If You Suffer From Emotional Eating, You're Not Alone

By Kiera Smalls 

A few days ago, I was talking on the phone with my stepmom and she admitted that she ate a cheesesteak. For most, eating a cheesesteak is perfectly fine but for my stepmom who's dealing with Lupus and recovering from a recent back surgery, it was an indication that she had fallen off track of her fitness and wellness goals.

She began beating herself up about emotional eating and asked me of ways to combat the issue. As I was giving her tips, I couldn't help but confess that I, too, currently suffer from emotional eating.  

We continued our phone call by exchanging tips with each other but we both knew that, ultimately, this was a much bigger issue than we'd like to admit. 

Emotional eating is looking to food for comfort, stress relief, or as a reward. It's believing that you need this or that in order to feel better. You feel powerless over food cravings and when the desire to eat hits, it’s all you can think about. Nothing else matters. Not your goals. Not your instincts that tell you that you're making a bad decision. Nothing.

According to the American Psychological Association, "people tend to seek high-calorie, high-fat foods during periods of stress, though in fact, when people are stressed, their bodies store more fat than when they are relaxed. While many factors contribute to the nation’s weight challenges, the Stress in America™ survey suggests that stress influences our eating habits. Many adults report engaging in unhealthy eating behaviors as a result of stress and say that these behaviors can lead to undesirable consequences, such as feeling sluggish or lazy and feeling bad about their bodies." 


Emotional eating is not something you can predict and it comes and goes for various reasons. Maybe you had a stressful day at work, a bad break up, or feelings of loneliness and uncertainty.

The list could go on and on. 


QUICK BACK STORY

After our call, I started thinking about my emotional eating and how the past year has been challenging. I've been busy with work projects, planning events, marathon training, stressed beyond belief for various reasons (like so many others), that I put my healthy eating on the back burner. Before I knew it, I gained weight.

I've only shared this with a few friends, describing it in different ways each time but the reality was still very clear: I was struggling with emotional eating. There were instances where I didn't want to be seen in public or post pics online. I had a meltdown. 

It was a wake up call that I didn't want to answer. I workout, surround myself with so many strong and determined people, but when I'm alone, the cravings can get the best of me despite all of this. I'm opening up about it because I believe that I'm not alone.


Combating emotional eating is not easy but we have to remind ourselves of the hard work we've done and will continue to do. 


WHERE TO BEGIN?

I'm sharing some tips that helped me in the past and I'm confident that they will help me (and you) again. Remember, emotional eating comes and goes. It's not something that will completely go away, but we can at least keep these tips in mind for future episodes. 

Identify triggers:

If you're dealing with emotional eating then you need to admit it. Being in denial is the absolute worse. Write out who or what triggers you and why. 

Have honest check-ins with yourself:

Look in the mirror and say, "Girl, you need to get it together...". Talking to yourself is not crazy, it's one of the best things you could do. You can also document episodes and keep a journal to check-in on your progress.  

Take steps to practice mindfulness:

How present are you while eating? There are plenty of meditation apps available that can help you slow down and appreciate all that beauty that life has to offer, especially our foods. 

Get active:

Don't let boredom trick you into thinking that you're hungry or need a treat. Combat those feelings with a trip to your favorite park, phone a friend, workout, etc. 

Seek professional help

Find a therapist who can help you deal with emotional eating. Even if you're not sure if you're really suffering from it, you can see one as a preventative measure. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with emotional eating, you are not alone.

Have more tips to combat emotional eating? Please share them in the comments below!


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