Do you struggle with eating when you’re not hungry?
The pull to eat emotionally and/or mindlessly can make a huge impact even if you’re doing great with your nutrition habits otherwise.
It can easily make the difference between steady weight loss and steady weight gain.
If you’re wondering if you’re destined to be an emotional eater, as in it’s simply some part of who you are, the answer is no.
Of course, everyone’s struggles with emotional eating are a little bit different, but there are some common themes for underlying culprits.
Today, I want to specifically talk about 3 common factors that relate to how you interact with your emotions and how they can drive emotional eating behavior.
Reason #1: You’re not truly AWARE of your emotions.
You see that treat sitting there and you feel that you can’t resist. Why? “Because I like it… it was there” you tell yourself.
But that’s not a real answer. Every day there are millions of things you *could* do, but you don’t do because you don’t have the emotional drive to do them.
When you’re not clear on what it is that you’re feeling, it’s uncomfortable.
And not only can you not choose the proper way to respond to an emotion if you can’t identify it, but it’s also uncomfortable to be have feelings that you don’t really understand… making you more inclined to want to bury those feelings with food.
You can’t decide what you really want if you can’t assess what it is you really feel…and that’s when that piece of chocolate becomes absolutely irresistible.
Reason #2: You’re not COMFORTABLE with your emotions.
This ties in with #1 in that when you have feelings that you are not clear about, it’s uncomfortable. But this also includes how intense a given emotion feels and having strategies for what to do with it.
When you’re able to hone in on exactly how much of a given feeling you have, you can be more mindful about how you respond to it. Does it warrant no response? A mild response? An extreme (life-or-death) response?
If for example, every time you experience stress, you interpret it to be a 10 out of 10 (“100% stressed!”), it’s going to be more uncomfortable than if you learn to identify the different levels of that feeling.
Then, naturally, you will seek to resolve that discomfort using whatever tools you have to do so.
And if the only strategy you have is to use food…well, then it’s going to be food.
Reason #3: You don’t give yourself “PERMISSION” to have certain emotions and respond to them how you need to.
Now we have some overlap with #1 and #2, in that when you don’t allow yourself to have certain emotions, it makes them even more uncomfortable. And if you deny your “right” to feel a certain way, you’re going to be less likely to identify that as what you’re feeling.
For example, let’s say that you don’t give yourself permission to take moments out of your day to rest. As a result, you go into a state of denial when your stress levels reach critical mass as you work on long projects or chores.
In order to give yourself a well-deserved break from that task, you feel that there has to be some sort of “justification” for that break.
You can’t just do NOTHING for 10 minutes, right? But having to eat a big bowl of popcorn is a perfectly valid reason to rest your feet and brain and watch a little bit of TV…isn’t it?
In this example, whether you take a 10 minute break because you need to reset your batteries in response to feeling emotionally and mentally worn down or because you’re snacking, the end result is pretty much the same. You’re getting off of your feet and doing something else for 10 minutes.
The “only” difference is several hundred calories. And now you’re training your brain to respond to stress (or boredom) by cueing you to go to the kitchen and get some food.
But also, maybe you would have found other strategies more helpful if you had acknowledged that you needed a break (and deserve it, as it is a basic act of self-care). For example, maybe getting some sunshine and moving around for 5 minutes would help you de-stress and be able to re-focus better than 10 minutes of snacking would.
Effective self-care starts with giving yourself permission to feel your feelings without self-criticism. When you don’t give yourself that permission, you leave the door open for creating habits of responding to emotions in ways you don’t like.
By giving yourself permission to be a human with a full spectrum of feelings and learning how to become more aware of the specific emotions you’re feeling and the intensity that you’re having them, you can start getting rid of your emotional eating habits, even if you’ve had them for many years.
If you would like to learn skills and habits that increase your ability to experience and respond to your emotions in healthier ways so you can reduce (or eliminate) the drive to eat when you’re not hungry, the Taming Emotional Hunger 21-Day Challenge is now open for enrollment. Click >>HERE<< for more info.