Difficult emotions are a fact of life. Emotions like shame and fear are not only difficult to navigate, they are downright uncomfortable. Quite understandably, soothing these emotions -- as quickly as possible, becomes priority number one.
For many people, the balm for these emotions is food.
Emotions are not bad things. While our culture may praise stoicism as a symbol of strength, there is nothing wrong with feeling out of sorts for one reason or another. In fact, experiencing our emotions is the first step to understanding them.
When we soothe our feelings with food, we ignore what they are trying to tell us. More often than not, they speak to an area in our lives that is out of sync and needs to be addressed. Sure, you might get a temporary sense of calm after eating an entire pizza but that calm won't last. Before long, you're beating yourself up for over eating and beginning the cycle all over again!
It doesn't have to be this way! It is important to recognize what is sending you running for that chocolate cake BEFORE you get there so you can find healthier ways to deal with what you are feeling.
Here are 5 emotions that may be leading you to overeat:
If you find yourself feeling at your wit's end all of the time, it is very easy to distract yourself with food. It is far easier to devour a bag of Doritos than it is to address a problem in your romantic relationship, or a problem at work or school. Studies have found
that sugars and simple carbohydrates can produce a temporary high similar to that of cocaine. This high, obviously, boosts the spirits making you more apt to repeat the behavior when feeling unsettled in the future.
Life can be really difficult. And sometimes, no matter what you do or how hard you work, things may not function as you wish they would. Sometimes, and this may be frustrating to hear, things are out of your control.
Instead of turning to food to ease your frustrations, try taking some time each day to just breathe. It may sound silly to you but taking a few moments each day to sit alone, in silence, focusing on nothing but your breath can make a world of difference. It will give you the opportunity to let go of all the things you can't control and allow you space to create solutions for whatever is making you feel frustrated.
Have you ever found yourself mindlessly eating in front of the television? We all have full schedules and after you've run through your daily list of duties, you may find it hard to know what to do with yourself. For many people, this boredom is treated with mind-numbing television and regular trips to the kitchen for snacks.
The key to stopping this boredom eating cycle is to find something to do with yourself. Yes, we're telling you that you need a hobby! Take up knitting or buy yourself a coloring book. Maybe try photography or bird watching. It could be anything. Finding something to do that is outside of your daily routine, that you enjoy and are curious about, will not only keep you from raiding the fridge, it will help you combat stress levels!
We all fear different things. Some people are afraid they won't ever be good enough, while others fear being successful. Whether you are afraid that you will fail on your current path or afraid to get started in a different direction, anxiety can be a crippling emotion. It is easy to calm yourself with a familiar treat. But, once again, this is not a long term solution.
Try keeping a journal. When you are feeling anxious or afraid, write out what you are feeling. Laying things bare can help you make sense of what you are experiencing. When you have a clear understanding of your fears, you can begin to devise ways to fight them. Writing in your journal can help you come up with a clear action plan.
Loneliness is a common trigger when it comes to comfort eating. Think about it, so much of our life centers around food. We celebrate with it, we gather together over it. We eat delicious cakes and family sized lasagnas, glorious holiday meals and Sunday brunches. We are happy together while sharing food. It is little wonder that when we are in need of contact and connection, we turn to these foods. Studies
have actually found that when people feel isolated, they are more likely to indulge in the foods they associate with happy memories. These foods remind us of our social connections and make us feel less lonesome. Again, this is not a long term solution.
If you are feeling lonely, reach out to someone. Call someone for a chat or plan a coffee visit. Even going for a walk can do wonders to boost social interactions. Get out there and see what's going on. Address your actual social need instead of ordering Chinese food.
Shame is a complicated, painful emotion and can be a major contributor to overeating. Some people have a difficult time seeing their beauty and value. They look in the mirror and are saddened by what they see. This shame breeds anxiety which gets soothed with food, which then prompts more shame. It is a vicious cycle that feels impossible to break. But you can break free.
Change the way you relate to your food
. Make eating good, healthy foods, in an intentional and deliberate way, your priority. Sit at the table. Turn off your electronics. Chew your food! Pay attention to what you are eating. If you find yourself riffling through your cupboards because you are feeling anything other than hunger, stop. Think. Ask yourself what you are feeling. It isn't always the easiest thing to do but it is the right thing. You are worth the effort it takes to sort it out.
It would be near impossible to experience a life that is free of painful emotions. We may try to ease our hurt with soothing comfort foods but that isn't a viable long term solution. You must address the root of the emotion. It won't be as easy as grabbing a cupcake but it will help your emotional and physical well-being.
Have you broken free from your emotional eating habits? Share your story with us! For some help keeping your diet on track, check out the BodyRock Meal Plan