On Supersize vs Superskinny on Channel 4 this week, Louise realised that her main challenge was emotional or comfort eating – eating in an attempt to assuage her emotions. The problem is that eating doesn’t assuage emotions – or at least not for very long. We may get an initial euphoric surge as we tuck into that packet of biscuits or bar of chocolate; we often feel wonderfully rebellious and naughty initially – a kind of “stuff the world” response – but this is soon submerged by a far more negative emotion called guilt!
Once guilt kicks in we start to feel really bad about ourselves. “Why did I do that?” “I’m such an idiot!” “I’ve blown it again” are all responses I hear my clients say time and time again. We beat ourselves up for doing what we “shouldn’t” have done and so begins a vicious circle – negative emotion/comfort food/negative emotion/comfort food – and so on.
Comfort Food or Discomfort Food?
And there’s an interesting choice of words! We call chocolate, cakes, ice cream etc comfort food and yet it dosn’t comfort us at all. It stresses out our body by driving our sugar levels sky-high and plays havoc with our emotions – not very comforting at all really, is it!? So how can we truly comfort ourselves and avoid these discomfort foods!?
Thinking Thin’s 5 Steps To Overcoming Emotional Eating
Here are 5 steps that will help you manage your emotions and overcome emotional eating:-
1. When you are about to ‘comfort’ eat, take a moment to determine what the emotional trigger was. What was the feeling that made you want to ‘comfort’ eat. Was it boredom, frustration, anger, stress, sadness….? Quite often we have a common emotional trigger.
2. Take a moment to think about 3 ways you could deal with that emotion more productively. What actions could you take that you know would help you overcome that negative emotion far better than eating discomfort food! For example, if the emotion was sadness, you could maybe put on some uplifting music, watch some clips of your favourite comic on youtube or phone a friend who can always make you laugh no matter what! Come up with 3 strategies that will work really well for you and write them down somewhere to help commit them to memory.
3. Keep those alternative options in mind and the next time you feel that emotion coming on, remind yourself that you now have four options to choose from. Which one will it be?
4. Whatever you decide, 15 minutes after you’ve made your choice note down somewhere the choice you made and whether you feel:-
a) as bad if not worse than you did before
b) a bit better than you did before
c) loads better than you did before
5. Then the next time you feel that emotion returning, repeat the exercise. Over time, you’ll be able to make much more informed decisions whilst naturally adopting the strategies that work best for you