If you are someone with a history of emotional eating, whether overeating or not, you probably think intuitive eating is not going to work for you. But the truth is, eating intuitively is how humans were meant to live and eat. It is all about balance, enjoying your food, and fueling your body with proper nourishment when it needs it.
This means sometimes you can eat emotionally for the pleasure and comfort of food, without using it as a crutch to deal with all your problems. Here are some tips for handling emotional eating issues when you are working on eating intuitively.
There is Nothing Inherently Wrong with Emotional Eating
People often think of emotional eating being a bad thing, but that is not necessarily the case. There are many situations where feeling happy or comforted by food is a good thing. The biggest problem with emotional eating is that many people use it as a crutch. Every time they have difficult emotions or feelings, stress, anxiety, anger, or other strong emotions that are hard to deal with, they shut down and use food to help them deal with it.
You aren’t even allowing food to help you cope, in fact you aren’t coping at all. You are completely ignoring the pain or sadness or stress you are feeling, and instead “eating your feelings”. This not only becomes the only way you learn to cope with anything difficult in your life, but it keeps you from dealing with the issues causing these feelings in the first place.
It is important to understand that emotional eating isn’t your enemy unless it is the only coping mechanism you have. That is when it can cause issues with food and overeating unintentionally.
When Emotional Eating Becomes a Problem
On the other hand, it is also good to be more self-aware and understand when emotional eating is becoming an issue in your life. This is especially true if it is your only coping mechanism. In addition to this, emotional eating might be harming your health or mental health if the following is happening:
You have no coping skills aside from eating. You find food to be your sole comfort in your life. You feel guilty after eating when you are coping with stress or other emotions. You hide the fact that you are emotionally eating, as opposed to eating while out with friends or family. You never try to deal with your problems.
What to do Instead
If you want to get to a place where you don’t always turn to food in order to cope with difficult emotions, here are some things to do instead:
Feel your feelings.
This sounds very simple, but if you keep eating your feelings, you probably never let yourself fully feel them. Start just letting yourself feel these difficult emotions, no matter what they are. Feel them in your entire body and don’t try to cover them up.
Find activities to help you reduce stress.
This doesn’t mean turning to unhealthy activities like alcohol or drugs. Instead, find healthy and fun activities that can reduce some of your stress and have an additional way to cope, whether that means yoga or walking, meditation, practicing mindfulness, being artistic or creative, or spending time with friends.
Get outside emotional eating help if you need it.
If you are having a hard time coping, get help! Find a therapist or counselor to help you deal with whatever it is you are struggling with in your life. Because sometimes, identifying the trigger is a bit more difficult than anticipated.