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I'm an emotional health mentor, edu-preneur and coach who loves teaching you how to understand, manage and embrace your emotions.
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Hey, friends. Today I want to talk about how to stop emotional eating. You know, eating your feelings?
Maybe you’ve been there. You come home after a long day of work. You’re feeling…all kinds of feelings that you don’t want to feel. So, you eat so much food (most likely junk), until you don’t feel anything anymore. Then you can finally relax!
This is emotional eating.
And if you’re anything like me, you were also trying to lose weight. That means that after eating so much, you’d swear you’d stop forever and go to the gym to burn it all off.
All of this is mixed with a lot of shame, some self-hatred and hopelessness.
Yes, I did my own share of hardcore emotional eating for years.
I used to go to my beloved Trader Joe’s next door to my old apartment and buy two paper grocery bags filled with delicious treats. Cupcakes, moon pies, cookies, ice cream, chips – anything that caught my eye.
I would then take these treats home and eat a bit of everything until I was stuffed. Of course, I would then beat myself up for doing this.
This was followed by creating elaborate, insane and very unattainable plans to workout, eat only vegetables and lose 10 pounds in the next month. I would set myself up for failure, then feel bad that I couldn’t reach these impossible expectations.
Then I would repeat the cycle. Buy bags of amazing treats. Eat it all. Hate myself. Set unrealistic goals. Repeat.
I didn’t technically need to lose weight, but I wanted to tone up and feel good about myself.
However, I’ve since learned how to stop emotional eating. So, I wanted to share the steps I took so that maybe you could help yourself stop, too.
The first step is to notice and acknowledge that you’re emotionally eating.
After my 15th time binge eating my Trader Joe’s treats, I stopped myself. I was literally crying as I was eating a cupcake when I realized this was a pattern. It was something I was repeatedly doing that I could finally see wasn’t actually helping me.
I also discovered in that moment that maybe I had some deeper issues that were bothering me.
So, try to notice if you have your own habit, such as eating a tub of ice cream by yourself every night in front of the TV. Even if you don’t stop yourself from doing it, all you have to do is become aware of it.
Once you do, make sure to congratulate yourself! Even the fact of noticing it is a huge step, the first step to making change. So, you’re a badass, good job!
Shame is not your friend. As you start noticing that you’ve got the habit of emotional eating, try not to shame yourself.
Because guess what? You’ve probably got a great reason for eating your feelings.
Feelings can be scary. And a part of you feels safer hiding your emotions rather than dealing with them. Your subconscious is trying to help you steer away from that pain.
Emotional eating is just misguided self-love. So, don’t be ashamed.
Instead, thank that part of your subconscious that’s trying to help you.
Secondly, try to start making different choices when you catch yourself in the moment of emotional eating.
Instead of eating another bite from that tub of ice cream, consider doing something else.
There are a lot of other things you can do instead. You could take a little walk around the block, call a friend, talk to your dog, write it all down in your journal or just sit there and breathe.
After legit crying into my cupcake, I stopped myself and went to sit on my bed. Then I took some deep breaths.
This was a big step for me. In that moment, I realized there was something bothering me. And I decided I was ready to figure out what that was.
Another thing you can do it to start taking note of how you’re feeling when you have the urge to emotionally eat. Whether you write it down or say it out loud to yourself, just acknowledge how you’re feeling in the moment.
The third thing to do is to find someone to talk to. Whether it’s a professional or not, you need to tell someone you have this issue.
You can also call one of the numbers here to talk to someone about it anonymously.
This is a burden you don’t want to carry by yourself. In fact, you really shouldn’t try to deal with this alone. If you can get support, it’ll be easier to work through. I promise.
And while I’m not a doctor, you might need professional support to get to the root of your emotional eating.
There were two people I talked to. One was my friend Beth.
I was at her house one day and broke down crying. I told her how frustrated I was that I couldn’t lose weight or stop eating so much junk food all the time. But I also told her how horrible I felt about myself.
Telling her was such a relief because I no longer felt alone. Also, it helped me feel less ashamed of myself when I admitted it to another person.
Luckily, she’s an amazing friend. She gave me a huge hug and told me how amazing I am and that everything would be ok.
The second person I talked to was my alternative healer. I couldn’t afford traditional therapy and honestly preferred working with an energy healer. Together, we worked through a lot of my issues that were causing me to eat my emotions.
The fourth step is to get very real with yourself. You’re not emotionally eating because you love your life 100%. There are things you need to change, so it’s time to acknowledge that.
And maybe you love most of your life and there’s only one area that needs your attention. But perhaps you don’t love any of it and you’re not sure where to start.
This can be really scary, I know. It’s scary to admit to yourself that you need to end that relationship, or start your business or have that big conversation… But you deserve to be happy! So, whatever that thing is that you need to do or change, you’re worth it. I promise. You can do it.
One of my favorite ways to get in touch with myself is to journal. I spill my brain onto the paper to get out my excess thoughts. This helps me to see things more clearly to know what changes I need to make.
However you want to go about it, you need to get real with yourself about what you actually want. Make your life sweeter to replace all that sugar you find yourself eating.
And the magical part of this? Once you start making steps toward what you really want, your emotional eating will probably improve.
Breaking the emotional eating habit takes time. It could take months or years for you to stop shoving your emotions away with food.
You might even notice over time that you start emotionally eating with healthier foods, like apples or grapes. This is a step in the right direction! But remember to take note and check in with yourself whenever you get the urge to binge eat.
What emotions are you feeling? Is there something bothering you? Why are you emotionally eating?
For me, it’s been six years since I started working on emotional eating. I still have to ask myself these questions.
But guess what? It’s so much better now. I can let myself eat half a candy bar, fully knowing that I’m feeling emotional. Then I’m able to stop, acknowledge that I’m stressed, put it down and move on.
By “move on” I mean that sometimes all it takes is just acknowledging my emotions to feel better. Other times, moving on means I need to talk to someone, write in my journal or take action toward what’s stressing me out. Whatever I do, I try not to put pressure on myself.
Just remember that you’re not perfect. You’re just a human, and all of us love eating delicious treats. So, remember to enjoy them when you have them.
No matter how long it takes you, you can stop emotional eating. As long as you have the will to stop, and you’re patient and persistent, you’ll succeed.
Have you struggled with eating your feelings? Have you managed to stop emotional eating? What are things you do to work through it? Share it with me in the comments!
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