Emotional overeating can be difficult and devastating for those who suffer from it. What makes this happen? Why is it that some people, knowingly or unknowingly, turn to food for comfort?
Here are some thoughts and ideas on those questions.
Emotional overeating is a general term that refers to any of various eating habits where genuine hunger is not the motivational factor. It is more common among women than men, but men are not immune - especially young men in their teens and twenties. Those who suffer from this disorder associate food with emotional comfort, and will turn to eating to escape negative feelings. Weight gain is frustrating enough, but when you can't seem to identify the causes of it, the frustration is compounded. Emotional eating is a somewhat sneaky problem because it can involve mindless eating. It's the sort of thing that can occur without you realizing it. If you are having trouble figuring out what's causing your weight gain, here are some tips on identifying emotional overeating (as opposed to just overeating).
Seemingly Unexplainable Weight Gain
If you are gaining weight and you can't seem to figure out why, this is (ironically) a sign that the problem may lie with emotional overeating. As noted above, you often don't know you're doing it when it comes to emotional overeating. You may even be working out regularly and preparing healthy meals and still gaining weight, because you are mindlessly eating other foods when you feel negative emotions.
A Sudden Urge
Sources say that emotional "hunger" comes on quite suddenly, perhaps in the form of an irresistible craving for a certain food or just the urge to eat right now. True hunger is usually more gradual than that - unless you have low blood sugar or have gone a very long time without eating, true hunger does not usually take the form of an urgent need to eat a whole lot right away.
Studies indicate a strong correlation between depression and emotional overeating. Ironically, sometimes as depression grows worse a sufferer loses weight; weight loss means the sufferer is not eating as much, and therefore not engaging in his or her coping mechanism.
More and more the connection between emotional overeating and depression is being discovered. Do you feel depressed periodically? When you even think of feeling depressed, what goes through your mind? How do you cope? If you are picturing a big serving of your favorite comfort food, then this may be a sign that your overeating is emotion-based.
Are you going through a stressful time in your life simultaneous to your weight gain? Have you seen that pattern before? Stress, with its accompanying anxiety and other negative feelings, can trigger someone to overeat in response to those feelings.
Prolonged, unrelieved stress can have a profound effect on the body. Stress stimulates the body to produce, among other chemicals, the hormone cortisol. Cortisol apparently has a hunger-stimulating effect, and as the stressful emotions increase along with the cortisol, a cycle of emotional eating can play out
How do you feel after you eat? Are you consumed with guilt? Do you feel ashamed? These feelings are signs that you have a problem with emotional overeating. Normal eating to satisfy normal hunger does not make a person feel guilty.
For some with emotional overeating disorder, the problem stems from past traumatic events. Someone who suffered sexual abuse, for example, or some other kind of sexual trauma may overeat in response to feelings of anxiety and confusion. The result is a fatter body, which some sources suggest may cause the sufferer to feel 'protected' from being attractive to the opposite sex. Subconsciously or consciously, the sufferer wants to be unattractive. Other examples of past trauma or unmet needs may cause a person to turn to emotional overeating.
People who suffer from low self-esteem and a negative self-image may seek escape by overeating. In a way, emotional overeating is a physical expression of what the sufferer feels inside, and the resulting weight projects the same image of self-disrespect.
Self-Medication. Like alcoholics, those who struggle with emotional overeating may be unconsciously using food as a drug. Eating numbs or dulls the emotions that might be too hard to deal with otherwise.
As many people know, genuine hunger usually means that you're more open to various food options. In emotional overeating, though, cravings may be so specific that no other food will do to satisfy your "hunger." You feel like you have to have that particular food to feel satisfied.
Tips on Overcoming Emotional Overeating
Emotional overeating is almost a joke in our society - movies, TV shows, and the resulting stereotypes cause many of us to laugh about how much ice cream it takes to get over a boyfriend, or how much chocolate we need to overcome rejection. But for those who actually suffer from emotional overeating, it's anything but funny.
First, it helps to be honest with yourself and identify if you have this problem or not. Here are some tips to help you know if you are an emotional overeater or not.
1. Keep a food diary. In this diary, in addition to noting everything you eat, also note how you feel when you eat - sad, angry, upset, elated, joyful, etc. Don't judge yourself or make any changes to your habits when you begin keeping this diary; you're not trying to impress anyone or prove anything. You are trying to get an honest picture of your eating habits. After several weeks, a pattern will probably emerge.
2. Are you under a lot of stress? Do you find that you gain weight when under stress? There are other factors that can come into play, of course, causing you to gain weight. But this is something to consider if you are trying to figure out if you have an emotional overeating problem or not.
3. Get advice from a therapist or specialist if you really want to find out if you are a victim of emotional overeating.
How Beat Overeating
If you have identified emotional overeating as something you suffer from, you may benefit from some tips on overcoming this problem. Here are some to consider.
1. Seek stress relief
If you overeat in response to stress, it makes sense to find alternative ways to relieve and manage that stress. Meditation, Yoga, Pilates, martial arts, and other regular forms of exercise and relaxation techniques can help alleviate the stress that is triggering your overeating.
2. Swap goodies for goodies
Try to find substitutions for the comfort foods or food rewards you seek when you are feeling positive or negative emotions. Having something in place already is key - keep a list handy or other reminder that will prompt you to turn to the alternative rather than the candy bar. (Some alone time, a short walk, reading a magazine or book for pleasure, doing your nails, etc. are all little emotional pick-me-ups that you can implement in place of food.)
3. Why am I doing this?
Before eating, ask yourself why you are doing it. Do you feel genuinely hungry? If you're truly hungry, you may feel fatigued and, of course, feel hunger in your stomach. Ask yourself if you really feel hungry or if you are seeking an energy boost or a calming effect instead.
Emotional Overeating: Knowing Where to Turn
Emotional overeating can seem like a prison with no way out, and when you do think of seeking treatment, it can seem too overwhelming to consider. Sometimes it helps to have some simple steps and treatment programs laid out clearly, so it doesn't seem so overwhelming. Following is a list of common treatment options for emotional overeating disorder, as well as some tips on things you can do and some cautions on what not to do.
First, recognize your problem. Know you're not alone - the number of people who suffer from emotional overeating disorder is significant.
* Counseling - Individual, group, or family counseling can prove very helpful for people who experience emotional overeating. Counseling treatment usually involves treatment of underlying emotional problems.
* Medication - Under the care of a professional, medications - usually anti-depressants - have been shown to provide relief for many who suffer from emotional overeating. This may be due to the suspected connection between overeating and depression - research continues to point to the relationship between the two problems.
Tips - What You Can Do
* Exercise regularly -
Yes, you've heard this one, but it's really an important aspect of managing emotional overeating. Exercise may improve mood, improve energy levels, and increase your self-image - all part of overcoming emotional overeating. You can start with just 20 minutes of brisk walking three to six times a week. This exercise should consist of at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise (such as vigorous walking, jogging, biking, etc.) followed by some light toning or weight training. Committing to this regimen full-force is not necessarily the best way to go; if you can only exercise once or twice a week, that's still better than nothing and will hopefully pave the way for more in the future.
* Eat well
What you do eat is as important as what you're "not allowed" to eat!
Sometimes, emotional overeaters can be overcome by cravings for certain "forbidden" foods, like ice cream, candy bars, and potato chips. But if you're full of and surrounded by healthy foods, you can dig in without feeling guilty. Keep fresh produce on hand and eat lots of lean protein, veggies, fruits, and whole grains.
Never underestimate the healing power of nature! For those with emotional overeating disorder, choosing to spend more time out in nature can be particularly beneficial. After all, in the natural realm there are no media messages to mess with your self-image, and being in nature connects you to your origins and the origins of food.
Some experts theorize that detachment from food and its natural source plays a role in emotional overeating disorder. Getting involved in nature and exploring and appreciating it can go a long way toward reconnecting with our biologically normal view of food. Maybe you can kill two birds with one stone and do your regular exercise outdoors!
What Not to Do
* Do Not Keep unhealthy snacks handy - If you don't have the unhealthy food in the house, you will probably be less likely to head for it in times of emotional distress. In other words, make it hard on yourself to get the foods you want to eat when feeling bad - cross ice cream, junk foods, and fatty snacks off your grocery list.
* Do Not Crash diet - Trying to starve yourself or go on an extended fast is not recommended. You may compromise yourself nutritionally and/or physically, and crash dieting tends to result in more overeating afterward.
Overcoming emotional overeating can seem overwhelming, and setbacks can be expected. But the good news is, there are lifestyle choices that you can make to help overcome this problem. The key word is choice - you can choose to follow a healthy lifestyle. Sometimes it helps to break things down into small, specific steps you can take (just trying to lead a "healthier lifestyle" is a bit vague!). Following are some of these specifics. And remember, setbacks and relapses are not unusual. Don't beat yourself up; just start fresh tomorrow.
Gut feelings, instincts, premonitions, hunches … all these words lean towards a deep ability that we all harbor inside called intuition.
The origin of the word intuition can be traced back to a Latin word known as intueri, which can be translated to mean “to look within” or “to contemplate.” If we fail to harness the powers of our intuition, we tend to only depend on our limited rational mind or output from others, which can easily steer us off the right path.
The highest form of intelligence – is what a host of scientists and researchers are telling us about our intuition. Therefore, intuition is no longer confined to the magical thought or new world; it is highly being perceived as a correct way to make choices and judgments.
Equally, Carl Jung – a Swiss psychiatrist also reckons that intuition is a strong force, he once penned that; “Intuition gives outlook and insight; it revels in the garden of magical possibilities.”
Intuition is a fundamental and basic life skill that we must all learn to grow and enhance; the earlier the better. Without intuition, we will get stuck in a maze of stringent, obsessive or anxious thoughts that will further restrict our ability to perceive things clearly. The less we can see, the likelier it is that we will make wrong choices.
When we put our intuition to good use, we will experience and feel absolute clarity or clear insight that will enable us to make wiser decisions in our lives. Below I will share two strategies on how intuition can help you make better life choices.
To gain aces to your intuition, it is important that your thoughts and mind are free of any worries and thinking. To achieve this, I recommend that you relax, meditate, listen to a soothing music and mindful breathing. Often times, you will find it difficult to listen to your intuition when you are stressed out or uncomfortable.
For instance, you may want to attempt taking deep breaths for a couple of minutes. To do this, you have to breathe in slowly through your nose and allow your stomach to expand gently. Alternatively, you can count four seconds as you intermittently breathe in and breathe out.Try using any method that relaxes your mind. The moment you are relaxed and calm, you can tap into your intuitive power.
2. FOCUS ON YOUR BODY SENSATION
In order to synchronize with your intuition, listen and focus on to the response from your body while you ponder upon a decision that you are about to make. For example, ask yourself questions about decisions you are pondering (I want to leave my job and start my own business, is this the best decision for me? This medical procedure may not help me, but is it the best decision for me?) The sensations that you will feel will be directly connected with the answer that you seek. You might feel warmth and an opening of your chest, or a tingling in your belly, arms or legs, or a smile or softness around your eyes.
Once you can discern the difference between feeling compelled, light, drawn towards open and feeling heaviness, tension, resistance, ill, and unsettled, you’ll be able to interpret the feeling that you are getting from your body.
Here are some things you can do to cultivate intuition:
One of the most beautiful benefits of listening to intuition is that the more you use this tool, the more available it becomes.
A steady dose of negative thoughts will poison the mind and weaken your abilities. How many times per day do your find yourself injecting your mind with debilitating thoughts, such as:
I’m a failure. Only the worst can happen in my life. Nothing goes right. Nobody likes me. I don’t know what to do. What if I lose my job? I shouldn’t be so lazy. I can’t remember anything. I can’t focus. I must do this perfectly. I’ll never meet the right mate. People are against me. Nobody’s life is bad as mind. Everyone has more fun than me. This is too much for me to handle. The whole world is mean. I have nobody. I made too many mistakes.
Your thoughts are driven by the way you feel about yourself and the level of your self-esteem, and it's these thoughts which turn into actions or deeds. The key factors of getting what you want out of life are the actions that you take. Therefore, if you are not reaching your goals and ambitions, take some time to carry out an assessment of how you actually feel about yourself.
Sometimes in order to reach your goals you have to take repeated action and continue doing so without giving in. The determination and drive you need to achieve success can be found in your high self-confidence and personal power.
Quiet the Inner Critic
On the other hand, if you are always criticizing yourself your self-worth will be low and this will make it difficult for you to take the correct actions enabling you to reach your ambitions. This connection between thoughts and actions is what stops you from getting going and is often the cause of surrender. The power of positive thinking was recognized thousands of years ago, and it’s still effective today.
Try This Every Day
So what can be done about your self doubt and how can you energize your actions? Positive thinking is a good place to start so give yourself a pat on the back for your lifetime achievements so far. When you switch your thoughts from negative to positive, you will be able to actually feel the increased energy level and the motivation to take action.
We have all excelled at something so make a list of your accomplishments and how they came about. What did you do to make them happen? What obstacles did you have to overcome to reach that particular goal? Acknowledging your success to date is a great way to boost your self-confidence. You can then use your list of wins as the foundation to build your success for the future.
The greatest killer of dreams is thoughts of a negative nature. If you constantly tell yourself you cannot do something, you will reduce your effectiveness and lower your self-esteem to the degree that you will never reach your goals. This is where your list of wins can make you feel positive when such nonconstructive thoughts come into your mind. Try telling yourself that you can do anything if you really want to. Positive thoughts like this will fill you with confidence, make you optimistic and you will then concentrate on the job in hand and make a success of it.
Plant positive seeds in your mind and the high esteem you feel will impel you to succeed by getting rid of any doubts or negative thoughts which are preventing you from living the life you dream about.
"Atychiphobia" is the fear of failure which eventually holds you back so strongly that you refuse to do anything unless your success is guaranteed. And there are no guarantees in life. The fear is so powerful it stops your from doing the things that can move your forward to achieve our goals.
Don’t Let Your Fear of Failure Keep You from Seeing Your Ultimate Success
Everybody has a fear of something, but one of the worst fears that can derail your chances of success is the fear of failure. The most important thing for any person to understand is that in order to reach higher levels of success and happiness, you will experience failure.
If you allow fear of failure to rule your life, your chances of success greatly diminish. Therefore, it's imperative to overcome this fear anytime you are presented with something new and challenging. You’ll thank yourself for it!
Failure is a natural part of life. Everybody makes mistakes. The mistakes you make shape your future. In fact, failure is the groundwork for success. You cannot be successful without making incorrect decisions or wading through problems that arise. It’s your failures that make success even sweeter when you attain it. Without some type of struggle, you don’t really gain anything from success.
The Cure is to Learn to Use Fear of Failure to Drive You To Success
You don’t have to see fear as a bad thing. You can use fear to propel you to your ultimate goal. Far too often, people use their fear to stop them from getting what they want. They use fear as an excuse. It’s this kind of attitude that keeps people from being successful in whatever venture they were striving for.
People are prone to making bad decisions, but they also worry about looking foolish and the consequences that can result from their decision. They don’t see failure as a challenge to do better – to try something else.
People are human beings – you will fail! You will not always make the right decision, even if it feels right. Use that fear of failure; use your mistakes to guide you into the next step in life. The wisdom you gain from the failure you have experienced is what helps you to get better. Use that knowledge to better yourself.
Persistence and Patience after Failures Are Keys to Success
Failures are going to happen along the path to success. The best things you can be is persistent and patient. Do not give up the moment you experience a setback. Do your know anyone who has never failed or made a mistake. Of course not! There is no living without making mistakes. According to statistics, the majority of entrepreneurs have failed in their first business venture, succeeding finally by the third try. It’s obvious that in order to have success, there must be failure too.
You have to understand what happened and learn from it to try again. What makes you different from others is how fast you stop feeling defeated and work towards your success.
What Failure Teaches You
Each time you experience failure, your fear of it becomes less and less. This decrease in fear enables you to take on greater challenges. Each time you fail, you become wiser, better and more powerful. Failure lets you know that what you’re doing isn’t working and you’d be better off trying something else. Mistakes are your chances to learn something – allow yourself to see the mistake another way.
Failure helps you to grow personally. You don’t grow without experiencing the good and bad things in life. Put yourself out in the world to experience what it has to offer. Remember, mistakes will happen. Try, try and try again – don’t allow the fear of failure to hinder you from the happiness you rightly deserve. See them as life’s adventures that will eventually end in success.
Break a Bad Habit and Instill a New One
If your goal is to break a bad habit (or two), you know that you have a difficult goal to accomplish. Why? Habits are a recurring, unconscious behavior – behavior you’ve picked up from repetition and continues to occur when you’re not aware that you’re doing it.
When a situation or thought happens, a strategy to deal with it occurs unconsciously. That means you never even realize that you’ve picked up a “habit.”
Since it’s an unconscious behavior, beating a habit via sheer determination and willpower is extremely hard to do. For instance, a cigarette smoker has a goal to quit smoking and the routine has been having a cup of coffee while smoking. While drinking a cup of coffee he suddenly realizes that he is smoking too. The smoker lit the cigarette without even thinking about it.
Bad habits can also manifest as negative emotions. Have you seen co-workers, friends, or family members who automatically become angry or moody whenever things don’t go their way? Do you find yourself often being critical about other people or events? These negative emotional responses could also be viewed as emotional bad habits.
One way to eliminate a bad habit is to implement a new habit. You will have to practice this new habit repeatedly until it becomes automatic. There is a common theory that it takes 21 days to create a habit. Twenty-one days appears to be a minute price to pay to overcome a bad habit and to experience the life time of benefits that come from a good habit.
3 Ways to Start the Process of Breaking a Bad Habit
Do you have a bad habit or two that you want to beat? Be aware that you’re not alone! Everybody has a bad habit they’d like to break. What can you do to start the process?
Practice Self Awareness
Self- awareness is about understanding your own particular needs, wants, failings, habits, and everything else that makes you who you are. This helps you to reinvent who you are, to make better decisions and get in touch with your feelings and thoughts. Pay close attention to your thoughts and feelings in the present moment. This is also called mindfulness. By practicing self-awareness, the unconscious automatic thoughts and behaviors become conscious, and this is where you make tremendous progress. This is where you can stop or change the habit instantly.
Decide To Focus On Each Habit Separately
In order to defeat your habits, try to focus on the worst one first. Trying to eliminate several at once could become overwhelming. Negative habits are self-destructive and embedded deep into your subconscious mind. You may choose to eliminate that habit, but it’s still going to rear its ugly head. Don’t become discouraged. Have compassion when you notice you're repeating the bad habit. Implementing changes will take time.
Get Support for New Habits
Seek out support to help increase your chances for success when instilling new habits. This can be a single person or a group that keeps you accountable and provides you with the encouragement to attain your goals. There’s no reason to create a formal support network. Talking with a friend or loved one may be enough to keep you on track.
Regardless of how many days it takes you, the focus should be to break the bad habit and continue with the new one that adds positive rewards to your life
What's hounding you? Are you feeling persistently pestered, annoyed, or persecuted by painful memories from past life events? Is it guilt, shame, grief? Sometimes self-inflicted torment can be worst then the actual incident. Neglecting to resolve issues from the past can prompt a powerless mindset. It can also interfere with intimacy in your present or future relationships. If you have been unable to resolve the emotional effects of past events then it may be time to ask for help. Don’t let past events continue to hound you. Professional counseling could help.
Frequent self-inflicted emotional pain or internal stress comes from replaying past mistakes over and over again in your head, allowing feelings of shame and regret to shape your actions in the present..
Admitting to yourself that you have made a mistake is a very tough process. The residing guilt is even harder to bear. Guilt is a natural feeling that comes from knowing you have done something wrong. It can be a very useful tool when it comes to learning right from wrong, but unless the offense you committed is unforgivable you must learn to cope with your guilt sooner or later.
5 Ways that Counseling/Therapy Can Help
Counseling can help you unleash whatever is hounding you!
You probably have heard the comments about being authentic or finding your true self. Many people have asked themselves the question "Who am I? A better question would be "Who do I want to be?'
It doesn't matter whether you know your true self or not, it's very possible to become the person you want to be by your own design. The first step is deciding who you want to be and then start your road map. It really is just that easy. However, the hardest part will be getting through the self doubt, fear, and all those other emotions that keep you frozen.
When I work with my clients the first step that we take is simply to visualize, or use their imagination to experience events and relationships that would make them smile. The key to this exercise is to avoid interrupting the process my thinking about why you can't accomplish this or thinking about all of the roadblocks that might get in your way. Just Imagine!
Habits have a way of becoming deeply ingrained in our thinking patterns and our behaviors patterns, especially those that cause more harmful results than good. As a mental health counselor and coach, I have met many people who have made unhappiness a daily habit. They live their lives focused on events and people from the past that caused them to feel unhappy and they relive these episodes over and over again until it becomes a habit. The feeling of unhappiness becomes rooted in the subconscious mind and, like most habits, it continues without any effort.
Breaking old habits and developing new ones starts with intention. Make it your intention to develop the habit of happiness. Just as you spend time thinking about unhappy events from the past, start thinking about happy events from the past. Think about the times in your life when you enjoyed what your were doing, focus on moments that made you smile or laugh out loud. Dedicate a few minutes each day to sit and close your eyes, and then visualize, in vivid details, those happy events. But also catch yourself focused on unhappy events and a feeling a sad mood, then refocus to your those events that made your laugh. It will change your mood immediately. Do this for at least 30 days and I know you will find yourself with a new habit, the habit of happiness.
Your mistakes often guide you away from being the person you were meant to be. It becomes natural for some of us to avoid making the same mistake twice. But who would you be or what would you do if you were guaranteed success with no mistakes? The answer to this question can help you to know the real you.
Once you strip away the fear of what others might think or say, and take away the fear of failure, you can reveal the real you. Eliminating fear is at the top of the list for taking steps to being the real you. Once you know who you REALLY are and eliminate your fears, your success is GUARANTEED, but not without failure.
You have heard the stories of failure about many famous successful people (Thomas Edison who failed at making the light bulb over 10,000, Henry Ford who failed in business and was broke 7 times before starting Ford Motor Company, or Orville and Wilbur Wright who failed thousands of times before creating a plane that would actually fly.) Obviously they were not concerned about what other people might say or let fear of failure change what they believed.
Being your true self opens up creativity and productivity that helps to manifest your dream life. So become free to be You, Really.
Your happiness is your soul responsibility and there is no one who can come and force it into you. It’s one thing that even money can never buy. But many people go about their lives feeling sad and dejected and wondering if success and happiness is a preserve of certain group of people. Understand that anyone can be successful and happy only if you make a conscious decision to do so.
So many people are overwhelmed with stress, which can easily lead to depression and anger. As you can see stress, anger, and depression can be major roadblocks to success and happiness. What are your roadblocks? When will you decide to remove your roadblocks? The first step is to make the conscious decision.
Coach, Counselor, Author.