Suppressing Emotions With Food Can Lead To Disastrous Results
There is a common misconception that emotional eaters have no control over food, but, really the central problem of this type of dysfunctional eating is that it stems from powerlessness over emotions and not over food.
The need to stuff, cover up and avoid emotions with food is the mainstay of emotional eating, and it can lead to disastrous results.
For many the thought of dealing with negative feelings of pain, sadness and loneliness can be devastating. And, typically this can result from a lifetime of avoidance where the fear of dealing with such feelings has grown into a habitual state.
It is scary to deal with such feelings. But, often avoiding them, and not dealing with them directly by allowing ourselves to feel them and talk them through gives them much more power than they actually have.
Like anything else, processing feelings is a skill that is learned, and mastered with practice.
In order to achieve a healthy level of coping skills it is important to become mindful of what exactly we are feeling, and then we can deal with the emotional experiences as they come.
Being connected with our emotional selves and then reacting with healthy coping methods will replace the habit of reaching for junk food when those feelings come about.
Trigger feelings that lead to emotional eating first need to be recognized as a first step to begin the process of reprogramming reactionary behaviors to replace ice cream with healthier options.
And, dealing with feelings and problems that will inevitably arise in life makes one healthier overall, not just physically, but, emotionally since repressed feelings can lead to depression, pent up anger and illness.
Feelings are also the driving force of personal growth, they mirror our needs and desires, and allow us to grow and find real happiness.
6 Main Emotional States Behind Emotional Eating
Number one on the list is eating behind pain and heartbreak. The old cliché of a woman reaching for ice cream after a break up is all to true in real life.
So many shy away from feeling pain and heartbreak and are so fearful that once they let in they will not be able to handle it and that it may actually kill them. The truth is that they won’t.
In fact, dealing with such challenges only makes us stronger, and eventually leads us to happiness because it allows us to understand and discover our deepest needs.
There is a great song by Pink called “Try” and the chorus goes like this:
“Where there is desire
There is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame
Someone’s bound to get burned
But just because it burns
Doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
You’ve gotta get up and try, and try, and try”
This, in a nutshell is exactly the attitude to take when it comes to dealing with pain. Get up and try, try, try.
You will not die from feeling pain!
But, eating a pint of ice cream, or a box of cookies on the other hand is another matter, because not only are you impacting your health and contributing to obesity that can lead to early death, you are also diminishing your emotional well-being by stuffing powerful emotions that when left unchecked will simmer and brew inside you and eventually can manifest in more negative and self-destructive behaviors and ill health.
Talking to a trusted source is one of the best ways to walk through feelings of pain and heartbreak.
Crying is a powerful tool as well.
Even if you cry or talk for several days, it’s okay, let yourself naturally walk through those emotions and feel them! As you do, you will feel them lessen and diminish until the process of recovery is complete.
Talking and crying is a release, binging on a junk food is the exact opposite: stuffing.
Playing a song that touches you personally and motivates you to heal can also work to process such feelings.
Finding comfort in things that bring you joy through times of struggle can be powerful tools. Consider what you value most, like spending time with family, pets, a hobby, a good book, gardening, and anything else that makes you happy.
Loneliness is another emotion where the self-destructive habit of using food for comfort rears its ugly head. In this case, food becomes like a friend that brings companionship and comfort.
And in reality food is comforting, it releases “feel good” chemicals in the brain that mimic some powerful illicit drugs, like cocaine and heroin. But, just like the perceived nirvana felt from those drugs is a lie, so food tricks us into believing that this is the solution to feelings of loneliness.
Food does not really cure those feelings at all, it just covers them up without ever really coping with the root cause or providing a permanent and healthy solution.
And, the overeating that is typically involved in this case packs on weight, which, can lead to more loneliness as a result of isolation related to a poor body image.
Deep seeded loneliness is best addressed in a professional setting with a mental health counselor where one can address and identify the individual obstacles that prevent them from living a satisfying social life.
But, if loneliness is an occasional or acute problem then there are many better alternatives to eating it away, and these are just a few examples:
- Join a social club
- Get a pet
- Go to hobby based online chat rooms
- Join a gym and meet people
- Call a friend and go to a movie
- Have parties and invite friends over
- Get a good book and delve into another world
Anxiety is a common emotion felt by many that is contributed to by stress, but, sometimes can be a real medical problem that needs to be addressed by mental health professionals.
If anxiety causes you to eat it is important to find out what causes it, and to find better coping skills.
Some easy at home remedies for anxiety include:
- Vigorous exercise
- Hot baths
- Aromatherapy with soothing and calming essential oils
Did you know that fatigue can often be confused with hunger?
Are you just tired or are you really hungry?
Many times people over eat or eat unnecessarily because they just need sleep. Think about it, and assess those situations and then take a nap instead of taking a cookie.
Boredom is one of the most common causes of eating unnecessary food. In this case it is very important to learn to identify the cues and habits that you have developed in regards to eating when you are simply bored.
Many people do not even realize they are doing it. Mindfulness is key here, and it may require the need to keep a food journal and to identify patterns.
Here are some better options instead of using junk food:
- Take a walk
- Read a book
- Turn on music and dance around
- Go to a movie
- Take a bath
- Call a friend
- Play computer games
- Clean your house
- Reorganize a closet
The list goes on and on. It is also beneficial to make a list of activities that you enjoy doing and also those that need to be done regularly (cleaning, organizing), then refer to that list whenever you have the desire to eat that stems from boredom.
Stress eating is another common condition that plagues many. Stress is a common condition that ranges in intensity, but, is always a part of life. Stress eating can really pack on the pounds and contribute to obesity from mindless eating that becomes a self-destructive habit.
And, unfortunately, as with all other types of emotional eating, rarely do people reach for vegetables during times of stress, it is typically sugary and fatty foods that are empty calories.
Dealing with stress is important not only in regards to emotional overeating, but, because chronic stress, when left unchecked can lead to a vast variety of health conditions.
Once again, it will take effort to recognize your eating habits as a result of stress and to become mindful when you eat during stress instead of for real hunger.
As you learn your triggers, you will also need to learn and begin to implement healthy stress relief tools, such as:
- Regular relaxation time
Other Healing Tips To Stop Emotional Eating
Before emotional eating can be addressed and dealt with it is critical to identify your own habits. A food diary is helpful in this case to track when and why you eat to stuff emotions.
Emotional eating is a conditioned response that is stimulated over time that turns into a habit. Feel sad, eat ice cream. Feel stressed, eat cookies. Feel bored, reach for the fridge.
Breaking these habits is essential and it takes awareness, and an active effort to replace the food with appropriate and healthy coping skills.
Pause Before Giving Into Cravings
When you get a craving for a certain food, pause for at least 5 minutes. This is useful because a lot of emotional eating is mindless and automatic. By pausing before jumping to satisfy the craving you give yourself time to make a wiser decision.
Take it one minute at a time if 5 minutes is too long. Don’t deny the food forever, but, just for the moment.
Become aware of how you feel at the moment the craving hits and write it down.
Think about how you will feel after eating the food. Affirm that you are stronger than the craving and that it will pass. Repeat that over and over.
Journal the entire experience each time it happens, even if you wound up giving into the craving.
This process is a learning and awareness experience, it can help set up a different response next time a craving creeps in.
It is critical to accept the fact that negative feelings will come and they will go. They are a part of life. They will not kill you, or destroy you, they are just a part of life.
Emotional eating to cover those feelings is destructive and is not an effective solution, even though it feels good at the time.
Learn to accept feelings as a part of life, and learn healthy coping skills that offer permanent and truly effective solutions that will serve you for life.
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To your success!
The Great Mindset Team.