Best Tips To Stop Emotional Eating and overeating
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Even without emotional eating , it is a lot more difficult for us women to lose weight than it is for men .Even at 30 and even more so around and after menopause. And for some a small number of us there can be other factors like an underperforming thyroid.
However, for a large majority of us, emotions are the driving factor that gets us from the couch to the fridge.
North Americans are not happy. More than 50% hate their jobs. Around 50% of marriages end in divorce and of those who remain married a small percentage – some say around 15% – are happy. Over 20% of the population is drinking to excess or using drugs – and that’s only the ones we know about.
This sad state of affairs has created a world where food has become the legal and acceptable drug of choice. The term “emotional eating” has never been as present as it is today with devastating consequences for our waistlines and our collective health.
Not helping the situation are the gigantic servings in popular restaurants and the millions of fast food places all over, offering what they say is cheap (I’ll write about that in another post, because no they are not cheap) convenient food-like stuff.
If you recognize yourself as an emotional eater, here are some ways you may have fallen into that habit and what you can do instead – must do – to take care of your physical and emotional health and transform your life.
The very first step is to identify the feeling before you reach for the extra-food. Try to find out what you are feeling at this very moment? Sad, bored, angry, lonely, or anxious? Once you have identified the feeling, take an action that will soothe it, without resorting to extra-food, using the tips below. Be kind to yourself. You did not start emotional eating last week. It will take time to make changes in your eating habits.
Stop Emotional Eating
If you overeat when you feel bored, find your passion. One of the top qualities associated with happiness is curiosity. Not surprising. Look at young children. They want to see and touch and do everything possible. People who keep on learning for the sake of learning are some of the happiest around. To find something that interests you, look around, look back when you were a child or young adult.
Maybe you did not have a chance to take piano or singing lessons because there was not enough money in the family. Find yourself a piano or singing teacher. Ever wanted to be a ballerina? You may never make it to the Met but you can take ballet lessons, just for your own pleasure. Look here to find a class you might want to take.
If you overeat when you feel lonely, get your list of favourite people and get in touch. Whether it’s because you are away from family or not being able to see them often or feeling lonely because of a disconnection in your relationship(s), loneliness is a 21st century disease. If you can call, visit, email, text a loved one, do it. If you feel lonely because there is a disconnection in your primary relationship, reach out. Tell how you feel, without accusing. Hopefully the response will be a loving one.
I know from experience that it’s not easy to reach out – my early life experience has left me worrying about bothering people. So now I talk to myself into doing it even when it feels uncomfortable.
It takes on person to reach out to possibly repair and re-connect. Try it. If you consistently get a no-response or a negative one, see if you need a serious talk or a counselling session to help you decide whether to stay or leave.
If you overeat when you feel unloved (and unlovable), be loving to yourself. Eating too much or the wrong stuff is abandoning yourself. If you need love, a cookie or the whole box will not deliver love. Look at a picture of yourself as a baby and ask what that little one needs right now. It might be a nap, or a nice walk, or watching a funny movie, or being with someone who you know totally loves you (yes, even your mother counts) and tell them you need a hug or a cuddle. Ask for what you need from your partner, your friends, your family.
Look at the ways you have been unloving toward yourself: overeating, not sleeping enough, too much tv, no exercise, not allowing yourself time off, a nice meal, a trip, help around the house, etc.
If you overeat when you feel disrespected, respect yourself and speak up – unless it’s physically dangerous to do so. In that case, find a safe space.
Not standing up for yourself is one of the worse things you can do for both your physical an mental health. The stress hormones you secrete are poison.
If you overeat when you are angry, first process what happened. Don’t take it out on yourself with food. Anger is a very healthy emotion unless it’s your default place. Anger can show up when someone has violated our boundaries, or when we see someone else being treated badly. If there is a cause you feel particularly passionate about, get involved as a volunteer. If someone repeatedly violates your boundaries, remove yourself, permanently if things don’t change.
If you overeat because you hate your job, make a plan to find work where you will be happier. Take a class, network to see what jobs are available, either in your present company or outside. If possible, ask for a transfer to another department. Investigate what education you would need to get the work you really want.
I did just that when I worked in the government, in administration and I was bored to death and I hated the work. See this past post where I talk about it. I can assure you that when I first tried to imagine getting the Master’s degree I would need, I totally believed it was not possible. Fast forward 7 years later, I had the B.A. and the M.A. and I was in a totally new career. If I could do it, you can too.
If you overeat because you feel old, put on your favourite music and dance. Watch movies you liked when you were younger. Treat yourself to a haircut. If you are still wearing the same clothes you were wearing 20 years ago, treat yourself to a few new pieces of clothing. No need to break the bank. Consignement stores hold treasures at basement bargain prices. If you feel old, stop referring to your age. Look in the mirror, smile and say an age about 20 years younger than your chronological age. Imagine yourself being 20 years younger.
Some of the best ways to feel younger is to be physically active through sports, or other activities. I do ballroom dancing and I just started argentine tango. I also do taichi, swim and walk regularly. The other way to feel younger is to remain mentally active. Read, learn new things. I learned Italian a few years ago – one year of weekly classes. I am now learning technical stuff related to my blog and although I find it extremely challenging, it’s keeping my brain active and that’s good.
If you overeat or practice emotional eating because you are unhappy in a loveless, or toxic relationship, and you have given it your best shot, take care of yourself and leave. Consult a professional to clarify what you want and need to do. You deserve to be with someone who cherishes you and you cherish too. Some relationships, through no one’s fault, should have never been in the first place. Others are abusive and toxic. Both are hard to leave but your mental, and physical health deserve better.
Finally, there is another reason some of us overeat that is not emotional eating: we love the taste of food and are gluttons! I know some of my overeating is simply because it’s so good -I am not really hungry but that cake is divine, or the pizza to die for. I sometimes do this when I bake a cake, or a pie, raspberry pie. Or with chinese food, my very favorite. One thing to ask before taking that second helping is “Am I really hungry? Do I want to regret this? Will this sabotage my work of the last few weeks? Is it worth it?” That kind of interior monologue can help, sometimes not. Ideally it does not happen too often.
If you resonate with any of the above triggers for overeating and emotional eating, surround yourself with people who are self-loving and manage their emotions in a healthy way. They are the kind of people who will not sabotage your efforts at a healthier lifestyle and plan non-food activities with the others: hiking, a movie, an outdoor concert, a play, going dancing, a swim at the lake, etc.
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