What is emotional eating?
Every time you eat, you’re solving a problem. Either you’re hungry and food provides your body the energy it needs to function, or you’re eating to sooth, avoid, or distract from a negative emotion such as boredom, agitation, loneliness, anxiety, stress, anger, or any other uncomfortable feeling. I noticed my emotional reaction to the signs of aging goes from joy and acceptance to shock and surprise!
You may have unknowingly started emotionally eating as child or teenager. When you felt uncomfortable, you discovered that eating calmed you down. Most people learn this lesson unconsciously. Back then, emotional eating probably allowed you to avoid the negative emotion and feel momentarily better, without much of a downside. Now, you may have decades of emotional eating behind you. Once you hit 60 you thought, I’m going to conquer this one! You know emotional eating doesn’t come without its costs, especially when it goes on for years or even decades.
Why is emotional eating a problem?
Emotional eating doesn’t always have a negative impact, but if you are overweight, feel out of control around food, or are hiding in your life, it’s crucial to understand how emotional eating holds you back. Emotional eating undermines your self-esteem, your self-confidence, and your ability to plan for a positive future.
Maybe you’ve noticed that you can’t always control how much you eat or that eating too much is negatively affecting your health and weight. Eating when you’re not hungry might not even feel good anymore, but you can’t seem to stop or break the habit. The cost of emotionally eating becomes greater as the cycle persists into our 60s.
Discover if you are an emotional eater. Take the quiz.
This quiz will help you identify if you are an emotional eater, and what type of emotional eating may be your go to behavior. How? By looking at how you show up in other parts of your life.
How to stop emotional eating.
No matter how long you have been eating emotionally, in order to stop emotional eating you must be able to recognize that you are doing it when you are doing it. To do this you need to understand two things. The first is how you show up in other parts of your life. This provides clues about your emotional eating tendencies. The second is to understand the three different types of eating and how they apply to you:
FOG EATING is when you eat seemingly unbeknownst to yourself. You are cruising through a bag of chips without even tasting them. Cleaning the dinner dishes and snatching leftovers while talking to the grandkids! You open a pack of cookies and the next thing you know you they are all gone and you don’t remember what it tasted like. Fog Eating is not enjoyable or purposeful; it is an unconscious munch that we aren’t even aware we are doing. When we notice it, it is disconcerting and adds to the stress of noticing other little things you can’t remember.
STORM EATING is binge eating or feeling out of control of your own body. You start out being aware you are eating, you tell yourself you will stop, and you feel as if you cannot control your own impulses. You decide to go on a restrictive diet and you get too hungry and find yourself starving. All bets are off and you start eating anything in sight. Or when we are stressed about something someone did or said and we decide to “hurt” them by overeating. It also happens when we have an overwhelming emotion we just don’t want to feel. Storm Eating is usually followed by regret and shame. Many times, Storm Eating is done in private and in hiding.
FUEL EATING is when we are eating food that provides our body with high-grade fuel to perform. It is a decision we consciously make to put wholesome food in our bodies that will give us energy and nourishment to perform physically. Most Fuel Eating requires planning and forethought.
Once you see how these types of behaviors effect you, you will start to reclaim authority over yourself and your choices. From there you can start taking steps to change your habits and make progress in the areas of your life where your current relationship to food is holding you back.