In my practice, I find that most people’s weight struggle has to do with WHY they eat, more than WHAT they eat. The purpose of food is to fuel our bodies, and when it’s frequently used for other purposes, it can lead to weight gain and other health issues.
Food provides instant gratification, so it’s easy to turn to when feeling sad, depressed, lonely, or anxious. It tastes good and makes you feel good, right? That is, until you realize you’ve eaten an entire pan of brownies, then you feel sick… and guilty.
Here are three steps that you can take to overcome the emotional eating cycle.
Identify your triggers.
I’m not an emotional eater, but I do often seek out food when I’m bored. Give me a day at home with an open schedule, and I’ll probably raid the kitchen at least a dozen times. Thankfully, I’m well aware of this weakness, so I am usually able to talk myself out of it and only eat if I’m truly hungry.
What is your trigger?
Keep a journal to document how you are feeling when you eat. It’s likely you will find a pattern and be able to move on to the next step.
Replace food with something else.
Once your triggers are identified, you can begin practicing mindfulness, or “being aware of what, when, and why you are eating”.
Is there something else that you could use in it’s place that would be just as, if not more satisfying to you? Some examples of healthy alternatives would be praying, journaling, exercising, cleaning, calling a friend. Find anything, other than food, drugs, or alcohol to turn to when you are feeling the urge to eat.
Also keep your “go to” foods out of the house or remove yourself from the situation if you feel like you are going to give in.
Examine your heart.
We may not always be able to REMOVE our triggers, especially if your trigger is a family member:) But, you can work on yourself and how you respond to your triggers. If you are in constant emotional turmoil, you need to figure out why.
Are you exhausted and need a vacation?
Do you need a job change?
Maybe you need to spend more time in the Word.
Find a good support system.
Get professional help if you need to.
Do whatever you can to get back to a healthy emotional state.
When your heart is in the right place, you find peace and contentment. It is here that you are less likely to turn to food to meet your deepest needs.
Philippians 4:11-13 “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Originally published 1/22/16
I continually struggle with emotional eating. Sometimes I can deal fine with it, but other times it’s as if I have no control at all. I have tried many of your suggestions which I feel are all valid. Thank you for this article.