So this entry is going to a bit more personal than most.
I am an emotional eater.
Eating due to emotions is not something new. I’m not touching base on some groundbreaking discovery, but it is something I have struggled with for many years, since childhood really. As a kid, I had several instances where I wasn’t able to eat a meal because my mother was not around for this reason or that (those details are not important). I recall once eating straight butter because I was so hungry and didn’t know how to cook or prepare anything else. That could easily be just one of many things that happened which have had lasting effects on my eating habits.
As an adult, I have always had a struggle with food in general. Namely, if I have a really bad day, got really upset, or generally am really bored, I will eat and eat and eat to the point where I feel almost literally sick afterwards. It’s not something that I can often control and being able to force myself to stop eating due to having a bad day is very challenging. It’s almost as if loading myself up with food is my minds way of filling the void of whatever it bothering me.
I thought to myself, why do I emotionally eat? Not just why, but WHY?! Well, according to About Health, the answer is stress! More specifically a chemical in the body called cortisol, aka the stress hormone. In a nutshell, when you get stressed out, cortisol causes your body to crave sweet and/or salty things, and accordingly you eat until that craving is satisfied and considering it’s an internal craving, it is difficult to quench that craving. Dr Lukas Van Oudenhove, an expert in gastrointestinal disorders was quoted saying “Evolution has made every aspect of feeding as rewarding as possible,” he says. “These days it may not be a good thing anymore. When food is available anywhere, then it may be a bad thing, leading to obesity or eating disorders in some people.”
As a kid, food wasn’t really a reward necessarily, it was more a necessity. I would be out with my friends and get called home to eat, it was a necessary evil to have to go home to eat. Even in modern times, I have work to do, but I must step away from my desk in order to eat even though most days I will eat while working. Let’s face it and be frank, it sucks. I hate it that when I have a bad day for whatever reason and I’m just angry, hurt, bitter, super cranky, or whatever other negative emotion, and then feel this juggernaut inside me that just wants to devour the entire kitchen. Every single bite is pretty literally empty calories because I do not in any way need this food, I want it and I want it all!
I’m not so naive or unaware as to think that this is something that is easily fixed because it’s not. And I will be the first to admit that I do not have the willpower to just walk away from food while I’m being overly emotional. Sure, once in a while I may be able to quell the beast, but not all the time. The book 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself without Food by Dr. Susan Albers is a nice source for taking on the emotional eating problem. An excerpt of her book she writes:
Count on Your Senses 5-4-3-2-1
When you have trouble clearing your mind of thoughts of food, try focusing on your senses.
State one scent you can smell.
Name two sounds you can hear.
Describe three sensations your body is feeling, such as temperature, the texture of your sweater, your feet against the ground.
Identify four colors that you see.
To yourself, begin naming five things you see in front of you.
When you finish doing this, it’s likely that you will be thinking about nothing, not even food – unless there’s food directly in front of you. If you are still thinking about food, repeat each step until you notice that your thoughts are less clouded by food cravings.
So basically her advice in this excerpt is distraction. I can do distraction! I haven’t quite thought about doing that as a distraction, but it’s worth a shot. Another good source that I found for helping emotional eating is from Help Guide. To summarize, the steps are:
Identify the triggers
Find other ways to feed your feelings
Pause when cravings hit
Support yourself with healthy lifestyle habits
These are all very good and the links and resources they provide are also all very good, I checked out each one and they all appear to be very useful and I intend on looking into at least a few of them.
Do I feel like I have a disorder? Huh, like an actual, diagnosable disorder? I have no idea, I kind of hope not. I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this, so I’d really like to hear some feedback from you about your struggles, perhaps how you deal with emotional eating and any other comments you may have on the issue.