What all emotional eaters share is the sense of a loss of control – the urge to eat those chips is positively irresistible!! Following an emotional munch, the inner battle begins. The internal questioning of ‘why don’t you have any will power?’ or perhaps the inner critic grows louder accusing you of being weak, ‘you can’t even say no to a biscuit, how will you accomplish anything?’.
Uncomfortable emotions fuel the cravings. Our thoughts in response to these eating sessions contribute to fuelling the future ones! Getting on top of emotional eating is less about discipline and will power, than it is about discovering what unmet emotional need triggered you to reach for food as a comforting blanket in the first place. It is that emotional need that drives the emotional eating today.
Consider the possibility that your emotional eating habit arose out of need. At one stage in your life there was a time where you were left without the support that you craved, resorting to self-soothing found at the bottom of a packet of biscuits. Looking at emotional eating through this lens encourages us to see that it isn’t a character weakness – it was a resourceful way of coping and getting through a tricky time. This perspective encourages self-kindness, curiosity, and growth rather than self-criticism and condemnation.
Here are some questions to encourage you to think about the patterns of eating in your life as a purpose based behaviour rather than a personal failure:
What is your first memory of using food to manage emotions?
What was happening in your life at that time?
What emotions were you experiencing? What do you wish had happened instead?
Are there any patterns you have noticed to your emotional eating?
Consider the feeling you experience when you eat food that isn’t for hunger satiation purposes. What do you get out of this behaviour?
Who is missing from your internal support team? Most of us have an inner critic, but do you have an inner life coach? An inner life coach can support us through challenging times so we don’t reach for food to soothe our emotions.
Understanding the roots of behaviours that no longer serve us, helps us to create healthy ways of meeting those needs, that suit who we want to be today.