How long have you been an emotional eater?
From the get-go! As far back as I can remember I loved cooking, food, and everything surrounding them. This wasn’t a problem at first until I started packing on the pounds. By twenty I was fifty pounds overweight, embarrassed to go out, to be around my friends, to be in a bathing suit- it was really impeding my life.
Of course I tried diets, exercise programs, pills, potions, lotions, I even fantasized about catching a disease that would force me to lose weight, or joining the army where they could force me to exercise. All of that is really indicative of how desperate I felt.
At any given time I had five different sizes of jeans in my closet, because I never knew what size I would be. It was ongoing drama for me so it felt really disheartening when nothing was working. Honestly, I thought I would be doing that for the rest of my life.
How did you get out of the yo-yo dieting rut?
My guide showed me that the problem wasn’t the food or my weight, but the way I would react to life around me. I spent years using food as a coping mechanism, overeating because I felt so terrible about myself. Heavy and fattening foods put a softening blanket over our uncomfortable emotions. Once I started paying attention to what was going on around me and my feelings everything turned around.
He taught me how to address my emotions in a healthy way and start living differently. I often say it’s a living problem, not an eating problem. So much of the time we’re focused on the food and the weight that we don’t think about why we wanted to eat so much in the first place.
Talk about the challenges with the term “emotional eating”
We’re all on the emotional eater spectrum in some way. So some of us will form a stronger emotional attachment to food and will obsess over it, like I did. I was always thinking about food, always looking forward to eating again. It became a form of stress-release that consumed me.
How to get pleasure from food without hurting your health
From my research, 75% of emotional eaters have the hardest time from 5:00 pm on. That’s when we’re able to let go of some of that stress we’ve piled up during our day. After work, emails, phone calls, and needy children, we’re exhausted.
I teach my clients to start each day with a quiet self-care ritual. Meditation, yoga, prayer, spiritual readings, or other activities that will put a credit in your spiritual bank account.
When we start our day by spending time with ourselves and nourishing our spirit we create a balance in our spiritual account that we can draw from as our stress piles up.
At the end of the day, if our spiritual bank account is empty we’re going to be defenseless and lose control.
I have a meditation practice that I perform in the morning and in the afternoon before dinner that really re-energizes me. Our bodies will have less energy at the end of the day- we’re tired, stressed, we feel underappreciated, and most of us are trained to crave sweets to help with that.
By teaching yourself how to use a new tool, mindfulness, you can snack less (and lose more) without even trying.
How to experience hunger without derailing our health
It goes back to being as conscious as possible during those times we’re tempted to overeat. We need to feed ourselves with connection, community, and things that are soul-filling earlier in the day, so when 5:00 rolls around we will be less vulnerable to cravings for unhealthy food. Sometimes we’re not hungry for food, we’re craving something deeper.
Emotional beings are often susceptible to unhealthy coping mechanisms because they feel so intensely. Knowing that you might be prone to emotional eating allows you to build up those defenses earlier in the day.
** Prefer to watch? Check out our livestream on conquering emotional eating with bestselling author, Tricia Nelson here!**
So much of our cravings come from nervousness. Overeaters are often over-doers too, because we’re so used to being on the go all the time. We never give ourselves a pause because the quiet will bring up emotions that we don’t want to experience.
Meditation in silence trains your brain into realizing that thoughts and feelings aren’t bad. Thoughts will happen because your brain is designed to think, but you can let your thoughts go.
They have less control over you. It is a wonderful tool we can use to slow down and make peace with ourselves. Silence and quiet brings healing to our bodies and minds and allows us to fully process our emotions.
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The anatomy of an emotional eater
In my program I talk about the anatomy of an emotional eater, which goes over 24 personality traits that I see across the board in emotional eaters.
Over our lives, usually during childhood, we develop some of these traits as coping mechanisms. They save us as children but as adults they start to drive our emotional eating.
You’re probably a people pleaser
I’ve never met an emotional eater who wasn’t also a people pleaser. Their thoughts are always very outward focused. “What do people think of me?” “How can I get them to like me?”
It sets up a chain of over-doing, aiming to please, taking on extra projects at work, always being the one to bake the cookies for the kid’s soccer team, it ends up being a lot of outward effort for the purpose of validation and approval, not just out of kindness.
Often times we do this because we don’t have that approval of ourselves, whether because we never developed it or we have never had a strong sense of self.
People pleasing is a problem because it causes stress as we try to do too much. If anybody hasn’t noticed, people are never as pleased as we plan on them being when we set out to get their approval! We’re not only burned out now, but we’re resentful. Then we go home and reward ourselves with food to soften those emotions.
What are the three biggest mistakes you’re seeing?
The problem with paying homage to the scale is that if you giving it the power to control your emotions. It ends up dictating our mood and how we feel about ourselves. It’s a roller coaster ride to give that much power to a scale.
Take one day at a time and change your focus from diet and weight loss to self-care and treating our body with respect. You won’t be stuffing your feelings, you’ll be enjoying the food you eat. At that point the weight comes off by itself because you don’t feel the need to indulge anymore.
For an emotional eater, skipping meals makes it much easier to overeat late at night when our defenses are down.
Treat yourself with respect and feed yourself good, nourishing food at regular meal times.
If you’ve been yo-yo dieting for a long time fasting will set off an internal alarm.
Having the regularity of three even meals allows us to recognize when we need nourishment versus when we’re ignoring our next task.
Not having a morning routine
Stop jumping out of bed and immediately hitting yourself with emails and texts, running to get coffee, running to get coffee. Give yourself time to wake up and be still and quiet. If you have to wake up a little early, do it!
It’s worth an extra 20 minutes to devote to nourishing yourself on a deeper level. Ricocheting yourself off of every stressor you have is a bad way to start the day. Set your day up right with the right priorities in mind and it will pay off later in the day.
People know they should meditate at this point, and it’s becoming more and more popular. It’s not necessarily convenient, it’s about making a commitment to yourself and caring for yourself