Have you ever wondered if you are an emotional eater? Do you worry about how eating effects your weight, your moods and your energy? Ask yourself:
- Do I eat when stressed out?
- Do I eat when I am feeling good about life?
- Do I eat when I am sad?
- Do I celebrate with food?
- Do I reward myself with food?
- Do I eat more when I’m angry?
- Do I feel loved when I eat?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you could be an emotional eater.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you think you have an eating disorder, or a lack of control over eating, please start here. If you feel that you have complete control over your eating, and you do not think you have an eating disorder, then please continue for some tips.
Don’t worry! Nothing is wrong, it means that you want to feel good. There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel good! However, we should discuss a subtle but important mind shift about eating food.
For many people, they have learn since childhood that food is a reward. It’s a means of celebration. Think back to your childhood…did you have the big family cookouts, or Sunday night dinners? Hours of socializing and catching up with family? Was it BBQ or potluck? Were you asked if you had enough to eat or if you want seconds? Maybe you only received attention when it was dinnertime? How about a cookie for behaving well at the doctors? What about a “special treat” for passing the test? What about getting a popsicle when you fell down and scraped your knee? Maybe you were offered ice cream when you had a bad day?
A few of these instances shouldn’t make an emotional eater, but if over time a person was repeatedly presented food, especially junk foods as a means to feel better or good, then they might be more susceptible to emotional eating.
You ask – Don’t I want to feel good about food?
Yes – 100%, the mind shift however, is that you want to eat healthy food that helps your body stay healthy, which in turn makes you feel healthy. So put down the donut and start to feel good about eating dark leafy greens, berries, avocados and other superfoods that keep your body running smoothly. In return, your moods will be better. Once you’ve created a healthy eating habit, then your body will crave the healthy foods. Instead of wanting to go to the donut shop on Saturday morning, you’ll want to hit up the farmer’s market for fresh berries.
Tips for taking the emotion out of eating
- Eat raw fruits, vegetables or small salad before eating anything junky. This will help stabilize your blood sugar levels, and start to re-program your brain and gut to eat healthy to feel happy.
- Make a time each month to reward yourself with a fun activity, a hobby, or exercise. This will allow you to feel rewarded without the immediate gratification. Try to make the reward something more active, like a special hike or bike ride. Maybe it’s spending a little extra money on that premium fitness class.
- Celebrate time with family by playing games, having conversations and engaging with them when food is not present. If having a meal together, create separation by sitting down to eat together after the act of socializing. Then have everyone participate in the cleaning up for further interaction.
- Start a daily journal. Write down what you are feeling each day. Try to write motivational notes to yourself, or express gratitude.
- Take a good happy moment, and turn on music and start dancing. Take a picture, call a friend. If you had the best day, or it’s TGIF, then enjoy the moment by celebrating life for yourself or with friends. The act of celebrating should be enjoyed, and later you can sit down for your meal.
You ask – What if I enjoy cooking with my family?
Does that make you an emotional eater, and set your kids up for emotional eating? The answer is NO- if the act of cooking is family time, then your children should grow up to enjoy the act of cooking. However, it can become emotional if you associate food rewards with the act such as sneaking bites of chocolate chip cookies. Always try to separate the fun of cooking, from the actual meal/food. When cooking with your family, have discussions, play music, or make plans together. The reward is strengthening the emotional bond between you.
I’m an emotional eater and I think I need more help!
Please start here there are valuable resources for you, and more in depth articles about symptoms of unhealthy eating, especially if you feel like you need more help.
If you feel that you are in control but could use more support, please reach out to your doctor or insurance to get a referral to a health + wellness coach. They will help you work through your changes without the added pressure of performance. They are there to educate/guide, but not diagnose or treat for illnesses. Additionally, they are not to be a permanent drain on your finances. A good coach should able to help you for a short amount of time, and occasional check ins.
Join a NEDA support group
Teen Treatment Center