Emotional eating. Yep, still talking about that!
My last post was about learning to identify what hunger feels like. Makes sense to me that you can’t identify EMOTIONAL hunger if you don’t know what PHYSICAL hunger feels like in your body.
To begin conquering eating for emotional reasons, find out what your body does when it is physically hungry!
Do that piece of discovery first, then add this next layer of education: identifying emotional hunger/cravings. You need to be able to distinguish the difference between the two in order to understand what is happening when you reach for food.
When you find yourself reaching for food out of emotional hunger, it might look and feel like this:
BEFORE YOU ACTUALLY EAT ANYTHING
- Emotional hunger happens quickly, as if a switch has been flipped inside of you. One moment you were doing fine, not wanting to eat and the next all you can think about is food. There is a real sense of urgency with this feeling…as if you have to eat NOW. True physical hunger comes on gradually.
- Emotional hunger often craves a very specific (and usually high fat or sugar content) food. One thing I’ve seen floating around the internet is this quote: If an apple won’t fix it, then you aren’t truly hungry. That isn’t entirely accurate, as I think we can still want one food over another even when it isn’t an emotional craving. But the difference with true hunger is that the apple would suffice because you simply need to eat for fuel. In an emotional state of hunger, you are rather fixated on only THE food that will make you feel better.
- Head only.
- Your mind will simply NOT let go of wanting a specific food, right effing now! There is no physical sign present (remember, you have to know what physical hunger feels like)…all the signs for wanting to eat are coming from your head and your thoughts.
AFTER AN EMOTIONAL HUNGER EPISODE
- You realize you consumed a lot of food without even tasting or enjoying it. The food went in quickly and you realize, after the fact, how much you actually ate.
- OVER full and UNDER satisfied.
- Despite eating, and typically quite a lot, you do not feel satisfied. There is still this uncategorized need/want to eat or of dissatisfaction, even though you feel physically full.
- You feel guilt and shame for overeating and/or eating unhealthy. You didn’t fuel your body in way that felt good…either nutritionally OR in line with your health goals.
Spend some time examining what is going on when you eat or after you eat. Again, journaling can help with this! Journaling is way to connect the dots. I encourage you to stop viewing it as punitive or a pain in the ass. Writing things down doesn’t have to be a for-life practice in your health if you don’t want it to be. But there is merit in using journaling as a means to an end. Just try!! 🙂
You know what physical hunger feels like in your body. Check!
You know what emotional hunger looks like and can identify that state versus true hunger. Check!
Next step, create a pause before you eat by asking the question “Am I physically hungry?”
As I’ve said many times before, this pause will NOT come easily and habitually at first. But if you begin to use the strategy in times when you don’t feel urgency to eat, it will begin to kick in for you in those knee-jerk moments when you need it.
ANY TIME you reach for food ask yourself that question! If the answer is yes, then you know what to do: eat and fuel your body accordingly! Easy-peasy.
If the answer is no, the next step is to identify what you are instead. You could be lots of things: bored, angry, sad, lonely, anxious, angry, fearful, depressed. Try to put your finger on what it is you are feeling…and also doing. Ask yourself “What am I than, if not hungry?”
As I’ve already shared, anger is my “flip the switch” (recall the urgency point above) emotional eating trigger.
But I’ve also figured out I can be oblivious to reaching for food (again, see above).
Boredom and transitions seem to cue up my oblivious eating. Often times when I finish up one activity and am ready to move onto something else I find myself in the kitchen “looking for a little something to nibble on.” What??? I don’t even know why I do that. I’m guessing I feel like I need a little downtime between activities and a snack allows me that.
In any case, I’ve finally identified my patterns because I kept asking the “Am I hungry?” and then the “What am I?” questions. Now that I know this about myself (i.e. I’m aware!) I can take measures to avoid stuffing my face.
Next week’s blog post is going to talk all about strategies to stop yourself from emotional eating, cuz that’s the real rub isn’t it: taking a different action than the one our mind is telling us to take!
It’s a process folks. I did not arrive at my current habits overnight. I have been working at them for nearly 5 years now. Further, I’m STILL working at them. And I’ve finally learned that being “in progress” is totally fine.
In the realm of self-improvement there isn’t a finish line and I’m okay with that now. Ultimately, that is what I want to help you achieve: a self-assuredness that where you are and what you are doing is so very, very okay..fantastic even! 🙂
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