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3 Healthy Ways To Cope With Emotional Eating
Can you remember a time when you finished a distressing phone call and then went straight for the fridge like a blindfolded bandit going after whatever you could get your hands on?
Emotional triggers seem to set off what can feel like an almost uncontrollable eating frenzy for many of us. And as if the emotional stress and sensitivity weren’t enough, the stimulus-response buttons go wild for many of us around certain events and special occasions.
What is a movie without popcorn?
A dinner date without cheesecake?
Christmas without mashed potatoes?
Disappointment, stress, upsets and tension, combined with a series of ritualistic food patterns, culminate in the creation of seemingly irresistible triggers for those of us who wrestle with emotional eating.
Let’s look at the anatomy of it all.
In the beginning there was Mom.
The mother hears her crying baby and by reflex puts him to the breast. “Comfort nursing” marks the beginning of a marvelously complex relationship between eating and emotions. The smells and security of mom are immediately enmeshed with our primary food source—whether we’re hungry or not.
From the time we can grab our first teething biscuit food starts to be used as a form of compensation, reward, motivation and downright bribery.
As young children we learn that celebration means SUGAR! Birthdays, Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s Day, Christmas… candy is comfort, food is festivity and this is the pattern that plays itself out year after year after year.
Is there any wonder that so many of us struggle with emotional eating?
More importantly, now that we’re here trying to look and feel our best, what are we going to do about it all?
The answer to that question requires a bit of thought. You see, there are two things that take a whole lot of energy from the body in order to happen.
1. Digesting food.
In fact, each of these requires such significant resources that the body finds it very difficult to carry the two of these processes out simultaneously.
By eating when we’re feeling sensitive emotionally, we’re actually using food to physically suppress the emotions that have come up to the surface.
So, why not simply observe your emotions, instead of eating and see what happens, right?
Sounds good in theory, but this takes guts and sometimes the strength of a superhero. The truth is that when these emotional surges come pulsing through you faster than the speed of light, often times that hand is in the mouth before the brain can even catch wind of what’s going on.
And that’s why the following suggestions may prove very helpful to you:
1 - If you are going to eat under the effects of emotional intoxication, choose foods that are not physically addictive. Diving into a bowl of pasta or a box of donuts is a recipe for disaster. Meats, cheeses, breads or grain products and chocolate are addictive.
When you go for these foods, you’re setting yourself up for a double dose of trouble. Not only have you chosen a food that is likely to leave you feeling lousy after, you’ve also just dumped a ridiculous amount of calories into your lap that you totally did NOT need. Now, in addition to whatever was upsetting you emotionally to begin with, you’ve got a hefty dose of guilt and disappointment to deal with
2 - Redefine your comfort foods
Forcibly trying to resist things often only brings them upon you faster and harder, so there is no point clutching the sides of your chair, teeth chattering while you “resist” the chocolate cake or food of all kinds.
Instead of acting out of resistance against some old pattern, take a leap toward whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. Grab a bag of cherries or a bowl of sunflower sprouts see what happens. Likely you’ll feel infinitely better than if you’d taken the classic “comfort food” path.
3 - Create new celebrations and change your game
Make yourself a decadent bowl of a frozen, fruit-only dreamy creation. Snuggle in a corner on the couch somewhere where you can fully appreciate the moment. Make it special! Savor every spoonful. Watch it melt and slip around on the spoon and glide its way along your tongue. Enjoy it. Experience it.
And then, when the bowl is empty you’ll be totally basking in the ecstasy of eating without having compromised the health of your body.
And the really neat part is that because you’ve chosen foods that are relatively easy to digest, your body will quickly process this, and while you grin from ear to ear at having successfully surmounted another obstacle in your path, you’ll have plenty of energy left to deal with those emotions, too.
A genuine win-win situation.
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