Emotional Eating

We ALL Tend to Do This!

I remember growing up as an only child, way out in the country of rural Alabama, on a chirt (a type of dirt) road, looking so forward to special meals and desserts prepared either by my mother, grandmother or the church ladies where my daddy pastored. Although my mother was anorexic (undiagnosed) and very strict about what she served us, on special occasions and sometimes on Friday, she made a cake, usually dark chocolate, (Devil’s Food) with a chocolate buttercream icing. It was an emotional event! She monitored how much I ate, so I never got more than one piece at a time, but it was WONDERFUL! As I matured into a pre-teen, I began to get cravings associated with hormonal fluctuations and I began to seek out other sources of sweets, almost like a drug addict, looking for that wonderful feeling. By then, however, I had become very self-conscious about my body. I thought that I was fat. My mother continually told me so and it was an era of “Heroin-Chic” skinny. Mind you that this was fast on the heels of curvaceous Hollywood actresses that brought the house down with their curves. I was one confused young girl about what was attractive. Most of my life those voluptuous Hollywood sirens had been the standard of beauty and now, the standard was Twiggy, an emaciated fashion model that literally looked like a street person who lived on heroin and whatever she could find in restaurant garbage cans. She was beautiful but skeletal. Of course, there was also Cher who didn’t have an ounce of fat on her anywhere. If they were going to change the standard of beauty that drastically, they should have given a whole generation of girls notice, and a damn good explanation. While I was busy trying to look like Marilyn Monroe, Twiggy stole the show. Eating had become a source of shame, disgust and horror. Many girls of that time, and even today, were made to think that unless we were morbidly skinny, we would not be loved, by anyone, ever. We began to eat in secret and diet drastically to try to overcome our “habit”. The next thing we heard of was anorexia and then bulimia.  While I bordered on anorexia for a short period,  I was never afflicted with bulimia. I did have friends who fell victim to both.

Good Stress Too!

A phenomenon that we have noticed is the “Birthday Cake” dilemma. I can’t tell you how many times we have been asked if we eat birthday cake! It is inconceivable to many people that a birthday can be celebrated without a mixture of confectioner’s sugar and hydrogenated vegetable oil, (buttercream frosting). People tend to eat sugar and other unhealthy foods in abundance in response to happy emotions as well as unhappy ones. Again, food and emotions of all kinds, are a hand-in-glove relationship. When we give food the power to regulate how we feel and respond, it has become an addictive substance. Birthdays can be celebrated with plenty of healthy foods and good company. It’s not necessary to pack your arteries with buttercream to show that you are a good Auntie. Take the child a great gift and eat the healthiest offerings at the table. If the birthday is for an older person, take cash. You’ll be the favorite person at the party regardless of what you eat. You might carry Sugar Free Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes if you would like to have a healthier sweet treat at the party. Look into our recipe section and find something that suits your taste.

How to Cope

Look at the chart above and see if what you’re feeling is physical or emotional hunger. Most of us know the difference already. We know that if we’re hungry, our stomach feels empty and we’ll eat anything. We also know that if we’re tired, wired or have our feelings hurt or just plain angry and we want doughnuts then we’re probably not hungry. Notice the item where the chart compares when we stop eating. Have you ever binged on lean chicken or green vegetables? Probably not, but if you’re physically hungry, you will eat those foods until you’re not hungry anymore and stop. If you are eating from emotion, you will have trouble choosing healthy foods and after you give in to the birthday cake, you may not be able to stop with one piece. There’s never enough sugar and fat to fix your life or hold onto that euphoria of a party, so you will usually try to keep the party going by continuing to self-medicate with unhealthy foods.

Methods to Try

Keep a food diary. Write down, or digitally track, every bite that goes into your mouth. Keep records of how much sleep you’ve had, your hydration and your state of mind. Over time, you will begin to notice patterns that will enable you to get, and keep, your guard up during windows of danger.

Get some kind of support. If all of your so-called “friends” try to tempt you to live an unhealthy life, find new friends. We have a  Forum where you can interact with others who have the same goals. Join a gym. Find healthy groups on Facebook. Just make sure to interact with others who encourage your health initiative rather than try to pull you back into the abyss of sickness.

Cope with your stress in other ways. Get your doctor’s approval for an exercise program. He/she will most likely be happy to recommend a type of exercise based on your current abilities and limitations. Again, dissociate from negative people who push all the wrong buttons. That kind of stress is known to trigger binge eating. Practice deep breathing and get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation will make your stress level skyrocket.

Keep your mind engaged. When I was a lonely child, eating was a welcome reprieve from the boredom of a spoiled, slightly privileged child. By the standards in some parts of the world, most of us now are somewhat privileged. We find ourselves bored easily. Keep your mind occupied with productive activities and you’re not as likely to stray to the cookie jar.

DON’T KEEP YOUR TRIGGER FOODS IN YOUR HOUSE! We have ALL bought the ice cream “for the kids”. Don’t lie to yourself. If that’s your weakness, you’ll be in the kitchen at 3AM eating the soft edges of that carton until it’s ALL gone.

Make sure to eat enough healthy food to stay satisfied. After talking with your doctor, you might want to look at our Calorie Counter Pro   to determine how many calories you should eat in a day. We encourage a 1 pound per week loss in order to ensure that you are getting enough food to stay satisfied and have the time to slowly learn new habits. Carry healthy snacks with you all the time. I love string cheese and apples or celery and peanut butter. The combination of protein and fiber is great for seeing you through until your next meal.

DON’T QUIT and You Will Win!

You did not gain extra body fat quickly. You may think that you did because “Time flies when you’re having fun.” and eating that results in weight gain is fun, that’s why we do it. You gained it slowly and you will lose it slowly. Learn from mistakes and avoid the pitfalls that throw you off your game. This is a journey, not a race. In order to live a healthy lifestyle, we must continually learn. There are new foods being made available to us in the ever-expanding world market. There are new snack foods that may be healthy. Grow and learn about what works for you and if you lose ground, just dig in and push harder. That’s how you win this war, persistence. It’s not a temporary “diet” that will end on a set date. It’s a new you.

Always see your doctor before beginning any weight loss program and if necessary seek out a good therapist for emotional eating. We all need all the support we can get.

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