The number one reason you overeat
People overeat for different reasons - perhaps it’s ‘greed’, a ‘hearty appetite’...or maybe we just love food. A more likely explanation is that that we are emotionally eating. Emotional eating is when we use food to soothe unwanted emotions, in much the same way as people use alcohol, drugs, overexercise, work too much, shopping, sex...the list is endless!
Emotional eating is generally an unconscious action, and here’s how to spot it:
1. It comes on very quickly - a strong and loud craving. This is different to physical hunger, which creeps up slowly.
2.The emotional eating craving is always or greasy, fatty or sugary comfort food - we never crave a salad when it’s emotional (more’s the pity!) – is this resonating with you?
So, what exactly does it mean? Emotional eating is a call from a part of ourselves that doesn’t want to feel a certain way. Before the feeling has a chance to fully surface, the emotional eating kicks in to stop us feeling it. It’s a form of protection – it actually has a positive intention. Our subconscious mind recognises that food, somewhere along the line, has provided us with a form of comfort or relief from an unpleasant feeling, and so a pattern has established whereby we go back to this behaviour to make us feel better when we are not feeling good in some way. The downside to this of course is that we feel guilty and put on weight, ultimately not feeling so great!
So, the crucial question is: how do we stop emotional eating?
The first step is to become really aware of your triggers and patterns.
When you get a sudden craving for food, put your hand on your heart, take a deep breath and ask “what am I really feeling in this moment?”. You may be surprised by what comes up.
Once you can identify the feeling you can find an alternative response. If it’s loneliness, for example, you could call or text a friend. If it’s hurt and you need comfort, you could have a nice bath, go for a walk, talk to a friend, watch an inspiring TED Talk or a funny TV program. If its anger – is there someone you need to confront or a situation you need to address? Get the idea?
With daily practise the ability to recognise the feeling you are trying to soothe with food becomes easier. Funnily enough, the quicker you feel the feeling the easier it is to process and let it go. Best to just feel it rather than eat and then feel a layer of guilt on top of the original negative feeling.
It’s also important to remember that feelings are indicators or calls to action. In starting to recognise how we actually feel we are invited to take action to make improvements. The thing with feelings is they don’t go away until they are heard. Years of avoidance via food may mean that you initially may be a little overwhelmed by what comes up - but soon you will find you are so much better at dealing with things and you become more resilient and free to enjoy life without guilt or the need to comfort eat. This is s a lifestyle shift and not a quick fix; however, with a bit of persistence and commitment, breaking the emotional eating cycle becomes second nature.
Emotional eating is our subconscious mind’s way of alerting us to an uncomfortable feeling and is a call to action to do something about it. I invite you to start listening to what your sudden desire for food is really about.
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