Can't stop emotionally eating? It's likely a sign that you need some self care. Learn how to build a self care toolbox for emotional eating so you've got more coping strategies at your disposal.
This weekend I spent some time organizing my current client files (because apparently, as much as I try to be, I am not one of those stereotypical type A, hyper-organized dietitians - maybe in another life?). Anyway, on my client intake form, I have a place for new clients to write their three biggest concerns about their diet or eating behaviors. And as I was filing, I noticed something interesting - literally every single one of my current clients wrote "emotional eating" as a concern except for two, (who I'm working with for IBS/gut issues).
Clearly, there's a lot of guilt and shame wrapped up in emotional eating. But I'm going to share something about it that you may find shocking - there's nothing actually wrong with emotional eating.
We humans are emotional creatures. And as annoying as those emotions may be sometimes (like, ohhhh, maybe when you physically can't stop crying at an episode of This Is Us, or so I hear), those pesky emotions are there for a good reason - survival. Our brain is hardwired to feel positive emotion from doing things we need to do to survive - having sex, bonding with others, moving our bodies, and yes, eating.
Instead of trying to fight biology, work with it.
Emotional eating in of itself isn't bad. The problem comes if eating is your only form of self care or way of dealing with negative emotions. Excessive emotional eating is a sign that you're in need of some self care.
Think of emotional eating as one of many tools in a self care toolbox. Just like in an actual toolbox, you need more than one tool to keep your house from falling apart (or in this case, keep yourself from falling apart). Just like you wouldn't expect to fix everything in the house with a screwdriver (or as I like to call it, the "Honey! Where's the whatchamdoozle that I use to fix the dryer?"), you need more than one tool to deal with the array of emotions we feel on a daily basis.
Here's how to create a well rounded self care toolbox, along with a few examples of what I've put in mine:
- Happy foods - croissants from a local bakery, ice cream with chunky things in it, pinot noir (bonus points for singing peeno noir while I'm drinking it)
- Connection tools - doing something new in Columbia with the hubs, google chatting with my best friend, going out to dinner with girlfriends
- Calming tools - sitting in the backyard on a sunny day, walking the dogs by myself, restorative yoga/laying in child's post for 5+ minutes
- Laughter tools - watching episodes of aforementioned Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt, playing with my dogs, listening to funny podcasts (big fan of The Great Debates)
- Energizing tools - going for a run until I feel like stopping, getting fancy coffee, listening to my girl power spotify mix (it's all Lady Gaga, En Vogue, Beyonce, Kesha and Missy Elliot)
- Ways to release energy/anger - listening to angsty music & crying, throwing (soft) things at my bed, talking/yelling/crying to my husband
Try to make a list of self care tools so you can pull it out when you're in need of a little extra nourishment (from food or otherwise). At first, you might pick the wrong tool for the job (keeping with the metaphor, like the time I tried to hammer a screw into the wall to hang a picture). As you get better at identifying emotions and what self care you need, you'll find yourself relying on food less and less - and feeling less guilty when you do.
We can't "fix" eating behaviors and habits in isolation. In the online wellness program I launched with two other non-diet dietitians, Joyful Eating, Nourished Life, we look at eating as a form of self care.How can you feed yourself to feel your best? How can you nourish your non-food related needs? One of the reasons why we named it as we did is because we focus on your life, not just food!
If you're interested in learning more about our program, head to our website at joyfuleatingprogram.com and sign up for email updates. As a gift to you, we're offering the free downloadable Thin Fantasy so you can get a sneak peek at some of the journaling activities in our program. And FYI - if you're not into facebook, which is a big part of the live program, you can sign up for our the self study version today at a discounted price!