Think of all the situations that involve food and drink. We celebrate birthdays with cake, anniversaries with dinner, and Valentines with candy. There’s emotional eating, too. We go out drinking when we’ve had a bad day – or maybe to celebrate a good day. We pass these habits onto our kids, too. Good report card? Let’s go out for ice cream! Didn’t make the team? Here, have a cookie and you’ll feel better.
So, it’s no wonder that many of us reach for a bag of chips, bowl of ice cream, or fast food…knowing darn well we’re not really physically hungry. There’s nothing wrong with that if it’s an occasional splurge.
But, for many of us it turns into an overeating occasion or a binge. Probably in part because food wasn’t the solution needed, so we continue to eat in hopes that more will help. It won’t. We’re eating to fill some need. This is fine, if we’re eating to satisfy true hunger, but oftentimes that’s not the situation. And, sometimes we don’t even know what the need is.
Hey, I know what that feels like, too. Remember I got into this field because of my eating disorder. I used to “stuff” my feelings all the time. We can blame it on our upbringing. Or blame it on society; this behavior is promoted in ads, TV shows, and on social media. Think of how many television shows or movies show the stars taking a stiff drink or getting wasted after a bad day. Then there are a lot of funny ads about people changing back to their normal nice personality after eating a Snickers bar. These perpetuate the myth that food and drink can solve more than hunger.
No More Excuses
But blame doesn’t get us anywhere. So, no more excuses. Let’s figure out what’s prompting the overeating – and come up with a solution. This process works when you’re feeling angry or impatient or a host of other negative emotions and you’re not sure why. When I have an urge to scream out of anger, cry out of sadness, or eat for any other reason than hunger, I pull out this list of emotions to help me figure out exactly what’s going on. One-by-one I read these emotion words aloud and wait for my gut to tell me if there’s any truth to that emotion.
What’s the Real Reason?
Sometimes we feel anger, but you’re actually disappointed that someone let you down. Or maybe you’re disappointed in yourself for saying yes, when you really wanted to say no. When you’re craving ice cream and you’re still stuffed from dinner, ask yourself what emotion you’re feeling. Could it be boredom? Loneliness? Feeling rushed or overworked?
Identify the Emotion – and Come Up with a Better Solution
Once you identify the real emotion, then you can come up with a more appropriate solution that will actually solve the situation – or move you in the right direction:
- Bored? Can you go for a walk, instead? Read a book? Practice a hobby? Call a friend?
- Mad at others because you’re over committed? If you find yourself always saying yes to every request, instead of blaming others, why not take an assertiveness course?
- Exhausted or overwhelmed? Take a hard look at your current situation to evaluate what you could drop or delegate. Ask others for ideas, too. Sometimes really there’s nothing we can do right now. But could you take a short five-minute breather every hour to help relieve some of the stress? Or get a massage?
- Feeling “not good enough”? That was the emotion that often led to my overeating, binges, and eating disorders. That’s why I spent my 20’s developing and valuing my self-worth – using positive self-talk, affirmations, visualizations, and positive challenges.
When you identify the emotions that lead to overeating, then identify permanent solutions, you’re on your way to better self-care. Which then leads to fewer distractions, as well as more focus, energy, and happiness. Realize though, that new habits, can take time to solidify. Give yourself a break when you feel like you’ve slipped. It happens. To all of us. Just being mindful of our true emotions, though, will move us in the right direction.
Share with me what emotions drive you to eat – and what solutions you’ve instituted. I can’t wait to hear from you. Email me at [email protected] .