Feeling guilty for struggling with emotional eating? Stop. Learn why emotional eating is okay, a perfectly acceptable way to cope with strong emotions.
I want to start off stating something that's really obvious.
Humans are emotional creatures. If there's one thing I learned as a psychology major, it's that. We have this crazy complex organ inside our head (called a brain) which is hardwired to feel intense, complex emotions. These emotions are a survival mechanism - without them, humans simply wouldn't be on this planet. Every single thing that we do and think is in some way tried back to our emotions.
So, why do we think eating without emotion is even possible, or desirable? Emotional eating gets a bad rep, but consider the alternative. Emotionless eating? No thanks.
Emotional eating is okay. Really. Eating is a perfectly acceptable way to cope with intense emotions. Feeling angry after a fight with a relative? You can choose to soothe with a big bowl of ice cream, and that's okay. Feeling lonely after moving to a new town? You can choose to make friends with a giant cheesy slice of homemade lasagna. That's okay too. Feeling stressed from an over scheduled week at work? You can choose to open up a big bag of chips and crunch your stresses away. It's all okay.
It's helpful to look at emotional eating as a choice. You have the right to choose to emotionally eat. Feeling sad and eating a cookie surely isn't hurting anyone else, and frankly, it's not even hurting you. Goodness knows there's much more harmful ways you could try to cope (hello drugs and alcohol!).
The problem with emotional eating comes when it's your only coping mechanism. If it's your only coping mechanism, then you don't have the opportunity to make a choice. Emotional eating becomes a default, a trap. That's why learning other coping mechanisms is so powerful - it gives you back the power of choice.
Making a conscious decision to emotionally eat helps alleviate the guilt associated with emotional eating, the most toxic part of it. Feelings of guilt and shame not only affect digestion and how you metabolize food, but keep you trapped in the emotional eating cycle. When you feel guilty for emotionally eating, you'll continue to emotionally eat.
One last bit of advice, if you're going to choose eating as a coping mechanism, you might as well let it work for you. You're not going to feel better if you're not paying attention to what you're eating. Slow down. Taste your food. Savor mindfully.
So next time you have a bad day, remember that you can have a cookie. Or cookies. Or go for a walk. Or take a bubble bath. Or call a friend. Or journal. Or go shopping. It's your body, you decide how you want to treat it.
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