How to overcome emotional eating

Comfort or emotional eating can occur when we feel stressed, anxious and overwhelmed. Uncertainty about your future can be a trigger. But mindful eating provides a kind and effective solution to overcome emotional eating.

Eating chocolates from a plate.

Photo by Kyaw Tun on Unsplash

Why do we eat more when we are stressed?

Many of us experience emotional eating from time to time.

Food soothes uncomfortable (negative) emotions such as stress, grief, boredom, and fear.

Eating also distracts us from the cause or trigger of these emotions e.g. illness, loss of a job or ending of a relationship.

Have you had this experience?

I too have experienced comfort eating.

About six weeks after my brother died suddenly I developed a habit of eating to block out my grief.

Back then I did not know how to cope and whilst I participated in counseling sessions, it took many years for me to develop my own strategy to overcome my eating habits.

If you have an emotional eating habit, please do not think it is your fault.

This habit could have formed many years ago, and like me, you chose food to help you through a difficult period of your life.

Whilst emotional eating provides short-term relief, it can lead to guilt about our eating habits and it doesn’t remove the cause of our distress.

It can develop into the habit of, “I don’t feel good”, I eat, “I feel guilty”, “I don’t feel good”, I eat…

Mindful eating helps to break this cycle.

Would you like to know how?

You are welcome to join me in a free Eating Habit Profile, just click here.

Choosing between an apple and a donut - how will your eating habits guide you

Overcome emotional eating with mindfulness

The practice of mindfulness includes being present with your current experience, with a purpose and self-compassion (non-judgment) and supports the practice of pausing before you make a choice e.g. the thought to focus on, how to communicate or the type and quantity of food.

Mindful eating focuses on the why, what, when and how of eating.

“The Eating for You” approach is based on my experiences of mindful eating, and working with clients for over 25 years as well as Eastern medicine and Western science.

This approach asks you to take a really close look at your drivers, or reasons, for eating to overcome emotional eating.

This can be uncomfortable at first because for many of us we have tended to change the way we eat by focussing on food, not our habits.

The pure purpose of mindfulness though is

to observe our reasons for eating with self-compassion and non-judgment.

So you might observe,

When I get worried about things, such as catching a virus or losing my job, I feel anxious (or you might experience another emotion, such as sadness or fear, so swap anxiety for that emotion).

I know that I am anxious because I feel flustered, overwhelmed and have an urgency to eat. I can eat a whole block of chocolate when I feel this way.

Rather than tell yourself “I shouldn’t keep chocolate in the house, or you should have more will-power to resist the chocolate.”

Tell yourself,

“That is interesting. I now know how I feel when I am anxious. I can also see that I reach for chocolate.

The next time I feel anxious I will:

  1. Ask questions about what worries me, as this helps me to feel more in control of my situation.
  2. Write a list of things I can do to reduce my worry and I will be naturally guided into problem-solving mode, making me feel more confident.
  3. If I am are not actually physically hungry I can choose to do something that will calm my mind and lift my mood. Great examples are deep slow breathing, walking outdoors, hugging your dog, talking with a friend or having an aromatherapy bath.”

Woman eating a red apple

Mindful eating creates a pause before you reach for food for comfort and overcome emotional eating.

The inquiry process is like that of a researcher and helps you to focus on resolving the cause of your distress, rather than feeling overwhelmed by it.

The level of anxiety (or other negative emotions) experienced is different for everyone. If your emotional response stops you from making supportive lifestyle choices for your health and wellbeing, then please get advice and support from your healthcare practitioner.

If you would like to overcome emotional eating join me for a free Eating Habit Profile.

In this 15 minute call we will explore your main barrier to eating mindfully, and I provide you with a personalised tip that you can put into action immediately.

I have a limited number of spots in my calendar for these calls, click on the button below to reserve your place.

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