In 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!
The 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.
Connect 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?