4 Tips to Help You End the Cycle of Emotional Eating
If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.
This is a big one. The majority of people I know struggle or have struggled with emotional eating, and I am no exception.
Do you crave chocolate-covered espresso beans when you’re upset, sad or burned out?
Do you find yourself reaching for that bottle of wine after a long day listening to a co-worker bitch at the office all day?
Do you find yourself in an endless loop of eating everything in sight and then restricting yourself so much to end up doing it again the next day?
Do you look at food as the enemy to your happiness or success?
Then this post is for you.
Emotional eating is a mountain to overcome, but most of the time it has absolutely nothing to do with the actual food you are consuming and everything to do with your internal relationship with yourself. After overcoming binge eating and emotional eating myself, I’m going to share some of the best tips that worked for me and that are recommended by other health coaches and health professionals, but as always, I cannot recommend counseling and therapy enough. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for a few resources if you need professional help with disordered eating or an unhealthy relationship with food.
Here are a few ways to get you started with curbing your emotional eating habits:
1. Give yourself compassion.
There is nothing wrong with you. You aren’t damaged. You aren’t any less worthy for struggling with emotional eating, or any kind of eating habit, for that matter. I want to commend you for noticing you are struggling and that you are here searching for help. You may be in a dark place right now, but I know you can make the change. Know you are capable and worthy to make the change you desire. You’ve made it this far in life, so give yourself some credit, man. You can do this.
2. Be curious about your behaviors.
Are you overeating or under-eating when you are stressed? Sad? Excited? Overwhelmed? Are you not sure what you feel when you start a binge? That’s OK, too. Allow yourself to feel these feelings. A lot of times, people use food and eating to mask feelings without facing them head-on. So, I want you to take a minute. What are you feeling before you eat, during eating, and after eating? Take a breath, try to identify what these emotions are, where you feel them in your body and perhaps what triggered these emotions. This sounds much easier than it is, but being mindful of your feelings and allowing yourself to feel them without judgment will give you insight relating back to your triggers, or reasons why you reach for that row of Oreos after fighting with your mom for the thousandth time.
3. Practice “capital-S” self-care.
Learning to take care of your Self (yes, “capital-S” Self) starts with listening to what Self needs. Your Self is who you are to your core — it’s your curious, passionate, true, unchanging essence. Self is not composed of just your physical self, but your mental, emotional and spiritual self as well. When you feel the urge to emotionally eat, ask your Self what it really needs and listen to the response. Self might need some time alone, some exercise, social connection, spiritual insight or maybe just rest. Learning to listen to Self does not come easily if you have spent your whole life ignoring Self and self-care, but I promise it gets easier with practice. Things like meditation, yoga, writing or journaling will make your connection to Self a little more accessible if you’re having trouble connecting to Self. Give yourself grace and compassion while trying to listen to what your body and your Self’s need before reaching for food in an emotional state.
4. Make an escape plan.
If you are feeling that urge to emotionally eat or binge eat, make an escape plan ahead of time. Do it now! Think of a supportive and non-judgmental friend who you can text when you’re feeling an urge and keep you accountable. Hang a sign for your snack cupboard or drawer with questions to ask yourself before opening the door (for example, what are you feeling right now? Are you truly hungry or are you emotionally eating? What does Self need right now?) Open up to your partner about your struggles and ask them not to keep your “trigger foods” in the same snack cupboard as yours. Make a promise to yourself that you will walk 10 minutes around your apartment complex before diving into that sacred Monday night bottle of wine. Whatever your escape plan is, write it down and make a promise to yourself that next time you feel like emotionally eating, you will put your escape plan into practice.
Whatever you are going through right now, I know you can overcome it. The trick is, you need to convince yourself that you can overcome it, too. Give yourself grace and know you are worthy of the changes you desire. Reach out to your support network and resources for help because no one was meant to do this life thing on their own.
Professional Resources on Disordered Eating:
Here are a few resources to get you started on finding a health professional to help you on your journey to freedom of emotional eating. Always seek help from a health professional if you feel like you have an eating disorder or an unhealthy relationship with food. These hotlines are a great resource if you do not know where to start with receiving help. It can be scary, making a call to a hotline where you don’t know who is on the other end of the phone. However, it’s important to remember that staff members at reputable hotlines are thoroughly trained in eating disorders, know how to provide support and can direct you to the proper treatment resources.
National Eating Disorders Association Helpline: 1-800-931-2237
Something Fishy: 1-866-418-1207
Hopeline Network: 1-800-442-4673
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders: 1-630-577-1330
Overeaters Anonymous: 1-505-891-2664
Photo by Jarek Ceborski on Unsplash