Emotional Eating is Stressful.

February 8, 2018


Many of the people I've worked with who are clinically obese (or just want to lose a few pounds), in some way have shown me that they have been operating on negative thought processes regarding their health. Whether it's their opinion on what exactly it'll take to lose the weight, or a distortion of proper time management, or an overwhelming fear of other judgment for wanting to be healthier...there's usually something wrong with the way they think about their health.


Weight loss is just as much a mental process as it is a physical one. It's beneficial to check your thinking before beginning any health/weight loss program. Knowing your "why", when wanting to lose weight and improve your health is a key factor in being consistent. Besides that, attacking negative thoughts like: not being able to "stick with it" or failure is something that many people will have to actively work on before, throughout, and even after their weight loss. Many times emotional eating, which could be triggered by almost anything, is a culprit in persistent weight gain (whether that weight gain be over months or years). 


If you realize that you engage in emotional eating, try to identify the trigger(s). Once you've identified the reason(s) why you cope by eating, you can begin to build better coping. It may take time and additional support to get to this point. That's why I suggest reaching out to a counselor and/or health coach for help. 


Emotional eating, or "stress eating", is not just the lack of self control... it's the use of food to fill a void...as a band aid. For those who are hesitant to seek a professional for help with this disordered eating habit, the following suggestions may be beneficial:


1. Create mindfulness around your eating. When you feel yourself slipping down that slope, be conscious of what, when, how and especially WHY you are mindlessly snacking or eating extra/bigger portions. 


2. Realize food is not the only way to manage a difficult time or situation. If you weren't able to stress eat, could you find another more positive way of dealing with your stress? Finding positive/healthy coping strategies; but, more importantly realize you don't have to harbor negative feelings...which leads us to the next point.


3. Allow yourself to feel, process, then let go of negative feelings before they begin to control your eating behavior. Without the ability to deal with life’s shortcomings and negative feelings, a person is vulnerable to emotional eating. While stress eating feels good in the moment, the feelings of guilt and regret on top of the emotion you're already feeling, feels even worse.


4. Appreciate the way your body, no matter how it looks. Body hate is one of the main contributing factors to emotional eating. Being able to accept your body, at whatever stage is extremely important. So many people on a weight loss journey, including myself at one point, wait until they hit a "goal weight" to appreciate their body, but doing this is shorting oneself of all the gems along the way. Love your body unconditionally, not because of what it looks like, but because it houses your heart, mind, and soul.


5. Get adequate sleep; and, don't let yourself get too hungry by allowing too much time go by between when you eat. When a person doesn't get enough sleep on a consistent basis, his or her body releases stress hormones that throw off hunger signals, making them WANT to eat more. Also, when one goes too long between eating, his/her body goes through a series of changes; and shortly put...hunger pangs intensify (due to the depletion of the body's energy source), and he/she can feel like eat everything in the house. 



I've outlined practical ways to address emotional eating, but the most important thing to remember her is having self awareness enough to ask for help for negative feelings that lead to stress eating. We are all human, so were are allowed passes to get off track every once in a while; but if you notice stress eating is an ongoing problem, get support for it. 


You can overcome this, if you resolve to do so.

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