8 Ways To Stop Emotional Eating In Its Tracks
For most of my life, I struggled with my body. I always thought I had to be thinner and more attractive, and my body never seemed to cooperate. For years I ignored my body’s signals, overlooked my hunger, and tried to see how long I could go without eating. I would inevitably end up bingeing — my body’s desperate attempt to feed itself in the face of self-imposed starvation.
I began to see that compulsive eating was my body’s life-saving attempt to help it get the nutrients it needed, and it was also a quick and easy way to “fill up” emotionally. I was using food to satisfy my emotional needs for connection, love, and belonging. I was so determined to be independent (and so afraid of rejection) that I’d neglected to “feed” myself with the love I needed, and food became the substitute.
Learning how to satisfy my emotional needs took time and practice, and healing from emotional eating didn’t happen overnight. As I practiced filling my life with more love, I learned what to do when I felt a binge coming on. Here are some powerful tips for emergency situations when you feel like you might eat the entire kitchen:
1. Relax by taking deep breaths.
A lot of times the urge to eat compulsively comes from a place of fear in the body, especially fear of not getting enough of something you need. In the heat of the moment, when you feel the urge to eat, try to relax. Sometimes just leaning back in your chair and taking three deep breaths is enough to let your body know you are not in danger.
2. Take a deep breath and connect to your body.
Eating can be a subconscious attempt to physically ground you in the here and now when you’re preoccupied with something in the future or past. If you want to binge, come back to the present. Take a breath, feel your body in your chair, notice the temperature of the room, and listen to the sounds around you.
3. Take a few minutes to journal.
Write out what you’re feeling and what you really want. Take a look at yourself from a place of nonjudgment. If you’re at work, keep a document open on your desktop to vent (you might want to delete it at the end of the day!).
4. Get outside.
This isn’t always possible, but if you’re able to go outside and take a breath of fresh air, do it. Bonus points if you can find some grass to lie on or a tree to sit under. Being in nature feels deeply nourishing and can instantly shift your energy from chaotic to calm.
5. Move your body.
If you can’t go outside, try getting up and moving your body to shift your energy. Sometimes all you need to do is stretch, shake, or lie on your back for a few moments to reset your nervous system so your body no longer wants to turn to food for relief.
6. Turn yourself on.
This might sound crazy, but sexually activating yourself is a quick, powerful way to achieve a sense of overall fulfillment. As a young woman, I learned to fear my sexuality, and even felt dirty when I was turned on. But I have discovered that feeling sexy is not only a great way to fill your body with pleasure, but it also makes you more alert, attractive, and open to positive connections. Try moving your hips, listening to a sexy song, or fantasizing for a few minutes to “fill up” and counteract the feeling of emptiness that can bring on a binge.
7. Let yourself eat.
If all else fails, give in to the craving. Sit down without distractions and focus on each bite. Notice how eating feels; staying present with yourself throughout the entire experience. If you can, have something with a low glycemic index, as sometimes a binge comes on due to low blood sugar. Regardless of what you eat, enjoy it. The more you connect with what feels good, the easier it will be for you to tell when you feel full.
8. Find support.
Redefining your relationship with food isn’t easy to do alone. Prevent binges before they start by calling on a friend or coach to guide you in fulfilling your emotional needs. With the right guidance — and a little patience — you can learn to reclaim your body and eat from a place of empowerment and self-love.
Looking for more advice on battling emotional eating? Check out these stories: