Addressing Emotional Eating

You wake up on Monday morning, determined to start your perfect eating day. You eat your cereal you measured, to make sure you control your portions. For lunch you have another Instagram worthy meal, followed by an apple with 8 almonds (yes, you counted) for your afternoon snack.

And then comes the dinner – you feel tired and just want to relax. Being in control is quite exhausting, so you allow yourself to “cheat” and have a dessert tonight, instead of the weekend, as the diet plan suggests.

And then you feel like you blew it again. Failed once more. Ruined your perfect eating day. Where is your willpower? You feel upset and go for another serving of the “unhealthy” desert you crave, and then another one…

You feel embarrassed, ashamed, defeated. You wonder why you feel out of control with food and look for another set of eating rules to help you get back “on track”.

It’s estimated that about 30% of people seeking weight loss experience emotional eating. Food restriction is the main factor that fuels a sense of deprivation, resulting in feeling out of control around food. Another diet would not help getting out of the vicious cycle, but may complicate the things further.

Emotional eating has been demonized in our culture, which is dominated by body-shaming fat-phobic messages.

As human beings we experience a range of emotions, some are more easy to cope with than others. Trying to help yourself with getting through feelings you find hard to tolerate – is a form of self care. And turning to food for comfort is a way to restore emotional balance, even if temporarily.

When you approach an act of turning to food to ease your emotional discomfort from a non-judgemental, compassionate perspective, it changes the whole experience. It will help you shift from an “automatic” mode of eating (often in secrecy) to more mindful and conscious, which in turn, helps to reduce episodes of emotional eating.

Practicing pausing to stop the automatic reponse and recognize the need behind urges to tend to food, enables you to choose to respond to that need in the best way you can at the moment, which is an important skill to develop when learning to approach your emotions wiht kindness. And by expanding your toolbox for emotional regulation, you can create a range of alternative strategies to process your emotions and restore emotional balance.