Have you ever wondered, “why the heck do I keep on eating late at night?” Or, “why can’t I lose this extra 15 pounds?” Or, have you ever found yourself reaching for the chocolate out of boredom or for no apparent reason? Well, I’m here to tell you that you are not alone! You might just need to do a little digging and look at things that are going on below the surface…literally.
Emotional eating is, in short, eating for reasons other than hunger.
You might be eating out of boredom or as a distraction. You might be eating because you feel sad, tired, angry, guilty, happy, etc. Food might even be used as a reward. Many people go to food for various emotional needs they might be experiencing. And, as we are emotional beings, going to an unhealthy snack to forget about our sadness can be easier than sitting with our feelings experiencing the pain of whatever the sadness is related to.
Here, I want to outline a first step of how you can find out if you are an emotional eater. Next, I’ll give you some basic tips for breaking out of eating habits related to what might be going on under the surface.
Let’s start with asking yourself the following questions. Do you ever:
- Eat past when you are full?
- Eat for comfort?
- Eat to distract yourself from painful emotions?
- Eat alone at random times/places?
- Eat while you are doing other things?
- Feel a loss of control around food or certain foods?
- Consider food (even a meal) a reward for something?
- Feel like you have to finish your plate all the time?
- Find yourself around other people who soothe their feelings with food?
If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, there may be something deeper at play behind your daily food choices. The first step is to identify that there is a reaction that is taking place. The second step is intervening and finding another way to cope with the emotion or feeling you are experiencing. Take some time doing the following to start breaking free from the emotional eating cycle and start getting back in tune with what your body needs with these...
Tips to break out of the cycle of emotional eating:
- Start to slow down and begin listening to what your body is telling you at meals, snacks, or when you're walking toward the pantry.
- Take a minute to identify what you’re feeling and what emotions you may be trying to avoid or forget about. Write those emotions down; journaling can be a big help.
- Try eating with other people in designated areas for eating. Instead of chilling on the couch, take your plate to the dining room or kitchen.
- Stop a minute and think about what exactly you are putting in your body. What nutrients will you be getting, what flavors will the food provide, where did the food come from?
- Put away distractions and simply eat. Turn the TV off, put your phone away, stash the textbook or novel.
- Take all of your senses to dinner. Touch, smell, taste, etc. and experience the meal in front of you. There is so much more to food than just the taste!
Congratulations! You have taken the first step towards intuitive eating and emotional awareness with food. In our desire to help you live a healthy lifestyle, we understand the importance of developing a mind-to-body connection and a heart-to-body connection. Often, emotions are an overwhelming world. If you are struggling with understanding your emotions, we suggest getting support from your family, your community, or pursuing professional help. As we prioritize health and start working towards lifestyle changes, we must confront the hidden things that are related to what we are putting in our mouths. Remember, the goal is freedom and a lifestyle of health. Consistency is key here. Start putting little habits in place and it will start unlocking a better understanding about your relationship to food.
Share your experience with us by leaving a comment below. Have questions or want to learn more? Ask here; we're always listening!
Want more tips to overcome stress eating? Read more: 5 Ways to Overcome Stress Eating: Recognizing the Cycle and Finding a Way Out
Written for Fitness Blender by Natalia Holguin, RDN LDN CPT
Certified Nutrition Coach
- Frayn, Mallory et al. “Emotional eating and weight regulation: a qualitative study of compensatory behaviors and concerns.” Journal of eating disorders vol. 6 23. 14 Sep. 2018, doi:10.1186/s40337-018-0210-6
- Trimbole, E. Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works