Emotional Eating Solutions: How NOT to Swallow Your FeelingsBy: Melissa McCreery, PhD
Emotional eating is a powerful force that can become a deeply ingrained, almost automatic response to certain feelings. Breaking free of emotional eating (and most overeating) means honoring the reality that you have feelings and learning how to approach them in ways that help you feel authentic and cared for and responded to—even if sometimes you are the one doing the responding. Here are some tips to help you in break free from emotional eating.
If you don’t address the root cause of your overeating (especially emotional eating) you’ll keep on overeating. If you stop, or gain control for awhile, it will come back. True story. Emotional eating is a powerful force that can become a deeply ingrained, almost automatic response to certain feelings. The idea of taking control of emotional eating sounds good, but I frequently hear from women trying to wrap their minds around the reality of looking their emotions squarely in the eye.
“It won’t help. What’s the point?” “Why should I be angry, that’s just unpleasant and it feels awful.” “He’s not going to change so why get upset about it.” “There’s nothing I can do about it so I just eat. How do I stop?”
We’ve come full circle.
Breaking free of emotional eating (and most overeating) means honoring the reality that you have feelings and learning how to approach them in ways that help you feel authentic and cared for and responded to—even if sometimes you are the one doing the responding.
The beliefs that you can simply decide not to feel the way you feel or that you can make your feelings go away simply by not thinking about them are myths. While there are some exceptions, feelings shift, transform, and evolve when you respect them, acknowledge them, and address them in a purposeful way.
“Eating your feelings” may temporarily soothe, numb, or distract you, but in the big picture, it doesn’t address the real problem, won’t make you feel better, and the emotions or the situation that triggered them will still be real.
HOW DO YOU START FACING YOUR FEELINGS IF YOU ARE USED TO BURYING THEM WITH FOOD?
Remind yourself that feeling and doing are two different things.
Even in the most powerless situations, it’s important to acknowledge and respect your own reality. When I acknowledge that I’m scared or nervous or feeling hurt or angry or misunderstood, I can start looking for ways to take care of, soothe, or respond to myself in some kind of helpful way—even if I can’t change the actual situation. When I have the flu, I can’t fix it, but if I acknowledge that I don’t feel good and do nice things for myself, I feel better. It’s the same with feelings. If I drown my feelings in ice cream, my fear or helplessness isn’t really being addressed. It’s just covered up and not really tended to at all.
In a related vein, know that expressing yourself and creating change are both important.
Just because you can’t have one, doesn’t mean you should deny yourself the other. Yes, some people and situations are difficult and they aren’t going to ever be what you want them to be. That’s no reason to deny how you feel. And sometimes, simply expressing that feeling is important, validating, or empowering—even if the other person doesn’t hear you. Yes, sometimes it’s not prudent or helpful to share your feelings, but it’s always a helpful option to consider.
You don’t need an audience to express yourself.
Maybe you aren’t ready. It might feel too scary, or you’ve got so many pent up feelings that when you start to speak it turns into a gloppy emotional scene that you aren’t comfortable with. If you aren’t used to respecting your emotions, it’s pretty common to feel self-conscious when you are in the middle of them. That’s okay. Give yourself permission to be where you are with your feelings. Practice being your own audience. Express yourself to you. Write, talk, and think to yourself about your feelings. And remind yourself, “This is hard for me.”
And be proud of yourself.
Are you a smart, busy woman struggling with stress, overeating, or overload? Claim your free audio set: ”5 Simple Steps to Move Beyond Overwhelm With Food and Life” at www.TooMuchOnHerPlate.com.
Melissa McCreery, PhD, ACC, is a Psychologist, ICF Certified Life Coach, Emotional Eating Solutions specialist, and the founder of www.TooMuchOnHerPlate.com, a company dedicated to providing smart resources to busy women struggling with food, weight and stress. She is the author of the Emotional Eating Toolbox(TM) 28 Day Program and the Emotional Eating Toolbox™ Weight Loss Surgery Edition. Bariatric professionals: Customized patient materials and programming are available for bariatric practices.