Emotional eaters often use food as a coping mechanism to avoid dealing with their feelings. This can come in the form of over-eating, under-eating, or periods of moving from one of these extremes to the other. The fact is, we often use food to numb out difficult feelings, which in turn can lead to an unhealthy relationship with both food and our bodies.
Here’s the thing, the majority of us don’t actually like feeling our feelings. It can be awkward, uncomfortable, and even overwhelming at times, so we use food to help us check out from reality whenever it all gets too much.
We may want to avoid stress, boredom, sadness, or anger, but instead of actually facing these emotions, we often try to avoid them, and end up (oftensub-consciously) eating our feelings instead.
Delaying this pain with the instant gratification that food brings can only work in the short-term, but these emotions won’t disappear after a tub of ice cream. In fact, many people actually end up feeling worse than they already did once they add on the guilt of an emotional eating binge.
Does any of this sound familiar? If this is you, please don’t worry, you’re definitely not alone in feeling this way!
Here are 3 signs that you may be an emotional eater, and some of my top tips to help you do something about it!
1, You eat when you’re not hungry
It’s important to establish that you should never feel guilty for eating. After all, there’ll be times when you want to eat, even when you’re not hungry: parties, that creamy office cake that’s calling your name from across the room, and the last Rolo shared by a loved one.
And that’s all a-okay.
But, if you find yourself constantly craving food, even when you know you aren’t physically hungry, that could be a sign that you’re an emotional eater.
Food is a fast and simple way to feel comforted, loved, and entertained. It’s really worth taking some time to practice checking-in with yourself when you go to eat, and simply ask: “how am I feeling right now?”.
If you’re feeling sad, angry, upset – or any sort of strong emotion – just take a time-out and see if there’s something else other than eating that you can do to make yourself feel better. A brisk walk outside, a chat with your bestie, a hot bath, or a cuddle with a furry friend can all work wonders.
If you are actually hungry, then please go and have something to eat! This is never about denying yourself, it’s just about establishing how you respond to your emotions with food.
2. You and your body are on opposite teams
Emotional eating is a vicious cycle. Eating when we’re not truly hungry can lead us to become out of tune with our body’s natural hunger cues, which can in turn lead to negative body image.
The good news is that there’s a way out of the boom-and-bust cycle of emotional eating! It begins (as do most positive things) by being kinder to yourself, learning to recognise when you’re truly hungry, and not picking yourself apart based on what you look like.
Make a list of 5 amazing things your body can do that have nothing to do with what it looks like. When you notice that you’re being critical and unkind, take a look at the list and remind yourself that you and your body are on the same team.
3. You’re a secret eater
Do you often eat in secret? Would you be mortified if anyone were to catch you in the middle of a binge?
If your eating habits in private are vastly different to what they are when you’re with other people, this can be a sign that you’re an emotional eater.
Whether you’ve demolished a whole bag of cookies in one go, eaten the contents of the kid’s treat cupboard, or devoured a takeaway for 4 all on your own, eating in secret can exacerbate the feeling that something’s wrong with you.
When you’re home alone and feeling like a binge is on its way, my top tip is to get out of the house, and try to start doing more of the things that make you happy.
All too often we think that we need to wait until we’ve lost weight in order to ‘deserve’ to fun and happiness, but this is a completely lopsided way of thinking about things!
Once we start filling up our lives with the things and the people that we love and make us happy, just watch how emotional eating will fade into the background.
Are these feelings something that you can relate to?
I work with women one-on-one to help them learn to love the skin they’re in, no matter what. Check out my coaching plans here (I offer 90 minutes, 1 day, and 90 day options!) and subscribe here to be the first to know when my very special online course is live!
I can’t wait to hear from you, and to see if we can get you feeling happier, healthier, and more positive than ever before!