When Hunger Strikes
There’s an interesting game we play called emotional eating. No one intends to eat a whole bag of chips, several servings of ice cream in one sitting. There’s no premeditation. In fact, there’s usually much self-talk beforehand meant to stave off the activity. It’s a problem I’ve been trying to address in my own life in the last two years. I’m making progress, but I still have a ways to go. It takes awareness and focus for one to make change in their life and we all tick a little bit differently.
So when the hunger strikes, what do you do?
What triggers your episodes of emotional eating? It’s likely you’ll get long tired of the exercise to find your triggers before you complete the task. Hang in there though. You effort is worth it. You need to ask yourself all the questions:
Who is it I am talking to or thinking about?
What are we talking about?
Where am I?
How do I get there?
What am I doing?
How am I feeling?
This history you compile yourself, very much like a doctor takes at an office visit, will start to give you answers and patterns you can examine. Be patient and add to your list of answers continually. Changes in your life and of your person can certainly create new situations you don’t want to miss.
You may be lucky enough to remove yourself from an unhealthy situation and people that leave you feeling an episode of emotional eating is imminent.
Examine places that lead to your downfall. Do fast food restaurants or bars leave you within reach of those foods you eat en masse? Is it your Mom’s kitchen? A bakery? Try skipping out on those places. Though perhaps, you should still go to Mom’s; just eat well first.
Examine your activities. Does drinking alcohol make you more susceptible to salty snacks? Do parties put too many temptations on the table in front of you? Does fighting make you feel angry and out of control?
Avoidance of people, places and activities can be the simplest ways to skirt around emotional eating.
What about feelings? Are you Sad? Angry? Frustrated? Disappointed? Guilty?
Our brains often seek instant gratification in food to cover up these feelings. Watch out too for instant gratification in drinking and other drugs. You may even choose low value activities that help you zone out to your feelings. Take gambling, binge watching TV, or scrolling through social media as examples. The problem with instant gratification is that it isn’t satisfying in the long run. The feelings are still there 5-10 minutes after you eat the food. Often, the feelings are just intensified. You become more sad that you gave into food. Then you are sad because you are feeling sad. Or you feel guilty for eating the food and just guiltier for having handled your guilt so poorly.
Here’s a novel thought. Feel your feelings and do not try to make them go away. Be angry and talk to someone or journal about what angered you. Be sad and accept that our complex human feelings ebb and flow. It is okay to be angry and sad after all. We all have emotions. Learning to live with those emotions is healthy; eating them is not.
Know that taking action steps to circumvent emotional eating is a process. Your brain has been trained by you, your loved ones and media for years to turn to food when your emotions run beyond your comfort zone. Awareness, study and acceptance will need to be repeatedly applied to create your new habit to go without that quick sugar fix or salty crunch. If you are looking for someone to help you find and fight your triggers, I would love to help if possible. Contact me for a free consult we will turn the tide together.