When it comes to weight loss there’s really no magic to it. We all know the ‘secret’ formula for losing weight: eat less, move more, drink more water, breathe more deeply. If we all know what we should do, why is losing weight so hard? Dr. Lisa Turner offers some answers.
Why do we eat when we say we won’t? Why do we eat things we know aren’t good for us? Why do we eat when we’re not even hungry?
The answer is that we are eating for emotional reasons. Emotional eating is any eating you do the purpose of which is not meeting your physical needs for energy, nutrition or vitamins. There’s a deep reason that you want to eat.
Signs that you’re emotionally eating
You eat even though you’re not really hungry
Anytime you eat even though there’s no feeling of physical hunger you are emotionally eating. This can be snacking or continuing to eat even when you’re full. If your body is telling you that you’ve finished your meal, but you take another helping or keep nibbling at your plate, you’re emotionally eating.
Sudden onset of hunger
Emotional hunger often comes on without warning. For some, the experience is almost painful. So, why do we eat emotionally, and how can we stop?
“I deserve it”
This stems from childhood. As a child, you were probably rewarded for good behaviour with an ice cream or sweets. Now that you’re able to reward yourself any time you like, you do (perhaps too often). The pleasure of the food is a deep emotional reward.
To prevent this, find another way to reward yourself. Even collecting ‘points’ for yourself that add up to a bigger reward like a new outfit or a spa day. This might seem childish, like a kid’s reward chart, and that’s because it is – but it works. It’s tapping into the same neurological systems of reward that are triggered when you reward yourself with food.
Snacking when you’re bored
Snacking when you’re bored is common. You might be watching TV and be mindlessly eating crisps or corn chips, or some other nibble. The reason we eat when we’re bored is deeper than the need to be entertained. It’s a sign that you feel your life lacks meaning and a deeper purpose. It’s common for people who are passionately engaged in their lives, their hobbies, or their careers to forget to eat because they are so engrossed.
Find something that fulfils you. It might mean taking a hard look at your career, or finding an engrossing hobby that gives you a deep sense of achievement and satisfaction. You need to find away to engage both your body and your mind.
I’ll finish my plate
We’re commonly taught that we must finish our plate. During times of scarcity, this may have been essential, but now that food is plentiful and its supply reliable, always finishing what we are given can be disastrous for our health.
Very often we suppress unpleasant emotions because they feel too uncomfortable for us. Food becomes a way for us to do this. Emotions are scary for most people, but the more we get used to feeling them, the easier it becomes. Often we don’t allow ourselves to feel them because we’re afraid that we might act out on them in ways that could harm our relationships or career, when in fact the opposite is often the case. By finding ways to speak out clearly and express your needs you’ll find that the situation actually become less emotive. Usually you’re feeling emotional because you didn’t speak out. Speaking out can relieve the tension.
The chemical hit
One reason we eat certain foods is that they release chemicals that cause us to feel relaxed and happy. If we’re stressed, we will crave certain kinds of food for the chemical response they trigger in the brain. They actually release opioids that mimic the effects of drugs. The good news is that the brain can release the same chemicals without eating the food. Exercise, laughter and hugs are just a few ways you can do this.
Emotional eating doesn’t need to ruin your diet or health. By mastering your emotions, you’ll be able to take control of your eating habits for good. For free instant access to our emotional resilience e-course, go to www.recoverfromabuse.com