The Evolution Of Emotional Eating And What To Do About It:
Overweight. Underweight. Eating Disorders.
I help people stop using food to manage stress or to mask
discomfort, pain or unwanted feelings.
I will guide and support you on your journey towards finding a new way of being – with yourself, with others, and with food.
Many of us occasionally engage in emotional eating. We eat as a way to deal with uncomfortable thoughts or feelings. We eat when we didn’t get an expected promotion, or had a fight with our spouse, or are stressed about making a thorny decision. However, sometimes these behaviors become habitual, and we begin to feel the physical and emotional consequences of using food to cope. We get discouraged because we want to change, but can’t seem to do it. Sometimes we try eating very little during the day, only to find we are doubly hungry in the evening and overeat at night, often feeling bad about ourselves the next morning.
Eating to feel better is not an unusual phenomenon. In fact, advertising slogans encourage us to eat to change our mood: “Bake someone happy” or “taste the relaxation.” But sometimes, because we live where we are surrounded by food and reminders of food, and we feel pressured by the media to look/do/feel different from how we are, turning to food for solace can become habitual. And sometimes we find that instead of taking control of when use food to cope, we feel controlled by food.
When Emotional Eating Becomes A Problem
Are any of these scenarios familiar?
You repeatedly decide you are not going to eat to cope with upsets, but you find you keep doing it anyway.
You can’t seem to stop spending evenings grazing through the refrigerator.
You decide not to bring home foods you can’t resist, but you buy them anyway, believing that this time will be different.
You stand in front of the mirror and berate your body, and then feel so bad that you eat to feel better.
You get hooked on a vicious cycle of diet-on/diet-off.
“Oh no! I did it again!”
Habitually using food to feel better – whether undereating, overeating, or making poor food choices – brings unwanted physical and emotional consequences. Our behaviors may cause us to have headaches or not sleep well, to have mood swings, or cause weight gain and resulting health problems. And we begin to feel worse about ourselves because we can’t seem to control our behavior. We get self-critical and prone to depression and isolation.
If not addressed, emotional eating sometimes leads to bigger problems down the road. In certain people, emotional eating can progress to compulsive eating and a craving to satisfy emotional needs with food. And sometimes, depending on your stress levels, emotional eating can develop into an eating disorder.
No one “chooses” to have an eating disorder. But emotional eating can be progressive. Even if the food-related behaviors do not lead to an actual eating disorder, they can have painful physical, psychological and emotional consequences.
Awareness both of the progressive nature of emotional eating, as well as of the other signs and symptoms of eating disorders, can alert you to the need for help, whether for yourself or for a loved one. Click here for information about eating disorders.
Help For Emotional Eating
Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help when we think we “should” be able to help ourselves. But most of us need support, guidance and direction to change. We need structure and plans, and we need other people to encourage us. And we’ve probably tried to do it by ourselves already, and it hasn’t worked. We need reminders that we are not bad for having this problem – we have a problem not we are a problem. Getting help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength and wisdom.
Acknowledging that you want to change but don’t know how is the first step in doing something constructive to help yourself. And the sooner you get help, the sooner you can start to make the changes that will lead you to feeling better and creating a better life for yourself.
If this sounds like you, you are not alone. Give me a call at (415) 602-1403.