Have you ever felt compelled to keep stuffing yourself to the point of discomfort? Maybe you’ve found yourself reaching for a bag of cookies when you’re home alone, tired and lonely? Perhaps it’s even healthy foods you’ve overeaten, such as a pound of cashews. If so, you are one of many who have eaten for emotional reasons. I’ve found it to be the number one sabotaging factor for my clients in discovering their perfect weight.
Emotional and disordered eating can wreak havoc on your mental, emotional, and physical health if left unaddressed, and, not to mention, the massive amount of time and energy it takes up, leaving you much less able to focus on what really matters in your life: your dreams, relationships, contributing, having fun.
Yet, despite what your reason and intelligence tells you to do (i.e. give up the emotional eating), you are unable to stop yourself from doing it yet again.
Emotional eating can be a very challenging habit to release. In fact, it is typically the single biggest reason that people fail to lose the weight they’d like.
95-98% of diets fail, and emotional eating is a key contributor to this discouraging statistic.
Why Emotional Eating Has Such a Hold:
- It can be a deeply ingrained behavior in you.
- You have been doing it for a very long time, both consciously and unconsciously.
- It can be frightening to consider your life when you don’t numb yourself with food, even if it is a conscious choice you are making for your own wellbeing.
- Processed foods and junk foods are highly addictive, so even without the emotional component, they can be extremely hard to give up.
- You are overwhelmed at how to start identifying and serving your emotional needs.
- You haven’t cemented effective ways of addressing your emotions.
What is needed to break the cycle of emotional eating and its consequences for your health, happiness, and energy is support, compassion, guidance, kindness, and a safe space of no judgment where you can release your fears, identify your emotions, triggers, and what your real needs are, and then put in place a toolbox of strategies and methods to satisfy your emotional needs in a way that doesn’t require reaching for a chocolate bar.
With consistent application of these tools plus a supportive environment where you are guided gently, but purposefully, to heal and empower yourself, you can move from a damaged, painful relationship with food and your body to a joyful, liberated one. When you have been living in a heavy, toxic body with unaddressed, toxic emotions, achieving freedom and lightness in mind and body is truly priceless.
5 Tips from My Health, Hot & Energized Program to Start Creating Your Toolbox of Strategies to Overcome Emotional Eating
1. Identify What’s Really Going On
If you eat without being truly hungry, you are emotionally eating. Yet, most people don’t stop for long enough to really see what emotion they are actually feeling before they stuff it down with food. Train yourself to stop when you have the urge to eat and ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” If the answer is “no,” ask yourself, “What emotion am I really feeling?” This alone can bring so much awareness that it can start to make small shifts as you recognize that there is much more going on than just an uncontrollable urge to eat and that you will not actually be meeting that emotional need with food. This is not easy to do initially, but it becomes much easier with practice, dedication, and support from people who have been through this process before.
2. Find a Safe Place or Person for Release
To heal your relationship with food, you need to safely express yourself and release the emotion you feel. A safe place or person will allow you to do this. Online communities of like-minded people going through the same issues can help. There can be a lot of shame and embarrassment around overeating, so a safe space to release becomes even more important.
Get into a journaling practice where you can write about whatever you are feeling with no talk back, criticism, or judgment. Find a person, ideally a professional, with whom you can speak about your behavior and what’s really going on for you. Working with a coach and mentor can be key to assisting in expediting this release.
Create or find a space where you can go to be quiet, think, cry, laugh, journal, talk, meditate, hug yourself, or whatever feels helpful to you. Having a space for yourself that you can always go to will give you a sense of comfort, nourishment, and familiarity—a haven as you heal.
3. Create a Sacred Ritual
One of the best ways to nourish yourself every day is to create a sacred ritual that makes you feel centered, strong, and harmonious. When you include this ritual in your routine, you will find that, over time, you are better able to identify and deal with thoughts, feelings, and stress that contribute to emotional eating. What you include in your ritual is entirely up to you. For most people, one or a combination of the following works well:
- Deep breathing
- Setting intentions
- Nourishing movement
- Yoga and stretching
- Drinking water or herbal tea mindfully
- Reading inspirational material
- Listening to music
- Speaking to a loved one
- Playing with your pets
- Having a hot bath or shower
4. Understand and Appreciate What Food Gives You
For many people who suffer from disordered eating patterns, food is the enemy. It is the thing you stuff yourself with and make yourself feel sick with. It is the thing that traps you into eating copious quantities until you feel heavy, tired, unwell, and miserable. It is what adds the pounds to your body that you despise. It is what you have to avoid at all costs to stay painfully thin because that’s what you see as beautiful or worthy or your way of maintaining a sense of control in your life.
For many of the women I work with, an important step in their healing is helping them to understand what food really is: how it gives life, nourishment, beauty, joy, pleasure, energy, healing, and, yes, comfort. Nourishing yourself with real, high quality whole foods that are not filled with chemicals, refined sugar, salts, and fats and learning how they act in your body to produce beauty, health, and energy so you can do the things you wish can change your view of food as the enemy. Respect builds for the role food plays, and, in turn, a respect for what it does within your body (and therefore your body itself) grows.
5. Unleash Your Creativity and Do Something You Love Every Single Day
You have endless creativity and passion within you, although it may be suppressed right now. When you don’t allow yourself to authentically express, create, and be, you end up repressing yourself. Repression leads to out of control binges on food as a temporary way to numb that undirected energy. Find a way to build in some time every day to do something you love, that gives you a creative outlet for self expression and that allows you to be exactly who you are or takes you a step closer to where you want to go. Before you start using the “no time” or “no energy” excuse, know that you only need five minutes to start doing this. If you have more, that’s even better. If you are honoring your needs and desires by actually acting on them every day, you will be far less likely to look for the answer in cake. Self-satisfaction and happiness come with nourishing your whole being—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—consistently.
Fortunately, there’s an out for you: a way to be free from diets, failed resolutions to improve your body, and unrealistic pressure on yourself to be or do what you feel you should.
It’s not just recipes and menu plans you need to succeed, but a total change of mindset, strategies to overcome emotional eating, consistent and long-term guidance and accountability from experts, and like-minded others to share and connect.
My husband and fellow Positively Positive contributor Philip McCluskey and I are passionate about helping guide people to be free from the prison of emotional eating. Because of this, we have created a Free Video Training Series on how to become Healthy, Hot, and Energized, so you can start loving your body and healing your emotions so that you are happier, healthier, and more fulfilled. Without the drain of emotional eating, think about how much time will be freed up to focus on what you really want out of your life!
In this free video training series, we will be giving you the exact steps in our new Healthy, Hot, and Energized Action Plan so you can join us in feeling the freedom that comes with feeling vital and energetic, looking your best, and giving your all to your relationships and passions. We will also share with you our Guaranteed Success Blueprint, which will show you how to maintain those results long-term, basically ending dieting forever and creating a life of purpose.
Casey Lorraine Thomas, acclaimed health and life coach, author, motivational speaker, and co-founder of the Get Juicy Cleanse as seen on CBS, shows you how to get radiant health and energy, lose weight, and heal naturally so that you can live the life you want in a body you love. If you’re ready to ditch the frumpy feeling and start looking and feeling fantastic, visit her website and follow her on Twitter.