I speak with people quite often regarding emotional eating and emotional binge eating. They describe exactly what I have experienced as well – turning to food to deal with a certain emotion or situation, and then feeling totally out of control with that food at that moment. I used to get so focused on trying to completely quit eating emotionally or binge eating and guess what, it never worked.
Here’s the thing – eating emotionally is completely normal. Everyone does it every now and then. Diet culture has demonized the act of eating to comfort ourselves, but it’s completely natural. Food is meant to bring us satisfaction and with satisfaction comes comfort! So don’t beat yourself up for emotional eating… and if eating emotionally oftentimes turns into a binge for you, then you are very likely restricting that food, but that is a whole other topic.
However, if this has become your main way of dealing with uncomfortable emotions and you find yourself doing it so much that it is actually having a negative impact on your life, then maybe it is time to start to consider other ways to comfort yourself. Also, it is important to feel some of these emotions and process them – that’s a part of the human experience!! And if you are mainly numbing these feelings out (whether with food or other things like TV, mindless scrolling on social media, even exercise) that’s not going to help you overall.
The first step is to begin to recognize the common times that you will turn to food for reasons other than hunger. This might not even all be in a response to certain emotions, but can be quite habitual as well. Either way, the best way to do this is to journal on it. Note things like what time it is, how you were feeling before, what you were doing before, what you were thinking about before, etc. When I first did this I found that I was eating as a form of procrastination quite a bit!
Once you are able to see the patterns then you are able to start to tackle them. If there is big stress going on in your life that you notice you turn to food whenever you start thinking about it, then maybe it is time to actually face that thing head-on. If you have recently suffered some great loss or something and you are just feeling sad from that. Allow yourself to sit in that feeling without turning on the TV or grabbing the food. Meditate, journal, allow yourself to feel the emotions and process them. It’s uncomfy AF, but if you don’t deal with them they will literally keep coming back up… Ruthlessly!
I am going to write an e-book on this topic because there is so much that goes into it, but in the meantime do these two activities outlined above and that in and of itself should help you!