Are you an Emotional Eater?

Have you noticed that when you are happy you eat? Or do you eat when you are upset, angry, low, or frustrated? When you fall out with your partner, is the first thing you reach for a bar of chocolate? If you can answer yes to any of these then the likelihood is that you are an emotional eater. Sutton, Epsom, Surrey weight Loss Hypnotherapist Maria Furtek, explains emotional eating and suggests other strategies for managing your emotions other than eating!

If you recognise yourself as an emotional eater, then the likelihood is that when you feel overwhelmed with anger, frustration, boredom, or anxiety, you are turning to certain types of food to try and soothe your emotions. Using food for comfort in this way, rather than dealing with your emotions can be a major factor in being overweight: the problem is that food only provides a very temporary escape from the emotions. You may be trying to stuff down your emotions with chocolate, or cake, or biscuits or crisps or whatever it is that you crave in that emotional moment, but the problem is that you won’t feel satisfied, because these types of emotions are persistent and will resurface again and again until you acknowledge and deal with them.

Now for many people, and particularly for women, as children you were probably conditioned to believe that it was not acceptable to express emotions like anger, or frustration: you may have been punished for expressing these types of emotions or told to put a brave face on your negative emotions, or even told “nice little girls don’t behave like that!” The problem is that many of us haven’t been taught from a young age an alternative way of dealing with these emotions. Often parents will offer sweets or a favourite food when a child is upset or hurting: hence creating the mental link between food and comfort. This creates  a negative cycle of association and behaviour pattern, especially if you are trying to manage your weight. For many people that are emotional eaters this habit of eating to soothe emotions can start a cycle of distress, binging on an unhealthy food, shame, guilt, self disgust and then leads to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness as the weight increases and the cycle repeats itself over and over again.

To help you deal with this pattern you may like to remember the pneumonic HALT!

HALT stands for:

H- Het up or angry – Don’t swallow the anger with huge gulps of wine or bites of chocolate. This will only internalise your anger and it will fester inside, causing resentment and possible long term if undealt with can cause physical illness. If you are not able to express your anger by communicating it outwardly, you need to find another outlet. You could write down how you feel, or you could deal with it in a physical way like going for a run, or playing a sport- some people take up a martial art to release pent up anger. If you feel that there is repressed anger then hypnotherapy or NLP may be a way forward to help you release these emotions safely.

A- Anxious- Being anxious means that we are usually focusing on our internal thoughts which tend to be anxiety provoking. In this situation, it is tempting to try and manage those anxious thoughts and feelings by eating to comfort and soothe ourselves. Whilst eating may stop us thinking for a little while, you will not feel satiated as the thoughts of anxiety will be persistent and will probably return immediately you have eaten that bar of chocolate. It is short term gratification and this one is usually followed with guilt and more anxiety about how you are out of control and what if type thinking! Anxiety can really get out of control, so learning some techniques for managing your anxiety and inducing a state of calm in your overworked mind can have a massive positive impact. Again, Hypnotherapy and NLP as well as meditation or an activity like yoga can be very beneficial for managing this type of emotional eating.

L- Lonely- Some people when they feel lonely withdraw and cocoon themselves at home. This can then encourage you to comfort yourself with food and hence that guilt cycle starts again. Additionally, you can be with large groups of people and still feel lonely, like at a party or work event if you are a bit self conscious, shy or maybe find it hard to make conversation. In this situation it is all too easy to hover by the buffet and keep filling your plate for something to do! If you are in this type of situation, maybe get out of the house and join a club or take up a hobby with like minded people that doesn’t involve food!Or find a cause that you believe in and volunteer to help them. In a party situation, go armed with a few questions that you can ask other people about themselves. People like to talk about themselves, their careers, family, interests etc – whatever is appropriate to the situation. So if for example you are at a wedding you may ask: how do you know the bride/groom? How far have you come today? Asking open questions as opposed to questions that just require a yes/no answer will open up the conversation and engage the other person. Hypnotherapy and NLP can really help built your confidence if you are struggling with socialising with others.

T- Tired – We tend to overeat when we are tired as being tired can sometimes replicate the feelings of having a low blood sugar. We look for foods that will make us feel “boosted” and these usually involve sugar related foods. Try to get more sleep on a regular basis to remove that lack of energy sensation. If you are fining it difficult to sleep you can learn techniques from Hypnosis or meditation that will help you to put yourself to sleep.

The first step in changing this type of emotional eating pattern is becoming aware of it. So next time you feel that urge to scoff a packet of chocolate biscuits or eat a family size packet of crisps, check in with yourself and your emotions, and then remember to HALT! Try out some of the alternative ways of managing these emotions and see how this affects your eating. If you would like more help with changing this type of eating pattern, then this is an area that the Weight Hypnotherapy and You programme deals with – drop me message via my contact form.