Coping Strategies for Emotional Eating

6057404732_f7169a6664_zIn the early Spring, I wrote a blog about My Dirty Little Secret, minor hidden bingeing. I’m not the only person with this problem, and while my previous blog may have shed some light on this issue for some, I’d like to take the time to talk a bit about coping strategies for emotional eating. I’m not your average emotional eater: when I’m sad, upset or angry, I tend to not eat much. My emotional eating rears its ugly head when I’m stressed or bored, and yes, boredom counts as an emotion!

emotional-eating-chartThe first step to stopping emotional eating is realizing that you’re doing it. For me, I eat worst when I’m stressed, and stress, while potent, is less easy to identify than anger or sadness, isn’t it? Your mind is racing, you’re scrambling to get things done, but you’re so distracted by all that’s going on in your head you don’t even take the time to notice the food that passes your lips (or, if you’re like me, you stop even caring). Psychology Today recommends noting your emotions in your food journal, and mentally tabulating what types of foods trigger these episodes, as well as what time of day these episodes happen. For me the foods are the key: Herr’s Ripples Potato Chips, peanut butter, dark chocolate,  hard pretzels, pizza, and foods that have a truly satisfying crunch. Texture is a huge deal to me. I’ve learned only recently that I need to do my best to keep these items out of the house. I very rarely travel out of my home to buy my binge favorites, so this helps.

Next, try distracting yourself. If it’s stress or boredom, give yourself something to do that occupies your mind and hands. If it’s a nice day, go for a walk outside to get yourself away from the temptation. I find on days that I’m running around like a crazy person I barely think of food. It’s when I stop that that urge to eat overwhelms me. Sometimes I’ll sit down and write a blog, because if my hands and mind are busy, I’m not using those hands to put food into my mouth. When I’m out and about and having fun, I’m not even thinking about putting food into my mouth. Reading is another thing I don’t eat while doing, because the act of eating actually distracts me from the plot! Find activities that work to keep your hands out of the proverbial cookie jar.

emotions-401406_1280Connect with your emotions. Emotions are a normal part of life. Healthy people have them, and the healthiest people allow themselves to fully experience them. It’s okay to be sad, or mad, or lonely, or depressed. It happens sometimes. Don’t suppress those feelings, feel them. Sometimes I just feel like I want to cry, so I’ll sit in my bedroom or my car and just sob it out until I can’t sob anymore. I focus on the emotion, let it flow through me, then let it go. Anger is harder, but when I’m angry I clean things, so that’s not necessarily a behavior that affects me negatively. Maybe when I recognize I’m stressed I should take a warm shower and listen to some peaceful music instead of reaching for the Skippy jar.

If you can’t keep your hands out of the jar and you do wind up bingeing, don’t punish yourself. You’re human, you’re not perfect, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to be. Don’t exercise like crazy to make up for it, and don’t throw in the towel on your weight loss from one bad day. I’ve been maintaining a 100-lb weight loss for 2 years, and I’ve been dealing with bad days the entire time. They happen. We all stumble a little, it’s okay.

Lastly, learn to accept your body and yourself. Work on finding a bit of inner peace if you can. If you feel like you can’t do it on your own, or you feel overwhelmed, talk to a friend or your doctor and ask for help. You CAN do this.

Do you have emotional eating issues? What are your coping strategies?

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7 comments

  1. We humans seem to exchange one thing for another – we cannot simply give up something that makes us
    feel better without replacing it with something else that does the same. Looking for anything that makes us
    happy or feel good is key. Looking for any activity that we really love can work. It helps if we don’t have free
    hand to munch AND perform that activity! Good luck to all of us!

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  2. Boredom and financial stress are my triggers. I am trying to find other things to occupy my mind and my hands, but this post made me recognize that I do tend to run from my feelings rather than just dealing with them. I’m going to try reading more, because I don’t like to eat while I read either. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this great post!

    I struggled a lot with emotional eating in my younger years and I’ve recently realized that it’s really not an issue anymore. Now my food problems are more likely to come from not honoring my hunger (trying to be too restrictive/strict with my food).

    I don’t know if there’s any one strategy that helped me. It’s probably a number of things that I adopted and are now integrated in my life: meditation, deep breathing, journaling, connecting with my pets, regular exercise, and frequent social contact.
    Being as mindful as possible is a big help, as is having support (which is why I belong to Overeaters Anonymous). And then there are the simple things like not keeping any trigger foodd in my house, which you mentioned.

    I’m getting a lot out of rereading the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elude Reach. I highly recommend it!

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    • keeping the trigger foods out of my house is definitely key. the only one that’s impossible is peanut butter, since my husband eats that a lot. I used to think the brand mattered with peanut butter, but I’ve discovered that to not be true lol

      Like

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