“I’m a total stress eater”
“I need to learn how to stop eating emotionally”
“I wish I could stop turning to food when I’m sad”
Super common statements, right?
Most of us have heard of ways to curb emotional eating
- Distract yourself
- Call a friend
- Make a cup of tea
While these are all perfectly fine tools to keep handy in your tool belt, they can also be a bit of a set-up for people who are beginning the journey into healing their relationship with food.
How long have you grappled with emotional eating?
A long time.
You’ve coped with stress, sadness, overwhelm and even celebrated your greatest victories with one common factor: food.
Food is your go to way of coping.
Because you’ve become accustomed to turning to food (it’s your comfort, your friend, your enemy, your secret love), you likely haven’t developed many other effective coping mechanisms.
Which is exactly why you haven’t been able to shake your tendency to eat emotionally.
Naturally, it will take time to develop new ways of coping. Ways that serve you and support your efforts of self-care.
So what should you do in the meantime?
Try out new ways of coping with your feelings AND keep emotional eating on the table.
Yup. Do both. And do them mindfully and intentionally.
Take this scenario for example.
Taylor (yes, this is my dog’s name!) had a long day at work and came home to a disaster of a house and children who turned into monsters since she dropped them off at school 8 hour earlier. She knows that tomorrow’s workday is going to be a replay of today and it takes all that she has to make it through the night.
Can we say stressed?
She puts the kids to bed, preps lunches and picks up as much as she can muster off the floor. Before settling in the catch up on The Voice, she grabs the bag of doritos from the cabinet and plants herself on the couch. Before she knows it, the bag is gone and she’s cursing at herself for doing it. Again.
As Taylor finds herself zoning out to escape from the emotional overwhelm, she adds something into the routine. Something that feeds her emotionally. Something that helps her care for herself.
- She recognizes exactly what she’s feeling (The Upside of Emotional Eating)
- She offers herself a few words or phrases of kindness and compassion
- She considers what will make her feel better not only in the moment, but 3 hours from now
- She does that thing
- She comes back to the chips
- Or, she doesn’t
As you allow yourself the space to take care of yourself and cope with your emotions in a variety of ways, food will slowly begin to lose it’s power. It will eventually lose much of it’s lure.
Because it’ll no longer be your only way to cope.
I know, it sounds TOTALLY counterintuitive.
And that’s exactly why it works.
Because you’ve been dieting for most of your adult life, you know that dieting is a setup for a restrict----> binge situation. Because diets don’t work.
If you remove your only coping strategy and try to white-knuckle through your urge to self-soothe with food...if you sit on your hands and convince yourself that you don’t need the ice cream cone because you convince yourself you’re only eating it because you’re sad (uh, maybe you just want an eff'ing ice cream cone)… you’re setting yourself up for a rebound.
For every action there is an opposite reaction.
Start practicing new ways to cope with your feelings and diversify your strategies of self care.
And, allow yourself to keep food as an option.
Instead of removing the thing that you’ve turned to in your greatest moment of need, ADD tools to your tool belt.
Sometimes a cup of tea will do the trick.
Sometimes pulling out your journal to bare your soul will soothe you.
Sometimes a warm bath and a good cry will pull you out of your funk.
And, you know what, sometimes chips and The Voice will be your ticket to feeling better.
Fortunately, you get to choose what’s best.
That’s what I call radical self-care.
Want to get started on making peace with food and your body? Grab the Food Freedom Mini-Series and for the next 8 days you'll receive the tools you need to get rocking and rolling.
I'm a body image, eating disorder and self-love therapist in Horsham, PA.
I help women and teen girls to make peace with their minds, bodies and food and learning how to see, appreciate and love all that they are.
I specialize in binge eating and helping women learn how to stop dieting and really start living.