Are you an emotional overeater? Here are 5 ways to help you overcome it
How often do you find yourself reaching for some comfort food when you’re feeling overwhelmed? It’s often an unconscious action where you’re having a bad day or work is stressful and a bowl of ice cream is just the thing to make you feel better. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Emotional overeating is more common than you may think.
Even though eating while you’re feeling stressed, sad or overwhelmed can make you feel better in the moment, more often than not, you’ll find yourself feeling bloated and uncomfortable not long after. This leads to feelings of regret and can make you even more emotional. We’ve got some great ways to navigate through these feelings so you don’t need to rely on food.
What is emotional eating?
Emotional overeating is when you use food to soothe negative feelings and emotions you’re struggling with. It’s when you use food to fill your emotional needs instead of hunger.
We’re talking about overeating though to the point where you feel uncomfortable and know you should have stopped. Reaching for some comfort food when you’re having a bad day is something completely different. A delicious pizza at the end of a disastrous day can be a pick me up but the problem comes in when you have the pizza, followed by some chocolate and then a couple of biscuits and so on because you’re trying so hard to fill the void your emotions have created.
The more regularly you use food to make yourself feel better, the more you rely on food for just that. You begin to fall into a pattern of eating whenever you feel bad which will not help you work through those emotions in a more therapeutic and healthy manner.
Causes of emotional eating
Ever heard of the phrase “trying to fill the void”? In most instances, negative emotions can make you feel empty and food is a way to fill that void and create an illusion of “fullness”, making you feel better temporarily.
When you’re an emotional overeater, this is more than likely due to you developing it as a coping mechanism instead of possibly reaching out to a loved one, using meditation or physical exercise or any other coping mechanism which will help you navigate negative emotions in a healthier way.
The cycle of emotional eating
When emotional overeating becomes a pattern, it can turn into a vicious cycle that often feels like it will never end.
It begins by feeling something upsetting or negative, reaching for food for comfort, overindulging to fill the void which leads you to feel powerless over food or uncomfortable and then you’re back to having negative feelings.
Eating will make you feel good in the moment but at the end of the day, those feelings are still there.
How to overcome emotional eating
There are many ways to overcome emotional eating and it’s important for you to find something that suits you the best. If you feel that your emotional overeating is something you can’t handle or overcome on your own, it is always a good idea to reach out for professional advice.
These 5 tips can help you navigate your way through your emotions and help you overcome overeating;
1. Understand the root cause
This is no easy task but when you’re feeling down and feel the need to reach for food, you need to understand what’s causing that feeling.
A bad day at work or fighting with a friend are temporary problems that you will overcome in time but if there are deeper issues that are causing you to feel stressed, overwhelmed or depressed, it is vital to dive deeper into the root cause of these feelings.
We suggest reaching out to a loved one or a professional for some assistance because our tips may help you with overeating but if you haven’t dealt with your emotions, you’re only rectifying half of the whole problem.
2. Ask yourself why you’re eating
When you find yourself reaching for a snack or taking a trip to the fridge, ask yourself if you’re actually hungry. Why do you feel the need to eat right now?
It might be a good idea to rate your levels of hunger. After you’ve asked yourself if you’re hungry, rate how hungry you are on a scale of 1-5. If you rated your hunger between a 3 and 5, grab something nutritious to eat. Anything lower than a 3, maybe make a cup of tea instead.
This will stop you from “mindlessly” eating at any given moment.
If you know you’re an emotional overeater, plan for it.
Rather than grabbing an entire packet of chips, fill some containers with nuts or fruit for example. Have an allocated amount of snacks as your go-to for when you feel like you need a little pick me up.
You can see these as your emergency snack packs or as snacks for when you’re feeling a little bit peckish but the only way this will work is if you have some control over the number of snacks you are packaging.
4. Practice mindful eating
Most of the time, the act of eating is done on autopilot. You’ll find yourself sitting down in front of a Netflix series chomping on your meal and before you know it, it’s finished and you can’t even really remember eating all of it.
It might be a good idea to really think about when you’re feeling hungry and what you will eat to fulfil that hunger. Try to limit distractions like your phone or TV while you’re eating so you are mindful of what and how much you are eating.
Really engage your senses while you eat and acknowledge the taste and smell of each bite. And try to slow down your eating by chewing for at least 20 seconds and pausing in between mouthfuls. This will help you realise when you are actually full so you don’t overeat.
There is so much to living a mindful life, read up on the art of mindfulness here.
5. Find other ways to cope
Instead of always going to food when you’re feeling overwhelmed, try replacing it with a healthy coping mechanism.
Where you can, try meditation instead or going for a walk. Physical activity has been proven to improve our moods as well. You can also take a look at the link between yoga and self-love for other ways to work through your emotions.
Maybe even distract yourself by reaching out to someone you trust and talk through what you are feeling.
Being a human being filled with emotions is difficult and we all do what we can to get by but sometimes we don’t realise that our coping mechanisms are more harmful than good. We hope our tips help you overcome your emotional overeating but always remember that reaching out for professional help is sometimes the best thing for you!