I would hazard a guess that most of us are emotional eaters. I know a few people like my husband, who I would not describe as an emotional eater. Leigh loves to eat and enjoys good food, but he’s not drawn to food when he’s happy/sad/angry/bored/lonely etc. He describes himself as a ‘functional eater’. I have another friend who’s husband would like to be able to open his stomach and insert food! He uses food as fuel to function but doesn’t really ‘love to eat’! Another functional eater. Most of us who are drawn to read an article like this are probably different to that. I know I am.
My emotional eating history
I have to say though that I am far less an emotional eater than I used to be. I used to binge eat, eat in secret, hide wrappers. I would eat if I was angry, hurt, happy, sad, pretty much any emotional would take me to food. I would stand at the fridge and eat my way through, I would eat ice cream from the tub standing at the freezer. My emotional eating began when I was about 10 and I was sad and lonely at school. I would go to my parent’s newsagency after school and eat donuts and steal chocolates from under the counter! I’m sure I didn’t realise that I was emotional eating back then but looking back I’d say that’s when it started!
I’m happy to say I no longer steal chocolates (fortunately I don’t have the same access as I did back then!) Now, please hear me, I am far from perfect now in terms of other emotional eating behaviour and occasionally I do the things mentioned above, but not nearly as much as I would have years ago.
What’s worked for me
How have I managed to reduce, at least some, of my emotional eating? Here are my musings as to what I think may have helped over the last 5 or so years. As with all of my food & health journey, it’s a journey and it’s changing very slowly over time.
- Ditching gluten & grains. I truly believe this has been the biggest help over the long term in my emotional eating. Perhaps it’s the healthier gut, perhaps it’s the more stable blood sugar levels? I’m not sure but I would say my emotional eating has reduced significantly since I gave up gluten & substantially gave up other grains.
- Coming to peace with my body. I don’t love my body, but I don’t hate it like I used to. Some of this change I put down to just getting older, some to generally feeling better because of eating well and most to more significant health scares that has put body image into a better perspective for me. I think when we accept ourselves and love ourselves more, we are kinder and less ’emotionally harsh’.
- Many years of slow change, removing temptations (I’m not always good at this) & having the support of friends who have battled in similar ways. I love that I have a few friends who ‘get’ the body/food struggles I’ve had because they’ve had them too and we can encourage one another and be there for each other at different times.
- Prayer. If I look back, I have over many years prayed for help in this area and so I believe that this prayer has been/is being answered over a long period of time. I love knowing that I have divine help available to me.
Do you need to get help?
I know for many people who are emotional eaters there can be very significant emotional issues that sit beneath the ‘why’ of their emotional eating. Perhaps this is you? If so, you may need some professional help to work through the issues that are connected to your emotional eating. This might provide the breakthrough you need. I’m not a psychologist or counsellor, I can only share my story and what has worked/is working for me.
I have found a few general articles on emotional eating that I’d like to share here, you might well find more.
In the end we are all different, and like with most issues in life, we all respond differently. It’s an ongoing process. I’m far from a ‘functional eater’. I can’t imagine I’ll ever truly be one either, but slowly over time, I feel that my emotions don’t control what I put in my mouth as much as they used to! I’d like to learn more from the ‘functional eater’ and sometimes just see food as fuel – that way it wouldn’t matter to me so much if I cook a ‘dud’ meal!! hehe. Let’s celebrate the very small steps in the right direction….