Emotional Eating - 4 Steps to Assist in Finding the Solution
I regularly have people who contact me and say: “please can you help; I am an emotional/stress eater? I just cannot lose weight”. Or in general conversation you will hear someone complaining and not understanding why they engage in emotional eating.
Immediately at the onset of the emotional eating there is regret and self-criticism.
It unfortunately is a vicious circle and if we do not become aware of the unconscious behaviour, we will never even realise that there might be a reason behind our weight gain. Sadly, too often people are diagnosed with a medical condition as a reason for the weight gain. There are cases where this might be true, however once we investigate further, chances are that we might find that the medical cause has it root in an emotional issue.
I remember years ago being so frustrated with a mother who unconsciously were conditioning her daughter into emotional eating. Every time there was conflict between the mother and the daughter, who at that stage were only around 7 years of age, the guilt that the mother felt compelled her to show her love for her daughter by giving her a biscuit to eat. At that age, the daughter already was grossly overweight and were teased at school. However, no matter the time of the day, when mom felt she had to pacify, nurture, apologise, show love - she would give her daughter a ‘treat’. Mom should have learned to show her love in an inspiring way. Today her daughter might go through the self-destructive cycle every time she eats on her emotional impulses. I am not sure if the daughter is aware that that is where her emotional eating is rooted.
Another client could not understand why she would start emotional eating the moment ‘life was good’. The moment it went well in her career, or she had romantic interest in her, she would start eating - chocolates, sweet biscuits, etc. She realised that there was an emotional issue behind her eating, which is why she ended up with me. It did not take long before we could establish that the eating kicked in the moment, she started doubting herself - that she was good enough, that she was desirable. Her belief was her self-doubt. The next step was to locate the root cause of this belief and the emotions attached to it. It took us back to her as a 6-day old infant. She felt vulnerable in that moment while she was feeding and to this day - over 60 years later - she still connects to that root cause and starts emotional eating the moment she feels vulnerable.
We can anchor that eating pattern at any age - as you read above, even as early as a 6-day old infant.
There is no blame. There is nothing wrong. It is just what it is, and we can change it.
There is something you can do about it today. We are not blaming anyone from your past. The mother had her own emotional stresses she was dealing with and might have learned from her mother that is how you show your love. With the infant, things were happening in her surroundings that as a 6-day old there was absolutely no way that she could control the outer circumstances. Today though, today they can do something about it. It is never too late.
How do you know that you are an emotional eater and that you could have an emotional root cause for your eating?
1. Identify the root issue. Become aware of what happens in your life when you eat emotionally. It will not be in all stress situations. In the examples I used above the daughter might today eat when she needs the approval or acceptance of someone. It could play out in her work situation, social life of her home family life. She might even be repeating the same pattern with her children. However, in times of stress where she is not searching for approval, she might not engage in emotional eating. In the other case it shows up the moment the person feels vulnerable.
Take some time to review when do you eat emotionally. You will highly likely find an emotional trigger that is like a golden thread through life experiences that will trigger your desire to emotional eat.
2. Accept it is there. To criticize yourself, to be angry at yourself, to be disappointed is not going to help the situation. You are only triggering other emotional beliefs that will set off other warning bells. Be glad and grateful that you have identified the link.
Should you decide not to work with the information, well that is your choice. This is where responsibility sets in - it is now in your hands to do something about it or not. If you are comfortable and happy with your eating habits, well then continue. You unfortunately run the risk of health issues later in life as we now know that emotional trauma will eventually set over in physical illnesses.
3. Do not dwell in the past stories. I really want to say, FORGET the story. It will only keep you locked in in the past. You will build on the limiting or self-sabotaging belief and make it bigger and stronger.
Your ‘system’ does not understand that you are not in that situation of the past in this moment. It will release hormones in relation to the story so you can feel yourself getting angry, being vulnerable, feeling unloved, etc. You really are poisoning your body from the inside by dwelling on the old story. Use the story to identify the golden thread running currently and start working on untangling that golden thread.
4. Replace it with an empowered belief. It is very possible to erase the old self-sabotaging belief and replace it with a new and empowering belief. There are many powerful techniques that will enable you to achieve this.
It does however come down to you taking responsibility for yourself and desiring a change. If you are happy with your current state, continue. If you absolutely desire change, then the help is available.
Often our binge eating is accompanied by mindlessly watching TV, playing a game on our mobile or keeping ourselves occupied with social media. We enter a ‘comatose’ state where we are on auto pilot eating without thinking. This makes it exceedingly difficult for you to identify the moment the craving sets in to go out and buy the chocolate, the biscuit, etc. You are not present in the moment.
Give yourself the greatest gift and start observing yourself the moment the compulsive behaviour sets in. That is where your golden thread starts.
You are so powerful. There is a way forward for you and freedom lies in the moment you make the choice to take responsibility and change that which does not work for you.
Transformation Life Coach
Certified Energy Codes® Facilitator
Certified BEST® Practitioner