Emotional overeating is a problem that affects many Americans. It seems to be a norm in our culture to eat your emotions away. TV commercials encourage late-night binging and we seem to revel in gluttony at every turn whether it’s a holiday, birthday, or just Taco Tuesday. Obesity, as a result, has become a big problem in our society.
I know how hard it is to overcome emotional overeating. However, I know that it can be done. During my four year struggle with emotional overeating, I learned some valuable tips and tricks that, if applied to your life, can be very helpful.
LEARN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PHYSICAL HUNGER AND EMOTIONAL HUNGER —
Sometimes people eat for reasons other than biological need. However, by following the hunger/satiety scale, we can learn to eat at the most optimal times for our individual bodies. When you eat when you’re at a 3 or a 4 on the 10-point scale, you are eating for physical hunger, but if you eat too soon, say when you’re at a 1 or a 2, then you’re eating emotionally. If you wait until you are hungrier, closer to a 10, you are setting yourself up for a probable binge, which, will again be more of an emotional need than a physical one.
You’ll need time to figure out what your hunger triggers and cues are. I suggest that you spend a week with a hunger/satiety scale that makes sense for you. Keep it close by during the day and check in with your hunger every few hours to see where you are on the scale. Tune into your body and make sure that you are actually physically hungry when you are eating. Learning the difference between physical and emotional hunger can help you make wiser decisions about what to eat and when to eat.
UNCOVER TRIGGERS THAT CAUSE YOU TO EMOTIONALLY OVEREAT —
This step is especially hard and can take you months or even years to figure out. Some reasons people emotionally overeat include: stress, uncomfortable emotions, being angry, lonely, tired or bored, not sticking to meal times, indulging in celebrations, and “rewarding” yourself after a bad day. Study your habits and find your triggers. You can do this by keeping a food/mood log.
For this, you’ll need to gauge your mood before and after you eat, recording what you ate and why you ate it. This information is invaluable in figuring out the triggers of why you eat what you eat. The examination will pinpoint what foods you gravitate towards depending on your mood. I learned that when I was sad or needed comfort, I tended to eat sugary, carb-heavy sweets like cookies and cake. However, when I was angry, I wanted crunchy, salty foods like chips or pretzels. You may find you have similar patterns or that yours are very different.
TAKE NOTE OF WHEN YOU’RE FULL —
As a former bulimic, it was difficult for me to know when I was physically full. Bulimics are always ‘empty.’ We eat to fulfill ourselves emotionally and spiritually because we are broken and empty inside. There doesn’t seem to be enough food in the world to satisfy a bulimic’s hunger. When we get uncomfortably full, that’s when we feel full and subsequently purge. But just like you can learn when you are hungry, you must learn when you are full. You don’t want to be uncomfortably full. You want to be full enough that you don’t need to eat again for a few hours, but you also want to refrain from vomiting to release your discomfort. It will take patience to learn about your natural level of fullness, so give the process time.
TRUST THE PROCESS —
In order for you to get over your emotional overeating issues, you need to surrender control. You have to trust that this process works and give it time to do its work. There is no quick fix or magic pill to overcome emotional overeating. It’s a lengthy, arduous process, but it’s so worth it. There’s a true freedom when you eat just because you’re hungry and not for any other reason.
USE THE ‘CALM’ PLAN —
A tool I learned in a support group, the CALM plan shows when cravings have run their course. The four parts of the CALM plan are:
C: Connect to Consciousness
This is where your previous training comes in. Connecting to consciousness means that you are present in your mind and you know what’s going on. You are aware that you are having a craving.
A: Alleviate Anxiety
As an aware individual, you understand that you are having some difficulty overcoming this craving. You are able to regulate your emotional mind and get back into a calmer place.
L: Logical Liabilities
These are the lies you tell yourself to make it okay to emotionally overeat. For example: “I had a rough day, so I deserve that ice cream sundae.” As you go through the process, you will figure out what your logical liabilities are. Access them and let them have free reign. Tell them you know what they’re trying to do and they will go away.
M: Mobilize and Move On
Your craving, by this time, has probably passed. You can now go back to your life, craving free. Cravings don’t last and we don’t have to give into them just because we have them. You have a choice.
Our bodies are our bodies. You are in control of your own eating and you get to decide what to feed yourself. Knowing this will give you an extreme sense of empowerment and will help you in this process of overcoming mind hunger.
Deanna Goodson is a life coach and writer who specializes in dealing with bariatric patients and emotional overeaters. Deanna has worked hard to overcome her own issues with emotional overeating. You can visit her at deannagoodson.com.