Ever wanted to see inside the mind of an emotional eater? Follow our EE (Emotional Eater) as she writes in her private journal about the eating habits that have led her to experience deep negativity, poor self-image, and lack of weight control. See how she overcomes emotional eating behaviours, and manages to not only lose weight, but also improve her general quality of life.
I am sick and tired of my constant battle with weight. I don’t know why I eat so much. Most of the time I am really not hungry, but that doesn’t stop me from pigging out. I think I need to figure this out or I’ll never lose weight.
I have been writing in my daily journal, which has helped me see things in a new light. I seem to eat more junk food when I’ve had a really bad day – especially whenever I feel angry and can’t express my anger, or I feel lonely or stressed or just plain bored. I’ve started to identify which emotions are likely to trigger my overeating, but what really bothers me is that there are times when I really don’t understand what I’m feeling in the moment. I guess I’ll have to pay closer attention to my emotions.
I know I feel worse about myself after eating, but while I’m eating I don’t feel anything. I think that’s one of the reasons I overeat; I don’t want to feel. I am wondering if food is like a drug for me? I want to stop, but I can’t. I tell myself I will, but then I don’t.
I’m feeling kind of hopeless, but I’m still writing in my journal, so maybe I’ll figure it out. I’m wondering if perhaps I’m an emotional eater?
I have some bad news and some good news. I wasn’t able to control myself as much as I hoped to this week, but I learned some things about myself. Even though I say I want to stop eating as much – food feels good. This is a big conflict for me.
Here’s the bad news: I wanted to lose some weight quickly, so I almost starved myself for two days. On the third day I stuffed myself full of any food I could get my hands on. I felt so bad about myself afterward.
Here’s the good news: I learned something. When I don’t eat enough during the day, my night-time overeating is much worse. I need to eat regular meals and I do feel better when I eat healthy food. I have also learned to stop being so rigid about what I can and cannot eat. If I feel like eating a biscuit once in awhile, I will have one, so I don’t feel deprived. If I feel like I am missing out on everything I enjoy, it’s a trigger for me to eat everything in sight.
Another discovery: If I don’t express my feelings, I stuff myself at night. This week, I am going to find a support group to learn how to express myself and to talk to people who understand what I am going through. I know I have to deal with the part of me that still says: food feels good.
I’ll stay in touch.
P.S. I am an Emotional Eater. It’s pretty obvious to me now.
More bad news, and some good news.
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. When I have this empty feeling inside, I still reach for food. Do I really think food is going to take the place of whatever is missing or wrong in my life? No, but I haven’t yet learned how to control my urges. Last week was very bad. Everyone at work seemed so happy and I felt left out. That night, I attacked the ice cream in my freezer. I didn’t think about it. I just did it.
And the good news: You know how I keep saying food feels good? Well, after polishing off the whole tub of ice cream, I realised that the good feeling doesn’t last very long. I thought I should see what the health and weight consequences were after eating that much ice cream, so right after I devoured all the ice cream, I added up all the calories and fat I had just consumed. I wrote it in my diary, but didn’t look at it until the next day when I was more open to rational thinking. I couldn’t believe it! I consumed 950 calories and 75 grams of fat – enough fat for two days and enough saturated fat for five days.
It was pretty obvious to me after that episode – I will never lose weight if I keep this up. And at this rate, I think I might also be jeopardising my health. Most important, food is not solving any of my problems. It just makes everything worse.
So, I decided to finally take action. First, I got rid of all the junk food from my house – out of sight, out of mind. If the junk food isn’t in the house, I can’t eat it. If I feel like eating ice cream, I can always eat a reasonable serving size when I’m out of the house.
I also figured it would be a good idea to get out of the house at night, so I signed up to a watercolour painting class. I felt so good about myself after the class that I really didn’t feel like eating.
This is the really good news: I discovered that I don’t feel like overeating when I feel good about myself. I feel good about myself when I am involved in something I enjoy.
I wish I could say everything is rosy and I have stopped using food to manage my feelings.
I haven’t stopped, but I am doing it less and less. I realise that the more aware I am of when and why I eat, the easier it gets to control my eating habits. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this and realised that I don’t eat because I am hungry, I eat because I feel low. In fact, I don’t even know when I am truly hungry anymore.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve really paid attention to what I previously thought were hunger signals. I was able to figure out that some of these signals were just uncomfortable feelings and some were real hunger – I get these when I don’t eat for hours and hours. I decided to try to eat only when I was truly hungry and to stop eating just before I felt full. It worked. I am eating less and enjoying it more. I lost weight last week and I didn’t need to diet.
But there are still those emotional benders. I decided to try something different this week. I started to walk. Thought it would help. It didn’t. I also had an argument with my sister and I felt just like I did when I was a child. She won the argument and I felt helpless. I knew I could count on food and boy did I go at it.
Maybe this isn’t really working.
I was wrong about walking. It does help, but it takes time. I also realised that my use of food to manage my feelings has been going on for years and years. There are different feelings, situations, people that set off my emotional overeating. I’m going to pay attention to these triggers and try to do something else when they strike – instead of eating. After all, the feelings are still there after I eat anyway, as is some extra weight.
I also figured out that it’s not enough to just decide to stop using food to soothe myself – I need to understand and manage my emotions. The more I write, the clearer it becomes. I know if I want a permanent solution, I need to find ways to feel fulfilled and happy in myself. Food won’t do that for me. I need to do it for myself. I’ll really think about this one.
My best friend, also an EE, told me that I could think better if my mind was relaxed. How on earth do you relax your mind? I asked her. She said you can relax or calm your mind just by relaxing your body. She said deep breathing, mediation and yoga are tried and true methods to help unwind your body and your mind. I’ll try it this week.
Feeling much better about myself.
This week held some highs and some lows. I tried some deep breathing and relaxation, and it really did help. I am still taking my watercolour classes and doing a lot of walking. It’s all made a huge difference. I really do feel better when I figure out ways to help myself.
P.S. I do intend to keep writing in my diary, but I want to send my next letter to other emotional eaters.
Part of being human is having feelings, and so is eating. It’s when we connect the two that we get into trouble.
I know that food has always been used to comfort us and soothe us. I mean, when we were infants, weren’t we fed and rocked simultaneously? Didn’t we celebrate holidays and birthdays and good times with food? I even remember being offered biscuits whenever I was cranky. It’s no wonder we’ve come to the conclusion, albeit an unconscious one, that food makes us feel better.
But, take it from me, eating to suppress or resolve your emotions really doesn’t help in the long run.
Here are some strategies that have been helping me learn to control my emotional eating – maybe they can help you too:
- I stay “in-touch” with my feelings by maintaining a journal
- I reach out to other people for advice and support
- I focus on what is good and positive in my life
- Every day, I do an attitude check. If I don’t like what I see, I change it.
- I treat myself with respect and talk to myself as if I were my own best friend
- I am more friendly and social
- I take classes to express my creativity
- I deep breathe to relax
- I do volunteer work once a week
- I eat right most of the time and I make sure I don’t deprive myself of any foods
- I walk a lot
- I realise that eating too much doesn’t make me a bad person
- I view the urge to eat too much when I’m not hungry as a flag to pay attention to my feelings, and a wake up call to find ways to get more satisfaction out of life
- I choose to stop feeling like a victim because I know I have choices in life
In a nutshell, I have had to adjust my attitude, realising that my thinking can help or hurt me. I am now more involved with life; I’ve found activities that add meaning to my life, I take better care of my body, I schedule time to have some fun, to exercise, and take a few minutes each day to relax and just smell the roses. My big attitude change: I now know I have what it takes to turn around my emotional overeating. It’s not easy, but what’s the alternative?
I pay attention to the defining moments when I decide to eat. I know that the associations I have made between food and comfort are largely unconscious, but the actual decision to eat is a conscious choice. There is always an all-important deciding moment. At that moment of decision, I can now stop, think and choose, instead of eating impulsively.
Right now I think I might always have the tendency to reach for food when the going gets rough. After all, I have been doing it for years and years. I just have to pay attention to make sure I don’t use food as a way to numb my feelings. If you’re going through the same journey, I hope this helps give you hope and strategies to make the change for yourself.