I used to be an emotional eater. I would eat when I was sad, I would eat when I was angry and I would even eat when I was feeling happy and celebrating. I loved food, I loved cooking and I loved eating!
This became a real challenge for me when I began to gain weight. Slowly at first, but over time the extra pounds became more and more noticeable. It soon became something that I felt ashamed, embarrassed and self conscious about...
It wasn’t long before my desire to lose this excess weight led me to the path of dieting. The promise of quick weight loss seemed too good to be true. I became a yo-yo dieter, armed with my all-too-common catch phrase, “my diet starts on Monday.”
My diets would always start well. My focus, determination and willpower kept me strong, until, the day that my emotional stress kicked in. My trigger was always emotional and I would reach out to food to soothe and comfort me.
But, as I gained awareness of my emotional eating patterns, I was able to lose weight for good.
Emotional eating is a call for emotional healing.
Have you noticed that your desire to eat emotionally is always preceded with an 'uncomfortable' feeling? When this happens, you can choose to numb the feeling and eat something to make yourself feel better or you can choose to go on a journey of emotional healing.
On my weight loss journey, I discovered lots of ideas that helped me to break free of dieting and start healing my body. Here are 7 secrets that I uncovered on my healing journey that helped me to address my emotional eating so that I could start losing weight naturally.
Secret #1 - Stop dieting: Dieting is a vicious cycle of self-abuse. Depriving yourself of food or restricting your food intake is not the path to losing weight for good. It is a form of control and it indicates that you feel out of control in other areas of your life.
Secret #2 - Realize there is no ‘one size fits all’ diet: Even the experts disagree about what you should and shouldn’t be eating. You do not have to wait for them to agree! Instead, experiment with eating healthy foods that are found in nature. Start by eating a high percentage of real foods such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains, seeds and drinking water, knowing that you can tweak things as you go along. You don’t have to get it perfect, especially at the beginning – give yourself permission to make mistakes and then make changes as you go along.
Secret #3 - Eliminate all fake foods, fast foods and highly processed foods: This includes soft drinks, refined white sugar and flour and any other food that is man-made, such as artificial sweeteners, colorings, flavorings and preservatives. These are not foods, just food products. They are foreign to your body and your body does not know what to do with them. It’s best to avoid them.
Secret #4 - Shift your focus to health and nutrition: Eat fresh foods that are high in nutrition as these are the foods that are easily available for your body. These foods are alkalizing, nourishing and healing. These are foods that your body can recognize, digest, assimilate and eliminate effectively.
Secret #5 - Experiment with food to find healthy substitute foods: Find healthy substitutes for your favorite ‘comfort’ foods. For example, instead of processed chocolate, try organic chocolate, dark chocolate, carob-based treats or raw chocolate. If you experience bread cravings try eating organic wholemeal breads or gluten free breads instead. If you experience cheese cravings, try goats’ cheese (or if you want to get creative), learn how to make your own nut cheese.
Secret #6 - Recognize ‘emotional-eating’ patterns: Become conscious of your emotional eating triggers and patterns. Ask yourself questions and use this clarity to help you understand yourself and your feelings. Am I physical hungry or emotionally hungry? What triggers your emotional eating? What types of foods do you crave? Do these cravings occur at regular times? What are your favorite foods to comfort you and make you feel better? What emotions are you really feeling?
Secret #7 – Express yourself: Emotional eating starts with a thought for a craving, such as “I want ______” (fries, crisps, cake, chips, chocolate, cookies).
Instead of acting on your thoughts, express yourself by doing something physical or creative. Physical activities might be to try drinking a glass of water, going for a walk, doing some yoga or playing with your children. Creative activities might be painting, scribbling, writing, studying, singing or reading a book.
It is possible to end emotional eating.
The desire for emotional eating happens when you are feeling repressed or denied. Over time, when your feelings are not expressed, they can become stuck in your body. If left unaddressed, they manifest in your life; as low self esteem, food cravings, emotional eating and, over time, excess weight and chronic health problems.
So, the next time you feel the desire to eat emotionally, realize that you are being called to look a little deeper at what is really going on inside of you and how you are really feeling. Working with identifying and expressing your emotions will end emotional eating and allow emotional healing to happen instead.
In my book, Losing Weight is a Healing Journey I talk more about the process of understanding that emotional eating is a call for emotionally healing.