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Emotional Eating Triggers and Solutions

Emotional Eating Triggers and Solutions

Why Diets Don't Work and What to Do Instead?

When we eat emotionally, we are not really hungry. We are using food to cope with negative feelings and/or enhance positive feelings. Diet culture has not been helpful for those who struggle with emotional eating, because it avoids the topic entirely. Emotional eating is a common problem that affects people of all genders, but it can be especially difficult for women. Specialized meal plans are offered with the promise of weight loss, but there's little understanding or support when things go sideways. Aside from a heaping pile of shame, there's no solution for a "bad" day when you fall off the wagon and overeat or binge.

What is Emotional Eating?

Emotional eating is using food to cope with emotions, rather than to satisfy physical hunger. It can be triggered by both negative and positive emotions, such as stress, anxiety, boredom, loneliness, joy, and excitement.

Examples include:

  • Mindlessly snacking throughout the day to avoid boring work tasks.

  • Stopping for donuts and eating them all on the way home from a stressful day.

  • Eating cookies and crackers after the kids go to bed because you're finally able to relax.

  • Eating a whole store-bought birthday cake to cope with feeling homesick.

  • Rewarding yourself for a successful day with a half-gallon of ice cream.

  • Celebrating the weekend with a giant bag of candy, only to end up feeling sick and guilty.

Why Diets Don't Work?

Diets that restrict food can make emotional eating worse. When we restrict our food intake, we are more likely to experience strong cravings and urges to eat, and we may be more likely to binge eat. This is because restriction can lead to emotional distress, which can trigger emotional eating. Food helps soothe the discomfort.

In addition, diets that focus on weight loss can contribute to body dissatisfaction, which can also make emotional eating worse. When we are dissatisfied with our bodies, we may be more likely to use food as a way to cope with negative emotions.

Trying to fix emotional eating with another diet is like putting a Band-Aid on a leaky faucet. It may temporarily stop the water from coming out, but the problem will still be there and will eventually get worse. Similarly, people who try to fix emotional eating with diets may lose weight initially, but they are likely to regain the weight and then some, unless they address the underlying emotional issues.

What to Do Instead?

If you are struggling with emotional eating, it is important to find a different approach.

Here are a few tips that will help you break the cycle of emotional eating and build a more positive self-image:

  1. Be kind to yourself. When you have an emotional eating episode, don't beat yourself up. Instead, focus on learning from the experience and moving on.

  2. Identify your triggers. What are the emotions that trigger your emotional eating? Once you know your triggers, you can start to develop coping mechanisms for dealing with them.

  3. Challenge your negative thoughts. Replace your negative thoughts with more realistic and helpful ones. For example, instead of thinking "I'm such a failure," you could think "I'm struggling with emotional eating, but I'm learning new coping mechanisms."

Overcoming emotional eating is a journey, not a destination. There will be setbacks along the way, but it's important to keep going. With time and effort, you will learn to identify triggers and solutions, manage your emotions in a healthy way, heal your relationship with food and your body, and overcome emotional eating. You can do this on your own, or work with an experienced emotional eating coach to get support, guidance, and collapse the time frame. I am accepting new clients. Book a discovery call with me for more information.



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