Amanda Bassett-Swanson, L.I.C.S.W.
Behavioral Health, Psychiatry & Psychology
Many people have experienced emotional eating at some point in their lives. You don't always eat to support what your physical body needs — you feed your emotions. Eating when feeling certain emotions can replace the emotional void and create a false sense "fullness." The core area of concern is not feeling powerless over emotional eating, it's feeling powerless over your emotions.
Emotional hunger never can be satisfied with food. Emotional overeating can make you feel good, but afterwards, you're left with feelings of guilt, shame and powerlessness. Often the guilt may lead to circular dieting. Diets don't fail because you have lack of willpower or control, they fail because your emotional needs are not being met. When you ignore these emotions, they continue many times with an unhealthy eating pattern.
The differences between emotional hunger and physical hunger are:
There is hope
The answers are within you if you dig deep to learn what triggers your emotional eating for comfort. Ask yourself, "Am I feeling stressed or anxious? Is this a habit steaming back from childhood? Is my social environment affecting my choices? Am I feeling bored or empty inside?" Numbing yourself with food can feel as if it helps avoid emotions that may be uncomfortable to feel and acknowledge.
Acknowledging what you're feeling and taking action steps will break the cycle that no longer is serving you. Acknowledging your feeling and taking steps to healing can give you a healthy feeling of empowerment and confidence. You deserve to feel great — emotionally and physically. When your body is nurtured and supported, you're better prepared for life's inevitable curveballs. Exercise, sleep and healthy nutrition can help get you through times of stress, leaving less trips to the fridge.
How to support yourself
- Finding a coach, mentor or counselor can help you discover your emotional eating patterns and root cause.
- Surround yourself with encouraging friends who share your values, leaving you feeling uplifted and supported.
- Show yourself love by doing activities you enjoy.
- Make time for yourself to decompress, journal and relax every day, even if its just five to 10 minutes.
Feel your feelings
Feeling your feelings is more effective than feeding them. Notice when you have the trigger to eat when you're not hungry. Take a few moments to pause and notice what emotion is coming up for you. Name the feeling without judgment. Is it boredom, anxiousness or loneliness? When you're able to name what your feeling is, you're able to work through it.
Your feelings are a beautiful transparent window into your interior world. They shouldn't be buried with food or other fillers. Feelings help you to uncover fears, explore desires, understand frustrations and define what makes you happy. Find your happiness within.