Ending emotional eating, part 3

Okay, so a few weeks ago, we talked about what emotional eating is and how to begin identifying the differences between emotional vs. physical hunger.

Today, we are going to start thinking about fueling our bodies and really setting the stage for the different things that might make us more vulnerable to emotional eating. Later on, as we continue this series, we’ll also talk more about ways of coping with emotions in a healthy way that starts to diffuse the need for finding comfort through food.

Now that you can identify a bit easier what physical hunger feels like in your body, from Part 2 of this blog series, you likely have a better sense of when you feel hungry throughout the day and maybe even what foods you start to turn to when you’re feeling hungry. One vulnerability to emotional eating can be when we let ourselves get SO hungry that we are making impulsive and rash choices around food. This can also cause us to overeat and become uncomfortable, which only continues that cycle of again allowing ourselves to become too hungry. Have you ever heard that phrase, “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse!” Not a good place to be when we are trying to make mindful, intentional decisions around food.

One way of decreasing that vulnerability is by staying within that range I proposed, between a 3-7 on the hunger-fullness scale. How do you stay within that scale? Well, for starters, that might look like eating every few hours, so that your blood sugar levels are never dropping off or spiking in drastic ways throughout the day. It can also look like balance, which may mean eating appropriate, recommended portions of your foods (remember, ALL foods fit into this philosophy!) rather than too little or too much. It will look like eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as a few snacks throughout the day, and getting a balance of different foods from the various food group families. It means not depriving yourself, or “saving up calories” or even counting calories or macros at all. Intuitive eating comes from listening to your body, not calculations or numbers or even the time on the clock.

That may be a difficult thing for many people to accept, knowing how the diet culture influences so many things in our society today. Calories are posted on pretty much every menu you see, and we’re so aware of what is “bad” or “unhealthy” in foods around us. This next step really involves a conscious effort and choice at removing these judgments and removing the influence of some of these other food qualifiers.

When you go to Starbucks or to a restaurant for lunch or dinner, can you honestly say that you order what you WANT on the menu, and that the calorie postings next to the food options you choose don’t influence what you pick? It can take a while to get to that place, and it takes a lot of hard work to retrain your mind to see ALL foods as important and necessary.

When it comes to intuitive eating, we are teaching our bodies and our minds that food isn’t what holds power. Food by itself is not special - WE make it that way. Food is food. We ourselves place important and emphasis on it, and THAT is what creates these ideas of food being good or bad. I sometimes say to my clients that I wouldn’t recommend someone only lives on cake, the same way I wouldn’t recommend that someone only lives on carrots. Everything in our lives must include moderation, flexibility, and a healthy dose of forgiveness. Anytime shame starts to enter the picture, especially when it comes to food, we find ourselves in a dangerous place where polarization can start to take place. It’s in that place of judgment and shame where emotional decisions and black-and-white thinking around food (and our bodies!) can really evolve. Over time, learning to identify those tendencies with a good eating disorder therapist and dietitian, AND learning how to re-train your brain to have a positive and healthy relationship with your body and with food, you can start to see that shift from judgment and shame to acceptance and compassion.

How have you been doing this holiday season? I’d love to hear what your challenges and successes have been. Please leave us a note below in the comments, and don’t hesitate to reach out to make an appointment, if you’d like to discuss any of these topics further.