Week 13: Stop emotional eating?
Or do you have no hold over your eating behavior?
Do you find yourself battling back and forth when it comes to food? Do you eat something you don’t find healthy because you can’t control your eating? Do you use emotionally charged words to describe food, even though food has no feelings for you? If you answered “yes” to the first set of questions and “no” to the second set, that means you have a highly healthy relationship with food.
Overcoming emotional eating may not happen overnight, but as long as you keep working on it, you will achieve a 100% healthy relationship with food – sooner than if you put it off to tomorrow.
Read each step in detail and apply what you read. I can only share the methods; you have to be the one to act on them. The power to overcome emotional eating lies in you.
Step 1: Identify your eating triggers
In the ideal world, our relationship with food will be one where we eat only when we feel hungry and we stop eating immediately once we are full (vs. eating to finish the plate etc). We do not eat based on any extrinsic factors (such for as a celebration, or stress, work, boredom, to feed a feeling of depression, etc.), but based purely on intrinsic factors (i.e. whether we’re hungry or not).
For many of us though, a lot of our eating/non-eating occurs outside of hunger. It’s because of this that there are problems such as obesity, underweight, anorexia and bulimia are prevalent in the society.
If you think about it, what are your triggers for eating/not eating? Below are some common examples:
- Stress – Do you eat when you feel stressed / under pressure? In the past, I would constantly reach out for food whenever it’s time to work or study. In my mind, the food was my companion that would give me strength while I worked.
- Frustration – Do you reach out for food when you are frustrated? When is something not going the way you want? When you over-eat and you are beating yourself over it?
- Boredom – Do you eat when you feel bored? When are you at a loss of what you should be doing?
- Guilt – Is food an outlet to release your guilt? This is an area I fell under in the past too, though not to the same extent as my natural reaction to eating when I was working. If I ever fell off track in my diet/plans, I’d forget it all and just binge for the whole day. After all, if I had already eaten that pastry, how would it matter if I ate a dozen more? It was a bad, all-or-nothing mindset.
- Happiness – Do you eat as a way to celebrate?
- Depression – Do you eat when you feel down/unhappy/depressed?
- Social – Do you eat when you’re out with friends, even though you don’t feel hungry?
Step 2: Understand why you eat under those situations
Why do you eat during those situations you identified in #1? For the answer that comes up, continue to ask “Why” until you have arrived at the underlying root cause. This is also what I call as the digging exercise, as you’re literally “digging” to uncover the fundamental reason why you’re triggered to eat when you feel stressed/guilty/frustrated/bored/happy/etc.
For example, when I did this exercise in the past on why I would eat when I worked, these were the answers I got:
Why do I eat when I work, even though I’m not hungry?
– Because I need to eat while I’m working
– Because I can’t work without eating
– Because it’s my source of life
– Because food is my companion. It accompanies me as I work.
– Because I feel empty without it.
– Because when I eat food, I feel love.
– Because food is a reward. Because when I was young, dad and mum would buy lots of food to show their love. They had always said it was important to eat to stay alive and healthy. Because of all the conditioning when I was young, I grew up with the notion that food = love.
Keep digging across the different contexts relevant for you and you may find some mind opening answers. The power of your realizations is dependent on how deeply you’re willing to dig. The deeper you dig, the more powerful your realizations will be. You know you have reached the underlying root cause when you get an a-ha moment and when you reach an incident(s) that led to the belief being formed vs. the belief itself.
Step 3: Identify how you plan to restore a healthy relationship with food
Given your answers in #2, what can you do moving forward to develop a healthy relationship with food? List down your key action steps. The results may not be immediate, but this is the start of a journey to creating that healthy relationship with food, and to living a truly healthy lifestyle.
1) See food for what it is – something to sustain life vs. a companion or friend
2) Do the digging exercise whenever I eat in spite of not feeling hungry
3) Love me more, vs. using food as a tool for self-love
4) Journal and make it a point to post meaningful replies there.