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Emotional Eating: Why You Don't Have a 'Food Problem'

For years, I was convinced I had an eating problem. I was always hungry, dependent on food to make me happy, and I constantly thought that my day would just be so much better once I ate some chocolate. Well, some chocolate always turned into lots of chocolate, and then a cookie. Then before I knew it, I had polished off a whole bunch of food, made myself sick, and still felt like crap. My eating “high” was now a low and once again, I was left wondering why I just didn’t have any self-control.

What if I told you it’s not about “willpower.” In fact, if you can actually learn to pay attention and use these tools we are about to share with you, you will never need to worry about how much “willpower” you have again. Emotional eating is not about food. Emotional eating is your body’s desperate attempt at getting your attention. It is a cry for help, or an internal alarm that something is not right. Look at it this way and your emotional eating is not a problem at all. Instead, it is your body’s sign that you aren’t getting something that you need. Maybe it’s love, pleasure, happiness, touch, or comfort. Whatever it may be, it is missing in your life and eating a cookie, while delicious, is not going to help the situation.

The problem arises when we continuously turn to foods to fulfill an emotional need. It actually creates a problem that is two-fold. If every time you crave comfort you eat a cookie, your body begins to learn that this is the routine when it is lacking comfort. So next time you’re lonely and in need of some comfort, you’re going to want a cookie. We develop an emotional attachment to the cookies. In addition, you never actually acknowledge and feel the emotion that you desire.

You never really recognized that you needed some comfort. This means in ten minutes, when the cookie is gone, you’re still going to desire comfort, and the only place you know to get it is from that cookie.

How will you break this cycle of covering up your emotions with food? A big dose of self-love is going to get you through this. Next time the intense cravings for food come up, get really honest with yourself. Get away from the kitchen and the food, and be really kind and compassionate to yourself. Ask your body what s/he needs and then pay attention. Listen and feel in silence. The only person that knows what is going on in your body is you. You just have to listen. Sit in your emotion. Experience it. If you need to, set a timer for five minutes to sit with the feeling.

No distractions, just you and your body.

The feeling will likely pass but if it does not, get really clear on asking your body what s/he needs. Maybe s/he needs a nap, or a hug, or a phone call to a loved one. Maybe s/he needs to go out and do something fun, exciting, or experience a little pleasure. Whatever it is, the more you seek non-food ways to fill your emotional needs, the more you will distance yourself from emotional attachments to foods.

Image Source: jayneandd/Flickr

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