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Hunger Games: How To Eliminate Emotional Eating

From time to time we all eat food that doesn’t nourish us as best as it could do, but it’s how we deal with those choices that is the important part. Some people choose to eat something, then need to deal with the guilt and self-loathing that comes straight afterwards.

From time to time we all eat food that doesn’t nourish us as best as it could do, but it’s how we deal with those choices that is the important part. Some people choose to eat something, then need to deal with the guilt and self-loathing that comes straight afterwards. Others eat something and then fast for days to compensate for it. Neither of these are reactions that will make us happy, however they are powerful messages that show us there is something deeper that needs resolution.

How often do you eat something because food is there looking back at you and not because you are actually hungry? It’s okay – you’re not alone.

With three decades of working professionally with people from all walks of life, I have the insight to see what truly underpins low confidence and how people often choose compensating behaviours to deal with it. I feel fortunate to have helped hundreds of people discover the root causes of why they are over-indulging in unhealthy foods and how some of their negative beliefs may have played a part.

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Could fast food replace a healthy meal? Photo by Dan Gold

If I was to ask you what that little voice inside your head keeps saying to you when it comes to eating, food or your body would you know where it comes from?

One of my clients, a 48-year-old entrepreneur and mother of three was constantly battling with lack of time to prepare healthy meals for herself and her family. She would feel guilty every dinner time when time after time, a ready meal appeared on the table having been heated in the microwave. 

We worked together over a few months and she gradually got to understand that it wasn’t just neglect around food that she was challenged by. She had also neglected her friends, her partner and herself. Once when we got to the root of this neglect and she re-established her value and self-worth, she started to see things differently. She changed her perspective and started to prioritise the important people in her life once again. Can you see how her actual issue was not really a food related one?

Behaviour patterns such as bingeing and eating to feed an emotion is another example of a non-food related issue, yet food is often to blame.

Whilst eating appears to offer a short-term solution to suffering, the pain of an emotion doesn’t actually leave the body even if it temporarily feels better. Over time, if these painful emotions are not expressed, the body can go into a state of dis-ease, otherwise known as disease.

Another of my clients, a retired head teacher found herself at a loose end without direction. Boredom and loss of identity had set in and she found a friend in chocolate and crisps. After exploring what her new purpose could be, re-establishing her ‘why’ and encouraging her to take up new hobbies, she then had more control over the snack box instead of it being the other way around.

One of the ways I also helped her avoid the cycle of emotional eating was to remind her to listen to her hunger cues. Eating when overly hungry can lead to chaotic eating, bad choices and a feeling of being out of control with food. 

This hunger scale can help remind you where you are at and the best time to start thinking about food, actually eat it and when of course to stop.

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Often those of you who emotionally eat or eat when stressed have increased levels of cortisol which will create a craving for sweet or salty food – which is why you probably don’t reach for a celery stick at these times.

It might help to have more understanding of the actual feeling that you are trying to block out by introducing you to a word: F.L.A.B.S.

This stands for Frustration, Loneliness, Anger, Boredom and Sadness and these are some of the most common emotions that people feel before they find themselves with their hand in the biscuit tin.

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With an awareness that one of these emotions might be there for you, you can then press the pause button on yourself and come back to your breathing. With mindful breathing you can often end up making a different decision. Visualise yourself going for a walk with a smile, playing with a pet feeling happy and then drink a large glass of water. It might also help to write the word F.L.A.B.S on a post-it note and stick it to the fridge door to remind yourself that eating is not going to help the pain.

If you are fed-up with yo-yo dieting, low self- esteem or the choices you make around food, book yourself in for a FREE 30 Minute Coaching Call and let’s see if we can make a plan for long lasting transformation.

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