First of all, I’d like to say that there is no judgement here on how much you are eating. I support eating in it’s entirety and the word ‘over-eating’ is used here at your discretion. If you feel like the amount you are eating is causing you to feel out of control, or is a significantly larger amount of food than what you would normally eat, then perhaps you might describe that as over-eating. I’m leaving that decision up to you. I’m not here to tell you how much you should or should not be eating. No one has the right to tell you that. I’m here to talk to you about how to deal with emotional over-eating.
What is emotional over-eating?
Emotional over-eating is the act of consuming food during periods where you are experiencing emotions. For most people, this is during times of stress, sadness or boredom. Often, our subconscious goal of emotional eating is to make ourselves feel better. However, when we regularly turn to food as a source of comfort, we develop a dependency. This then turns emotional eating into emotional over-eating.
As a society, we are conditioned to believe that smaller bodies are valued higher than bigger bodies. We are also told that people who choose to eat healthily are better than those who don’t. In actual fact, how much you weigh or what you are eating has nothing to do with your ability to be a kind and upstanding member of society.
What happens when we engage in emotional over-eating?
When we engage in emotional over-eating, we shame ourselves for ‘indulging’ or ‘falling off of the wagon’. This negative mindset only encourages further negative emotions. The negative emotions lead to more comfort eating. Do you see the negative cycle?
There’s nothing wrong with eating as a response to emotions. Emotional eating is a huge part of our way of life. We celebrate by going out to dinner. We opt for take aways when we’re feeling tired. The goal should never be to stop emotional eating. Most of the time, people who want to stop emotional eating are looking for another way to restrict their food intake in order to lose weight. Stopping emotional eating altogether is unrealistic. It’s a form of restriction. Emotional eating is a necessary function for our body.
How to deal with Emotional Over-eating
I’d like to say again that dealing with emotional eating is different to stopping it. We’re not here to stop emotional eating. We’re here to live our lives along side it. We embrace, we accept it and we’re listening to our bodies.
Break the cycle
The first thing that will help you to break the cycle of over-eating is to let go of the shame. Release yourself from the mindset that you should only be eating a certain amount of food per day. Accept that this is your body’s natural response to emotions and allow it to engage with food. Rejecting Diet Culture, at this point, will also benefit you massively.
You might think that allowing yourself to over-eat will only make you eat more. At first, it probably will. It’s a necessary step for allowing your body to re-balance and find it’s cues again. Eventually, you body and your mind will learn when it wants to stop and it’s important that you listen.
Which brings me on to my next point…
Intuitive eating is the act of listening to your bodily and mental cues with your approach to eating. It involves listening to cravings, eating when you’re hungry and embracing a mentality without restrictions or rules surrounding food.
Adopt an intuitive way of living. Listening to your body and your internal cues will bring you so much strength. You will learn to trust yourself. Your body will learn to trust you. When you eat intuitively, the cravings to eat constantly significantly reduce. There’s no need to restrict because you naturally eat the right amount of food that your body needs.
I’ve been on a whole journey with Intuitive Eating and I’m still learning new things about myself every day. Read about my recent experience here.
Deal with the emotions
This ties in well with the concept of intuitive living. When we emotionally eat, our goal is to make ourselves feel better with food. It’s like we’re ignoring the emotions behind how we’re actually feeling. By listening to your body and accepting your emotions, you may find that there’s an alternative way to cope without food. This isn’t the same as restricting food. By acknowledging the emotion, you’re committing to yourself and your needs. If you’re stressed, it might be that you need to meditate or better yet, target the cause of the stress! If you’re feeling sad, you might find journalling or talking to someone about how you’re feeling a therapeutic outlet.
Sometimes, when things are completely out of our control, the only thing we can do is comfort ourselves. And that’s okay. Remember, comfort eating isn’t a bad thing. We don’t need to shame ourselves for it.
If you’re struggling with your relationship with food, contact BEAT Eating Disorders service for support.
I hope you’ve found this post on how to cope with emotional over-eating useful! Don’t forget to PIN it so you can refer back in the future.
Always remember to take a paws!