I don’t need to tell you that humans are complex, dynamic and extremely emotional beings.
Emotions drive us, and without them we literally could not survive.
So why oh why is there this obsession with thinking that emotional eating is something we need to fix??
Let’s start with what we mean by emotional eating, or at least, what society means.
There’s no legit definition, but essentially it’s eating due to experiencing emotions rather than physical stomach hunger.
Remember that time when you had a crappy day at work and as soon as you got home all you wanted was to cuddle up with your favourite comfort food and chocolate and ice cream?
Yup, that’s emotional eating.
Physiologically, it actually works. Foods high in sugar and fat are pleasurable to eat and they taste fab, so our brains release dopamine (those feel good neurotransmitters) that combat these stressed out emotions and relax us.
Foods can also trigger positive and negative memories, like your Grandmas legendary chicken soup or that time you had food poisoning from eating scampi on the beach (#badtimes).
We eat for so many reasons other than pure physical hunger and there is nothing wrong with that.
Society and diet culture have us believe that if we gain ‘too much’ pleasure from food, it’s shameful. And if we’re getting too much pleasure, we eat too much food. Too much food = getting fat. Enter mammoth fat phobia (conversation for another day.)
Sadly, this pathologising of emotional eating means that we deny ourselves of these pleasurable foods (mostly anything high in sugar or fat or god forbid both) or we continue to eat them but feel buckets of guilt and shame and promise ourselves we’ll ‘do better’ tomorrow. This denial or restriction has the opposite effect. As soon as a food is denied, we instantly crave it. We can fight the urge, but sooner or later we succumb – because we are humans, not robots..
Emotional eating is a coping mechanism. It’s a tool to deal with negative or positive emotions, and it’s a great tool!
For instance, with Christmas coming up, so many foods are associated with spending time with family and there are foods around us which you can only find this time of year.
It’s a tool, but it shouldn’t be the only tool in your emotional toolkit.
The reason for this is not because of getting fat, but because whilst it can help, emotional eating does not solve the root cause of the problem, and these uncomfortable emotions will keep rearing their ugly head.
That’s not to say emotional eating can’t make you feel bad. If you’re not dealing with your problems and emotions, they will gnaw away at you.
If you find you’re reaching more and more for food and not finding the answer, perhaps these could help you:
- Keeping a journal.
- Not allowing yourself to get too hungry.
- Gentle movement – nope, you don’t need to do a marathon or joint CrossFit. Going for a gentle walk, trying yoga or going for a swim can be a great way to also get in touch with how your body feels.
- Get a support network. Find a therapist or professional who you trust. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength
Are you ready to ditch dieting for good and finally make peace with food?
Maybe you don’t think you are ready, but you know that you definitely don’t want to be as obsessed and controlled by what you can or can’t eat.
Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org