Am I Emotional Eating or Am I Hungry?

It is that time of year and many of us are planning to visit family and friends. Some may be feeling excited and anticipating the awaited celebrations with all your favorite foods. Others may feel like they are going through something hard where they find themselves eating and having no control. They may come back from these vacations feeling worse because they overate and feel guilty about what has happened.

On the personal side, I had no idea how much snacking and late night eating I was doing until it got out of hand. It happened when my husband and I moved overseas to India. I left my job and my life in California, and spent my extra hours watching movies and TV.  I delayed eating until I was completely famished. When I did eat, I would watch TV and be completely disconnected from what I was eating. It was so easy to eat 3 bowls of pasta and not realize how much I had eaten. I ended up eating more because I wanted to watch TV and disconnect from the feelings of loneliness in a new place. It was only when I recognized that I gained 5 kilos in a short time that I knew that I had to do something different.

I began the process of understanding my feelings by journaling and figuring out what I was passionate in.  I could not continue to sit at the TV because it was affecting how I felt about my self-esteem. I recognized that I had to look forward and not continue to think about what I had in the past. As I began to connect to where I live by finding friends, work, and community, it helped build a routine so that I was more productive with my time and was able to have meaningful relationships.

How do you know if you are Emotionally Eating? You can judge it from your relationship with food. You can determine this by looking at how you feel after you eat. If you notice that you feel full and often experience guilt about your food choices, then it is time to think and reflect about what could be going on. The more aware you are about your emotions, the less you have a need to emotionally eat.

Having been a psychotherapist for over 10 years and having experienced Emotional Eating, I understand how it negatively impacts your self-esteem and your self-worth.

What are the 6 strategies of Emotional Eating?

  1. “Do I really need this food NOW?”  Many times we grab something and if we had the opportunity to think about it more, we may have said, “No thank you”. When we are impulsive, we grab food because we want to fill our stomachs and that need to feel full is so great.  If we let ourselves have some time to reflect on whether our body needs something, it would help you make better choices. Plan your meals and snacks so that you have something to eat every 2-3 hours. You don’t overeat if you are eating throughout the day because you are not as famished during meal times.
  1. Do I want to watch this show when I am eating? The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition studied groups that ate a particular meal while watching television and another that ate the same meal without television. These studies found that being distracted or not paying attention to a meal tended to make people eat more at that meal.  Also, they found that when you are mindful with your food, you eat less because you are paying attention to what your body needs.
  1. Can I make time for 20 minutes of exercising a day? Exercise and Move-If you are feeling stress, exercise helps you relieve stress and feel better about your self-esteem. You are less likely to engage in emotional eating if you are taking care of your health by exercising.
  1. How does journaling help me and how do I do it? Journaling seems difficult when you start. Write 1 page about anything that is on your mind. It does not have to be anything important. The act of writing helps you build awareness and helps you to be able to focus. If you are journaling about your food choices and your feelings, you are more in touch with what is happening and you are less likely to lose control.
  1. Can I take this food to go rather than eat it now? Sometimes we overeat because we think that this food is gone if we don’t eat it now. We are afraid that this delicious lasagna will disappear if we don’t eat it right now. Eating it the next day is actually more enjoyable because you are eating the food when you are actually hungry. This way, you can be guilt free and enjoy what you want to eat without feeling bad. Also, if you are craving something sweet, you should eat a little piece of cake rather than eating a salad, potatoes, and bread. It is better to eat the sweet rather than eating the foods that do not satisfy you.
  1. How does your family view eating and how does it impact how you feel today about food? As a child, I used to watch TV while I was eating so I was disconnected from my eating experience. It takes effort for me to sit and focus on my food because it is not what I was used to. It is important to reflect on this question so that you can understand what you need to work out for yourself in your family system.

I hope these tips are helpful and will make the process of eating more enjoyable and help you feel more connected to your body. When you are celebrating, enjoy your family time and have a great time eating the delicious display of appetizers, main courses, and deserts.  If you find yourself struggling with emotional eating, take a deep breath, think about the 6 secrets, and do your best to deal with the situation. I believe that anyone can do it if you put your mind to it and do the work! I invite you for a free consultation if you are interested in learning more about how I can help you.

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