born. We learned that, whenever we wanted to get fed, all we had to do was cry. It continued during our childhood years when our mothers cooked for us. We usually celebrated our birthdays with a cake. When we got good grades, we got ice cream as a reward.
We eat to protect ourselves against negative feelings and emotions. In that regard, eating is a form of self-preservation. What could be more natural than that?
Emotional eating is also what makes me put on pounds, right up to this day. I eat when I’m not hungry because I want to soothe a feeling. However, the problem was I wasn’t aware that this behavior had a subconscious meaning.
The image below best illustrates the process we go through when emotional eating happens to us. The problem is that even though we are in such a situation, we aren’t fully present on what’s going on, thus, we fail to recognize what triggers us or what causes us to eat emotionally. It surely starts with a trigger – a person, a thing or a situation that causes us to feel certain sensation or emotions in our body. Because of the lack of understanding and awareness, we tend to numb, suppress or avoid the emotion by eating.
You Can Heal
In the past, when that happened to me, my usual thought was there’s something wrong with me and that my body was defective because it craved food all too often. I thought that I was weak and that nobody else ever did this.
Now, I’m glad to know that I was wrong. There is a way of healing this kind of relationship with food.
To paint a clear picture, emotional eating is not a habit to be broken, not a disease to be treated, not a lack of discipline or weakness to be strengthened, or a way that your body is letting you down. It is processed in which your mind and body are trying to communicate with you.
Emotional eating is a way in which your body is trying to tell you that something is out of balance. Trying to break the natural communication process between you and your body-mind-spirit is a sure way to fail or even more cause more problems!
Why the Traditional Approach to Emotional Eating Doesn’t Work
We need to be aware that emotional eating happens to most of us. This phenomenon can strike at any time when you find yourself eating for reasons other than satisfying actual physical hunger. But how do you stop emotional eating?
Like most women, I used to believe in the traditional approach to overcoming emotional eating and food cravings. It tells us to practice self-discipline and determination to avoid food, just like a restrictive diet. However, no matter how much restriction I imposed on myself, I still turned back to emotional eating and binge eating. So why does the traditional approach doesn’t work?
The #1 reason why the traditional approach doesn’t work is because of not having the right understanding of what emotional eating really is. For the most part, the solutions to almost every ache and pain catered to us require something “outside” of ourselves. This is the whole problem with dieting. Diets don’t work because it focuses mainly on food and restriction moving us further away from listening to our body.
The moment you stop fighting your emotional eating and start listening, a major breakthrough will happen. This is the first major step in the process to stop emotional eating. I call this process “The Crave Cure Formula”, which I will explain later in this article.
You need to be aware that overcoming emotional eating is a process. It is a practice of the different skills that you need to develop along the way guided by the knowledge you can learn from the free training I recently created, the Food Freedom Map. In this workshop, I outlined the 4 simple strategies you can you perform to overcome even the most powerful cravings and urges.
The first step in the process, as I mentioned before, is to stop fighting emotional eating. Instead, you need to manage your emotions in a way that doesn’t involve food. How is that? For one, you must listen to what your body is saying. Listening and focusing on yourself will help you realize what your body really wants. By doing so, you will be able to determine if the need to eat that you are feeling is a result of your body’s natural physical hunger or just an emotional hunger. There is a big difference between the two and the better you are at distinguishing one from the other, the sooner you will be able to stop your emotional eating.
Once you’ve determined that what you are feeling is emotional hunger rather than physical hunger, you will be able to stop and think twice about eating. However, it will be very difficult because what you are experiencing is an urgent and obsessive craving for food. The only way to stop this craving is to heal your emotions.
To do so, you must first find out and understand the things or events that trigger your emotions.
How to Recognize Your Emotional Eating Triggers
Your emotional triggers are the reasons why you suddenly want to eat without feeling hungry. They could be certain situations, places, or memories that give you undesirable feelings.
Emotional eating could also be triggered by something that promotes positive feelings like a happy event, holiday celebrations, or accomplishments in life.
In order to stop binging and emotional eating, you must identify what your emotional triggers are. How? By learning to connect with your emotions. I know this sounds hard for many people. Some of our experiences in life are too painful that we try to detach from our bodies and consciousness to avoid the emotions. This is called disconnection and this is something that you need to overcome in order to know your emotional triggers.
Connecting with our emotions to identify our emotional triggers is one of the key concepts that I practice with my students in the Going Beyond the Food Academy. Connecting with our emotions is a powerful process in understanding our body messages that is fundamental to identifying the root cause of emotional eating.
It’s a totally different approach to emotional eating as it is instrumental in transforming your relationship to food to regain confidence with your body and self as a whole.
Join our community of women in the Going Beyond the Food Academy. It’s a 14-week online program for women who want to stop overeating, binging and emotional eating… permanently!
Types of Triggers
Stress makes us hungry. It’s not just in your mind. When you are stressed, it leads to high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol triggers cravings for salty, sweet, and fried foods—foods that give you a burst of energy and pleasure. When you give in to these cravings, you are actually stress eating.
Boredom or feelings of emptiness
Eating keeps us busy. We sometimes eat to give ourselves something to do, relieve boredom or even fill a void in our life. At the moment, it fills you up and distracts you from underlying lack of purpose and dissatisfaction with our life.
Did your parents reward good behavior with ice cream, take you out for pizza when you got a good report card, or serve you sweets when you were feeling sad? This emotionally based childhood habits often carry over into adulthood. Or perhaps some of your eating is driven by memories— a family gathering, specific food served at a holiday function, a meal or dessert your mom used to cook for you.
Getting together with other people for a meal is a great way to relieve stress, but it can also lead to overeating. It’s easy to overindulge simply because the food is there or because everyone else is eating. You may also overeat in social situations out of nervousness. Or perhaps your family or circle of friends encourage you to overeat, and it’s easier to go along with the group.
Eating can be a way to temporarily silence or suppress uncomfortable emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, resentment, and shame. For me, rejection or fear of rejection was a big deal. While I was numbing myself with food, I do not feel uncomfortable.
4-Step Process to Overcome Emotional Eating
Now that you know what your emotional triggers are, you will be able to stop your emotional eating by practicing this 4-step process which I call in my world, The Crave Cure Formula.
- Impose a 15-minute cooling off period. Ask yourself if this is an actual real physical hunger signal or an emotional craving. In most cases, it will be an emotional craving so you will need to be present to what is going on in your life. If you still crave it after the 15 minutes cooling off period, go for it.
- Get away from food. Simple but effective. If you are driving home from work and crave chips, do not stop at the corner store. Drink water as sometimes the need for water gets confused with hunger.
- Breathe and feel. Take time to breathe deeply during the cooling off period and feel what is going on in your life, gut and heart. Ask yourself what emotions are being triggered. Admit to yourself what is happening and that admittance is usually enough to relieve most cravings.
- Identify the emotion and its purpose. Learnings. Go back to the situation, location or event that triggered the urges, cravings or desire to eat and integrate the message. Learn: Why did my body trigger emotional eating to protect me? What did I fear? What made me feel uncomfortable? What was I really seeking protection from? What perspective do I need to change to not feel stress or fear next time? That’s the growth mindset. It’s important to keep a journal and write down your experience throughout this process.
The #1 Strategy to Stop Emotional Eating
Now that you’ve gained some knowledge and understanding on why the traditional approach doesn’t work, let me share with you my #1 strategy to overcoming emotional eating. Claim Your Food Freedom, a low-cost program that will walk you through a 21-Day Journey to learn how to stop emotional eating that keep you stuck and finally stop self-sabotaging with food.
I made it really affordable to help thousands of women to finally Claim their Food Freedom. It is an online course designed to get you the education you need to understand and then transform why you eat and stop being the victim of your food urges.
Overcoming Emotional Eating in a Nutshell
The sad reality is that we’ve been conditioned to believe that what we need to heal emotional eating is by looking for outside fixes. Isn’t it the reason why we’ve all dieted at some point if not our whole life? However, the real solution comes from within us. No one else can do that for us but ourselves. We can be taught how to listen, but the actual process of healing emotional eating can only be done by us, internally. What we need to learn is how to implement this in our daily lives to finally overcome emotional eating and be at peace with food and ourselves.
Are you Inspired?
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