It feels so good in the moment. The escape is so worth it. This mental anguish — these emotional demons — you don’t have time for that stuff.
Emotional eating. Call it what you will, but it’s just food…comforting you in the moment so you can plow through your day with a paycheck and a smile on your face. It’s not as if you’re turning to drugs, right?
Well, not exactly.
Your reasons for emotional eating are the same reasons people use to abuse alcohol, overwork, exercise to exhaustion, spend all their money shopping, etc.
You need help coping. And in the case of emotional eating, you actually believe that food is your only available pleasure.
You personify it. Give it power. Fantasize about it. You even hide it like a secret lover, indulging in mindless rendezvous when the rest of the world isn’t looking.
While you are focused on all the ways food assuages your pain, your secret habit of emotional eating is actually sabotaging your life.
It’s a cycle that ultimately has no clear beginning and no clear end. It just repeats itself.
You eat to cope — fat- and sugar-laden, serotonin-spurring comfort foods that squelch the sudden onset of negative feelings. And you get very little for your caloric buck before feeling worse.
Then the regret and guilt set in. And that damn “issue” you were trying to suffocate with emotional eating? It’s still there, completely unfazed by your detour…but now sporting a bit more poundage from all your efforts.
Physical hunger comes from your body. It rings the proverbial dinner bell from your stomach, not your mind. It signals a need for nutrients and energy, not emotional coping. Physical hunger also comes on gradually, not with urgency.
Emotional hunger, on the other hand, is all about the drama. It’s overwhelming, urgent, never satisfied.
If you had a friend like that, you’d put a crown on her head and call her a “drama queen.” There’s no reasoning with her because all your energy is sucked up by her neediness and “getting her through the moment.”
And that’s what you are expecting food to do by your emotional eating: get you through the moment.
But food is neutral, inanimate, incapable of reading your mind…let alone making it feel better. It doesn’t love you, no matter how much emotional language you attach to it.
Food is functional. When used as it is intended, it fuels your body, gives it energy, even helps to heal what ails it.
When used as a replacement for healthy emotional coping, food is still purely functional. Calories in are calories in. The food doesn’t care where it goes — it simply does what it does. It’s your response to it that determines its role — and limits — in your life.
Emotional eating is usually done a la binge. It’s fast, mindless, excessive. Add to that furious pace the choice of foods — high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie — and the end result is anything but gratifying.
Binging is hard on the body. Not only is there the risk of weight gain, increased cholesterol and blood pressure, but the digestive tract is excessively stressed. And there is always the risk of developing an eating disorder.
Emotional eating also leads to isolation. If you lose control when eating, your embarrassment and shame will lead you to eat alone.
Eating alone means no one is watching…which means you can eat more…and feel even worse about yourself as you look at that pile of empty wrappers.
And when your guilt is the only thing filling you up, you will be alone with your mounting emotional debt.
The loneliness and other negative feelings that sought their solace in food will still be there…but the people who can actually provide comfort and support won’t be.
If this reads like a downward spiral into self-sabotaging despair, it actually is. The consequence of emotional eating isn’t reprieve from pain. At most it is a temporary distraction borrowed at a high interest rate.
The choice to face and feel your emotions is always yours. Food is not in charge of you — you are in charge of it. By shifting your mindset to a lifestyle change, you can reclaim your willpower and restore food to its intended place in your life.
And the emotional comfort you were hoping to find in a bag of Kisses can actually be found in the support of people who care. By reaching out to them, food can do what it is meant to do…and you can come out of hiding into an empowered sense of yourself.
You will also be building a social circle. And realizing that you are not alone is a huge step in emotional healing.
We can help you on the journey. Please reach out to us here.