When the topic of “emotional eating” is brought up, we automatically conclude that it’s wrong. However, I was talking with a counselor who specializes in disordered eating problems, and she said that it’s not that it’s ‘bad.’ In fact, we all do it, we eat in celebration and sadness alike. It’s okay. It becomes a problem when it’s out of control (meaning you feel you aren’t able to control it, it’s controlling you), and it’s interfering with your goals.
I think the first thing you should do is identify when it’s a problem and identify what about it is a problem. If you need help figuring this out, I’m an expert at helping people talk this through.
Also, you need to give yourself permission to feel. Feeling is not the problem! Feeling is inevitable. You just need to have non-food ways to “cope” with those feelings.
We are all in need of endorphins (feel good chemicals) to help us cope.
As kids, we get those endorphins from all sorts of things – playing outside, singing, dancing, playing with friends, physical activity, etc. As we get older those things drop away, and many of us hone in on food for endorphins. It becomes a trained response, like pavlov’s dog. We are looking for that release. At first, food just tastes good and makes us happy. But as we train ourselves to turn to food, we get conditioned to get the release from just thinking about eating the food before we actually eat it. In other words, you get the release even before you engage in the behavior.
Unfortunately, retraining yourself will mean that you won’t get the release until you engage in the behavior. For example, exercise releases endorphins – but it can take 10-15 minutes before you get the release.
Come up with a list of non-food things you enjoy and start training yourself to get endorphins sooner from those things. You train by doing the same thing consistently and persistently. Eventually, you’ll begin to experience that release sooner.
Here’s some things that come to mind: dancing (hello 80’s pop songs, or is that just me? Lol), gardening, walking, doing puzzles, adult coloring books, painting, playing a musical instrument, playing sports, time with friends/family, knitting, hitting golf balls, prayer, journaling, reading a good fiction book… think of things you enjoy. Make a list. Start working on consistently turning to one or two items you can do regularly and conveniently enough. Then have a couple more for those “special occasions.”
You can do this!
Emotions aren’t bad. Eating out of control is.