Another taboo topic, emotional eating. Something that isn’t really talked about and often due to embarrassment, shame and guilt. But yet many people have expeirenced this phenomonom without having the answers for why they do it and how to stop it. Firstly, I must preface – I am not a doctor or have the certificate to tell you I’m qualified on the topic. Yet I do have personal experience and have dealt with clients that have dealt with this emotional eating.
Why do I emotional eat?
Most of us know why we are eating. To get reach a cosy feeling after an uncomfortable situation.
But what in our brains make us do this?
Your brain is always seeking the easiest and fastest way to make you comfortable again. To quickly move from fight and flight to rest and digest. In a moment when we feel stress, anger, guilt, worry, anxiety and fear – our brain will reach for the fastest way to increase our dopamine and switch back into our rest and digest system.
We have these biochemicals in our brains that increase our dopamine when we eat these comfort foods. Over time, repeating this cycle of stress > eat > comfort, it becomes automatic. Our brain starts to do this automatically with little thought process. And this is why the habit is so hard to break. Because it is now your very own automatic response to stress.
Reasons you might be emotional eating
There are endless reasons you might be emotional eating. But let’s take a look at a few that are super common and ones that I experienced as well as my clients.
1. You’re bored. Either on a surface level or deeply bored.
Most people I know have done this at some stage of their life. Sometimes we have to sit at our desk and do a mundane task that is down right boring. You know what’ll make this better? If I eat a packet of chips at the same time, or maybe some choc chip cookies. Can you see your self doing this? Most of us have.
You might be just sitting around the house with no real plans. What will make this better? A packet of timtams, a piece of toast, or another packet of chips? Sound familiar?
Watching a movie and really want a snack to go along with it? Even though you just had dinner and you definitely are not hungry. Definitely not hungry enough to polish off an entire packet of Doritos, right? But you instead you polish the whole bag and then even reach for a fizzy drink.
These sensations are linked to a surface level of boredom. Just filling in space and to keep yourself busy. In todays society where we are over-stimulated most of the time. It can make it difficult just to do the one task, sit and watch the movie and maybe just sit in the house and stare out the window for a bit. If you find it difficult to be still – this is something to look at.
Then there is the deeply bored feelings. Where the things in your life that just aren’t bringing satisfaction to you any more, they aren’t increasing your happy hormones. This is very important to look deeper into. If you are feeling bored in your work, speak to your boss about wanting some more challenges or maybe you need a career change. If you are feeling bored in your relationship, take the initiative yourself to have a chat and maybe spice things up (not just sexually). If you’re hobbies aren’t lighting you up anymore – start something new. Stop sitting in victim mode – and go and make a difference. It isn’t going to happen while you’re sitting there being bored and eating away the whole pantry. Go and write a list of things that bring you joy and go and do it.
2. You’re stressed.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably currently stressed or have definitely experienced stress before.
When you are stressed a chemical in your body called cortisol rises. This create hunger because you’re in fight and flight mode using more energy than being in a calm state. The body is requesting its preferred source of energy – carbohydrates, to get through the stress.
To deal with this and managing the force of wanting to eat is to return to your breath. That simple. Slowing down your breathing instantly takes you from fight and flight (parasymapathic nervous system) into rest and digest (sympathetic nervous system). In stressful situations your heart is beating fast, so to change this we need to slow the breathing down.
Inhale for a count of 5 seconds, then exhale for a count of 5 seconds. Repeating at least 5 times.
If you’re feeling super stressed, hold the inhale for 5 seconds too. I know in a stressful situation holding your breath seems daunting but trust me on this one.
Stress is a part of life. That doesn’t mean life always has to be stressful, but if you want growth and expansion you will deal with some stress. This is where gratitude comes in. Being able to have gratitude towards our stress will help shift how you perceive your stressors. Therefore your reaction won’t be that same scale and reaching for food for comfort won’t be needed.
3. You’re filled with sadness or anger.
We have all been there where we have been terribly sad and eaten the rest of the ice cream container or the whole block of chocolate. Whether it be a break up or any traumatic event – we reach for a temporary fix.
Instead, I would request that you sit in it, in stillness. Yes to meditate. Find a safe and comfortable place. Close down your eyes and just let it all come up and out. Let the sadness out of your body by crying, write down your thoughts or share with someone you trust to hold the space for you. You really have to sit in it alone. Here you can process it all and allow it to pass with acceptance. Again gratitude can really help here.
If you’re full of anger, I suggest also to sit in it and write in your journal what is bringing you this anger. Let it all out and let it pass. I like to meditate and use the transform negativity kriya to literally see the emotions leaving me.
4. You’re looking for comfort.
When you just want to eat one of your mums home cooked meals? Usually here we are lacking some sort of comfort. Maybe it is just personal space and you need an afternoon and just recharge your own batteries. Have a bath and switch your phone off for the evening. Maybe you’re in need of a hug from a good friend, deep connection or conversation to really go deep and discuss something. Look deep and ask your self what you really want and why?
Rather than feeding the comfort with food, feed it with what you really want.
5. You’re restricting yourself.
Often when we are trying to shift some kilos we restrict ourselves of calories, our favourite foods or worse a whole food group (usually carbs are seen as the bad guy). Or maybe there is an underling reason for restricting and maybe this needs some attention too. Other eating disorders are common here and they require some attention too. Never feel embarrassed or ashamed to reach out and get some extra help. You’re never as alone as you feel.
This restriction only creates more cravings and a more intense urge to eat those foods. Going on diets without the help of a professional increases the chances of emotional eating. When we put ourself onto a diet, we create these ‘rules’, then something happens and we break the rule. We get feelings of guilt, which we ‘temporarily fix’ with foods and then restrict again. It is a vicious cycle. Which can be broken by either the help of a professional or trying out my list below.
Now, for the how to stop emotional eating
Firstly, accept. Accept yourself for it all. Holding onto anger towards yourself for emotional eating does just as much damage as the action. If you have to, forgive yourself. Also, know that you might have to do this daily until you’re able to shift through the habit of emotional eating. So make it a daily practice if needed.
Secondly, stop telling your self that you “want to stop emotionally eating”.
Right listen up. When you say I want to quit emotional eating, quit smoking, quit drinking etc – you will always be that person saying that. If you actually want to re-wire this part of your brain, fill it with something along the lines of “I eat intuitively” or “I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I am full”. Or “I am in control of my reactions to stress”. Say it in present tense, not future. The future will never come if you’re the ‘quitter’. Be the doer, now.
Thirdly, dig deeper. To do this, sit in meditation or stillness. Focus on your breath and simply watch what comes up. Do not judge. Do not react. Just notice. This is important to lowering your stress reaction. If you put stressful thoughts onto your to-do list it’ll stay that way. If you put stressful thoughts onto a person, it’ll stay there. What you perceive your stress to be, it will be. What you put energy into, you’ll receive equal energy back. So putting positive thoughts in, you’ll receive positive back. It’s the law of reciprocity, to exchange the same amount of energy.
Lastly, show love to the unloved parts of your body and life. If you’re emotional eating because of any of the 5 reasons above, do something to find more love. If you’re restricting because you are really not loving your body right now. Go stand in front of the mirror naked. Get your favourite moisteriser or oil and start massaging your entire body and tell yourself how much you love every part, especially those unloved parts. It is super hard and there might be tears. But I highly highly recommend that you do this today. It has been a game changer for me and I call it my self love massage and I do it twice a day. It’s now automatic for me. That when I am moisterising my body after the shower I am saying my gratitudes and love for every part of my body.
If you’re bored, stressed, sad, angry, uncomfortable – give those areas love. There is no higher state to be in other than love. When you’re in a state of love, you can’t emotionally eat. Because you are balanced in love. We emotionally eat out of lack of love.
I would love to know if you have resonated with this at all and leave me a comment if you have. Emotional eating is something that most people have experienced and have felt guilt about. But from now on, accept everything for what it is and bring more love into those unloved areas.
Until next week
Love + Peace
Teags Lee xx
One last thing you must know - You're never alone.
In the midst of an emotional eating saga, we generally feel alone. But remember you never are alone. A problem shared is a problem halved. Speak to someone you trust whether it’s a friend or a professional is so important to keep the throat chakra open and free. More than likely there is someone around you going through the same thing.
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