EMOTIONAL EATING – WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
Dinner has come and gone, but you are still hungry. You make a little coconut yoghurt with berries to suffice (big health tick). But that doesn’t cut it, so you break off one square of Pana chocolate… before you know it, you are down two packets of chocolate and there are Cruskit crumbs all over you. That mean inner voice in berating you and you feel out of control. What just happened?
This is a common example of emotional eating, which has many disguises. It is a phenomenon that needs to be addressed because it is having a big impact on our self-confidence, our self- worth and our waistlines.
So much information out there emphasises the importance of moving our bodies and getting in our exercise, but tackling the emotional eating rollercoaster is just as important for our overall health. But, what is emotional eating? In simple terms it is eating for reasons other than satisfying actual physical hunger.
It essentially means our bodies are craving food for the soul.
Emotional eating makes you feel out of control and trapped in a vicious cycle. It can make you feel like a failure, which is not the case at all. All that has happened is you are seeking pleasure externally to help soothe something internally. Breaking this cycle and becoming more aware of what is going on leads you to:
- A better relationship with food by seeing it for what it is – a source of nourishment and not something to turn to when you are sad, alone, angry, bored or even happy
- Reconnecting to your body and how you are feeling. Emotions come but like waves, they do go. Food only suppresses emotions for a short time until the waves come back with more force.
Here are my top five tools to end emotional eating:
Give yourself permission to feel
It is ok to feel mad, scared or sad. Sit and take a few moments and feel the emotion. Take 10 big deep belly breaths. Try to understand why that feeling is there and what you truly want, because I can promise you, it is not that bag of potato chips. Bringing in this mindfulness tool is a great way to connect with yourself and stop the cycle of reaching for food when you’re feeling down.
Know your triggers and find food for your soul
If you know that your binges happen when you feel lonely for example, make plans to see or talk to people that are close to you. I also suggest to clients to find something that feeds their soul – that’s not food! These could include:
- Being outside in nature – ‘walk it off’
- Taking a luxurious bath and listening to podcasts
- Being creative
TIP: Don’t default to social media scrolling. Many times it can make you feel a lot worse and uninspired!
Be prepared with healthy meals and snacks in the fridge
Emotional eating and dieting go hand-in-hand. It can be your body’s reaction to feeling deprived. If you know that you crave sweet foods or junk foods, make yourself alternatives that will suffice your craving but also provide you nourishment. Here are some examples:
- Coconut milk chia puddings
- Homemade chocolate bark
- Popcorn made with coconut oil and nutritional yeast
- Veggie chips and guacamole
- Cacao hot chocolate made with ginger, cinnamon and milk of choice
Find out what floats your boat
Sometimes we emotionally eat because we are so busy in our lives with work and serving others that we forget about ourselves. Write a list of things that make you happy and which bring joy in your life and make a point to fit that in your day or week- put yourself first!
Connect with YOU
In today’s busy world we are very ‘connected’. By phone, email and social media, but it has actually caused us to disconnect from ourselves. This feeling of disconnect can manifest itself in the form of hunger, so we search for connection through eating. Meditation is on trend these days and is a wonderful tool for health and wellbeing. Science backs this up! Take time out every day to disconnect from the hustle of your world and to connect with your inner world. It can be for 10, 20, 30 minutes whatever suits you. There are many apps out there to help guide you or you can use the simple technique of closing your eyes and focusing on your inhalations and exhalations for 50 counts.
Other ways to disconnect in order to connect include:
- Putting your legs up against the wall while listening to some relaxing music while doing diaphragmatic breathing
- Light a candle, close the blinds and do some long hold stretching
- Go for a walk – walking is also a type of meditation!
As humans, we are driven to seek pleasure and avoid pain, and emotional eating is a coping mechanism that we have developed to give us that momentary sense of pleasure and satisfaction. I am sure that incorporating a few of these strategies will help you get off the emotional eating rollercoaster and connect you to what you are really craving, which is food for your soul.
Thanks for reading
Katie Joubert is the Founder and Director of Joubert Nutrition. Katie has a Masters of Science in Applied Human Nutrition from Oxford Brookes University in the UK, with specialist training in paediatric nutrition.
Katie specialises in providing nutritional advice and counselling to mothers and children, and is dedicated to helping families make positive changes for better health.