Stop emotional eating

Switching it up today! No video, partly because I couldn’t find any time with nice weather to record, and partly because there was just too much to say and I needed to organize my thoughts a little better. Writing does that for me. Let me know how you like this format vs. video!

I used to eat not only when my body needed it, but when my soul did, too.

As if there was some sort of a stomach-heart tunnel, I downed bowlfuls of mac ‘n cheese and ice cream to fill my emotional holes. But when I would collapse, feeling like I was going to explode, I regretted it.

Every single time I regretted it. And yet, I kept doing it, day after day.

Post 24 emotional eatingSometimes I would be good and eat clean for a week. Then, in a binge worthy of the biggest sumo-wrestlers, I would consume half my weight in food, and regret it enough for the entire week.

The thing is, it did feel good. For the brief period of time eating was actually involved, I was too preoccupied with shoving food down my throat to think about my problems. It was a brief escape from the stress, anger, or fear that had been plaguing me.

But no matter how much food I stuffed down, my stomach could only hold so much. Eventually, I’d be feeling like a balloon that’s about to pop, guilty and frustrated, and whenever I closed my eyes my problems were still there. Eating had not magically made them go away.

The time came when I had put some weight on and started trying to lose it. After low-carbing, high-carbing, veganing, paleo-ing, I finally found my way down the scale with intuitive eating.

The trick? This one limited eating in both frequency and quantity to a measurable external factor: hunger. Emotions, no matter how strong, never quite translated into hunger.

Although it took some self-control and much journaling, I eventually learned to abide by the natural rhythm of my body, curbed emotional eating, and learned some valuable lessons along the way.

1. You’re doing this for a reason. Find it.

Overeating is hurting you. But, despite the fact that you know it, you just can’t stop. You always seem to take two steps forward and three steps back.

The reason why it feels so impossible to stop a bad habit is because you subconsciously have a reason for doing it. So, the first question you must ask yourself is, “how is emotional eating benefitting me?”

In my case, emotional eating maintained my victim status. I gave so much power to my emotions that I considered them at fault for causing me to gorge myself and the resulting guilt and weight gain.

Once I realized this, the solution was not so difficult. All I needed was to not allow myself to be a victim anymore. While still not easy, this was easier than fighting against a subconscious part of myself.

What’s your reason?

2. You don’t taste your food

Just how fast do you shove spoonful after spoonful in your mouth when you binge? Do you ever have any time to taste it, or is all you notice the feeling of a full mouth and distending belly?

Isn’t it ironic that when you overeat you stuff yourself with foods that taste good, but never actually take the time to experience the pleasure in their taste? Why are you punishing yourself like this?

This one takes a lot of work, but remind yourself to actually taste your food every time you eat. Only put one bite at a time in your mouth, and don’t take another one before you finish chewing. Putting the fork down in between bites helps me from slipping back into the old familiar pattern.

Also, be sure not to distract your senses while you eat. I sometimes read while I eat, but I mostly try to enjoy and honor my food for the nutrition and taste it brings. It feels like I’m honoring myself at the same time.

Which brings me to my next point…

3. You don’t see your worth

How do you treat yourself? Do you love and honor yourself, like the precious butterfly you are? Or do you treat yourself like a useless rag you keep in a corner, musty with tears and heavy with shame?

When you overeat, you are punishing yourself because you see yourself as worthless.

The more blame and shame you fling at yourself, the more you’re going to punish yourself in other ways (like emotional eating).

This revolves around a bigger issue. You believe you are less than others. Less than who you really are.

But you really are equal to everyone else in this world. We’re all the same. We all come from the same earth, and we all return to the same earth.

If you want to defeat emotional eating, you have to refuse to punish yourself.

That’s why your motivation must come from love… love for yourself because you’re tired of hurting yourself; love for your children because you want to inspire them to lead a healthy life. It can’t be for any external reason. Only love can give you the push you need to stop hurting yourself.

Eventually, you will learn that you have much more power than you think. You will learn that conquering emotional eating is conquering  yourself. And you are the only one who can do that.

4. You can run, but you can’t hide

No matter how much you eat, your feelings are always there when you are done. Emotional eating numbs you to them for a short time, but then they come back.

They come back stronger. And they come back bringing the guilt you feel from punishing your body.

Then confusion starts to set in. Why am I doing this to myself? Why are my feelings coming back? Why didn’t eating take them away?

Then you go to the fridge to eat more, because this confusion, along with the blame and guilt and fear and frustration are just too much to handle.

And so starts a vicious cycle. One that you cannot end unless you realize that the only way out is through.

Over time, as you work through your emotions and drop their weight, you will feel stronger, and you will start honoring your body. You will conquer yourself with love, and you will shed the weight off of your shoulders.

One day, your motivation will become your reality. On this day, you will look back and say, I won.

Share your story!

Have you crossed paths with emotional eating? How have you defeated it, or how are you defeating it? Your story can help inspire someone who reads it just when they need it the most.

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  1. HI Laura
    Thank you for sharing your story.
    I used to eat throughout the day.Some days healthy foods and some days not so healthy foods.
    I now eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and try and not snack in between.I do not succeed all the time but am getting better.If I go to a party or at weekends with families I do not strictly adhere to my routine and may have a snack every now and then.
    Every time you eat your digestion system will start working to digest the food. If you eat constantly the digestion system does not get any respite. This makes me feel a lot better. I drink water or herbal teas throughout the day.

    • Raj,
      Yes, I have also found that snacking is not a good everyday method. Of course, there should be moderation in everything – a little fun never harmed anyone. Thank you for sharing your input!

  2. Laura, this is such a brilliant post with great advice. As someone who struggled with several eating disorders and now works with women who struggle with compulsive and emotional eating, I know how hard it is to find peace around food. But yes, listening to your true hunger and not punishing yourself – ever – are a must. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Anne – thank you! Yes, there is just so much to say that you simply can’t fit into a single post or video. I think the work you do is wonderful, please don’t stop 🙂

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