Generally, I consider myself a relatively calm, level-headed person. Well, maybe I do have the occasional rant, or rave, I'm no different than anyone else out there, right? So how is it that during times of emotional duress, I can eat like the world is about to explode? Emotional eating is my Achilles heel. It springs from something deep inside me, I'd venture to even say it's a subconscious tendency. Even worse, it manifests itself like a physiological reaction - I can feel my hand reach across my desk seeking the nearest sugar fortified food to stuff in my face. I don't think I even taste what I eat at times like this. It's as though I become the black hole of eating - and I can't understand how someone with such resolve and determination can repeat this pattern, but I do. I think it comes down to one thing...
I'm only human.
Well, that and the fact that I'm currently living through one of the most stressful periods of the human experience after death of a loved one, divorce. There, I said it, the "D" word. Yes dear blog readers, as this post goes up on Wednesday morning, I'll be standing in the Bergen County Superior Court, divesting myself from a man I've associated myself with for nearly 20 years. For those survivors of divorce out there, you have a pretty good inclination of how stressful this can be. And for an emotional eater like myself, this is like rocket fuel. I've had to all but chain off the kitchen cabinets with my kid's snacks and goodies.
When faced with emotionally trying times in life, whether it's family, work or relationships, many of us reach for food. It's something that was conditioned in me from a very young age. Have some kielbasa and cheese ... a few cookies will make you feel better ... a scoop of ice cream? It always came back to food as a means of comfort, when it probably should have been some tea and sympathy instead.
Here are a few tactics I've picked up here and there to deal with emotional eating. It's all common sense stuff, but they're good reminders to keep top of mind...
- Learn the difference between physical and emotional hunger, which is the difference between eating to fill a physical need and eating emotionally.
- Eat slowly and listen to your body for clues that you're physically satisfied.
- Don't eat mindlessly in front of the TV.
- Don't deprive yourself of foods you love – just don't overdo it.
- Don't eat in bed or on the sofa. Eat at the kitchen table. Stop emotional eating by eating in the same place all the time.
- Treat your body with respect: nourish it, move it around, listen to it, and pamper it. Tune in to your body to stop emotional eating.
- Look for connections between the events in your day and your cravings for food. Identify the triggers that push you over the line and make you want to eat mindlessly (eg, fights with your partner or child).
- Deal with your triggers. If you can't cut them from your life entirely, find better ways to cope with your feelings. Eating mindlessly makes things worse.
Controlling emotional easy is not an easy proposition. If it were, than why do so many of us struggle with it? It defies reason so far as I'm concerned. So many of us are educated, rational people - emotional eating is like temporary insanity. Take it one day at a time, and learn to be more forgiving of yourself. Remember, each day is a new opportunity. After all, we're only human, right?