Eating My Feelings

Are you an Emotional Eater?
Me : Hello Everyone
Emotional Eaters Anonymous (EEA) Support Group: Hi
Me : My name is Monica and I am a self-confessed emotional eater
EEA Support Group : Hi Monica

I have been eating emotionally all my life. In lay terms – sometimes instead of talking about my feelings, I eat them out. I am known to be very outspoken. But despite this, one of my triggers for emotional eating is not talking and expressing my emotions especially when upset, hurt, disappointed or even rejected. During such instances when I feel like I need a big bear hug, I reach out for crisps, fatty meat or any food soaked in oil and cream instead. This makes me feel good for the moment. It massages whatever emotions are rife.

I however regret it later………..

One aspect that remains a mystery to me and affects me emotionally is death. Several loved ones, close family members, relatives and friends, have passed on in the last ten months. I have found myself reaching out to food for comfort. I have eaten quite a bit in this period, and as is naturally the case a number of people have pointed out that I have evidently added some weight. They’ve all made the assumption that I am back to my usual bad eating habits, not taking time to understand the underlying issues that have caused my weight gain. Over eating is an emotional disease. When we see people eating like this, or having gained significant weight, it may be worthwhile to discern if there may be some emotional turmoil in their lives.

Although I am not at my best yet, my emotional eating was a lot worse some years back. I have significantly improved and now reach out for healthier food options. I put in some preventive measures by not stocking my house with junk food because I can easily clear it all in one sitting. I try to stock up on plenty of fruits and make a point of cooking whenever I can rather than buying food which will most likely be unhealthy and calorie-filled. Most of us tend to want fatty oily things or sugary sweet things to calm our emotions.

I invite you to look through this list and candidly assess which of these life’s problems has got you emotionally eating?*

  • Feeling unwanted and unloved
  • Feeling rejected by peers
  • Intimate and physical abuse
  • Relationships conflicts
  • Unfulfilling jobs and careers
  • Financial Pressure
  • Feeling stuck in a situation- not progressing / business/ relationships
  • Societal pressures of what you should be and where should be in life
  • Health problems
  • Unrealistic family expectations
  • Taking on other people’s problems – internalizing
  • Family conflict and disharmony
  • Terminal illness
  • Death of a loved one

When I run through this list, I can honestly admit that I defaulted into eating mode after experiencing quite a number of these situations. After self-reflection, I find that I do precisely two things when worried and stressed – I talk for hours on end to very many people and ultimately when I am done talking, I keep quiet and eat. I landed in big trouble with emotional eating between 2004 and 2009 when I was going through career transitions. During this period, I gained an additional 25kgs because of taking out my frustrations on food. It did not help that I acquired a car during this period that drastically reduced my movement and killed any hope of remaining physically active. Because of my rapid weight gain I also became hypertensive. The saddest thing is, because I did not want to disclose this information to my family members who would fret about my eating, I chose to keep it a secret and instead “ate my secret away”.

Impulsive or binge eating comes as a natural reaction to stress. Where one rapidly eats whatever is convenient, without even enjoying it. Binge eating is not a strange phenomenon in my life. I have been a victim on several occasions of this emotion-led eating. There is hope though – do not despair. You can take steps to control cravings and turn your life around. Here are some tips have been very useful*

  • Tame your stress – try a stress management technique, such as physical workout, meditation or relaxation or talking it out.
  • Have a hunger reality check – Is your hunger physical or emotional? If you ate just a few hours ago and don’t have a rumbling stomach, you’re probably not really hungry.
  • Keep a food diary- write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you’re feeling when you eat and how hungry you are. Over time, you may see patterns emerge that reveal the connection between mood and food.
  • Get support – you are more likely to give in to emotional eating if you lack a good support network. Lean on family and friends or consider joining a support group that keeps you accountable.
  • Take away temptation – don’t keep supplies of comfort foods in your home if they’re hard to resist. If you feel angry or blue, postpone your trip to the shop until you’re sure that you have your emotions in check.
  • Don’t deprive yourself- when trying to achieve a weight-loss goal, you may limit your calories too much, eat the same foods frequently and banish the treats you enjoy. This may just serve to increase your food cravings, especially in response to emotions. Allow yourself enjoy an occasional treat and get plenty of variety to help curb cravings.
  • Snack healthy – If you feel the urge to eat between meals, choose a low-fat, low-calorie snack, such as fresh fruit, vegetables with low-fat dip or unbuttered popcorn. Or try low-fat, lower calorie versions of your favorite foods to see if they satisfy your craving.
  • Learn from setbacks. If you have an episode of emotional eating, forgive yourself and start fresh the next day. Try to learn from the experience and make a plan for how you can prevent it in the future. Focus on the positive changes you’re making in your eating habits and give yourself credit for making changes that’ll lead to better health.

I have begun practicing what I preach. I am trying my best to stop feeding my emotions and to instead deal with them appropriately, talk them out, and nourish my body with the right foods! I challenge you to join me!

Say No to Emotional Eating!!! Do you need help? Feel free to join this online accountable EEA group!


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