P.S. I’m an Emotional Eater

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Ever wanted to see inside the mind of an emotional eater? Follow EE (Emotional Eater) as she writes in her private journal about the eating habits that have led her deep into negativity, bad self-image, and poor weight control. See how she overcomes emotional eating, and manages to not only lose weight, but also improve her whole quality of life.

June 1

Dear Self,

I am sick and tired of this 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 and am really seeing things in a new light. I seem to eat more junk food when I’ve had a really bad day – a bad day being any day I feel angry and can’t get the anger out, or feel lonely or stressed or just plain bored. I think I can start figuring out which emotions are likely to trigger overeating, but what really bothers me is that there are times when I really don’t know what I’m feeling. I guess I’ll have to pay closer attention.

I know I feel worse about myself after eating, but while I am 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?

June 8

Dear Self,

I have some bad news and some good news. I wasn’t able to control myself as much as I wanted to this week, but I learned some things about myself. Even though I say I want to stop eating so much – food feels good. This is a big conflict for me.

This is the bad news: I wanted to lose some weight quickly, so I just about starved myself for two days. On the third day I stuffed myself. I felt really 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 free pass 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.

June 22

Dear Self,

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 in my life? 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.

This is the good news: You know how I keep saying food feels good? Well, after polishing off the whole tub of ice cream, I realized that the good feeling doesn’t last long. I thought I should see what the health and weight consequences are when I eat that much ice cream so right after I ate I added up all the calories and fat I consumed during my ice cream episode. 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 jeopardizing my health. Most important, food is not solving any of my problems. It just makes everything worse.

So, this is what I decided to do. First, I got the junk food out of the house – out of sight out of mind. If the junk is not 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 took 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.

EE

July 6

Dear Self,

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 realize that the more aware I am of when and why I eat, the easier it gets. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this and realized that I don’t eat because I am hungry, I eat because I feel crummy. In fact, I don’t even know when I am hungry.

Over the past couple of weeks, I really paid attention to what I thought were hunger signals. I was able to figure out that some of these signals were uncomfortable feelings and some were real hunger – I get them when I don’t eat for hours and hours. I decided to try to eat only when I am truly hungry and to stop eating just before I feel full. It works. I am eating less and enjoying it more. I lost weight last week and I wasn’t even dieting.

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.

EE

July 20

Dear Self,

I was wrong about walking. It does work, but it takes time. I also realized that using 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 do something else when they strike – instead of eating. After all, the feelings are still there after I eat anyway, and so is some extra weight.

I also figured out that it’s not enough to just 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 fulfill 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 the heck 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 unwind your body and your mind. I’ll try it this week.

Feeling much better about myself.

EE

August 3

Dear Self,

This week had some highs and some lows. I did some deep breathing and relaxation. It really did help. I am still taking my watercolour classes and doing a lot of walking. It all really helps. I figured out with all the walking, deep breathing and painting, I don’t have enough time to eat too much. Just kidding. But, I really do feel better when I figure out ways to help myself.

P.S. I know you are reading and paying attention, and I do intend to keep writing in my diary, but I want to send my next letter to other emotional eaters.

Yours truly,

EE.

August 17

Dear EE’s,

I want to tell you that part of being human is having feelings and so is eating. It’s when we connect the two that we get in trouble. I know that food has always comforted us and soothed us. Heck, 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 every time I was cranky. Its no wonder we’ve come to the conclusion, albeit an unconscious one, that food makes us feel better.

But, take it from me it really doesn’t help in the long run. This is what has been working for me – maybe it can help you too:

  1. I stay “in-touch” with my feelings by maintaining a journal
  2. I reach out to other people for advice and support
  3. I focus on what is good and positive in my life
  4. Everyday, I do an attitude check. If I don’t like what I see, I change it.
  5. I treat myself with respect and talk to myself as if I were my own best friend
  6. I am more friendly and social
  7. I take classes to express my creativity
  8. I deep breathe to relax
  9. I do volunteer work once a week
  10. I eat right most of the time and I make sure I don’t deprive myself
  11. I walk a lot
  12. I realize that eating too much doesn’t make me a bad person
  13. I view the urge to eat too much when I am 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
  14. I stop feeling like a victim because I know I have choices in life

In a nutshell: I have had to adjust my attitude, realizing 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 build in time to have some fun, to exercise, and to take a few minutes each day to relax and just smell the roses. My big attitude change: I have what it takes to make the changes to turn around my emotional overeating. It’s not easy, but what’s the alternative?

I pay attention to that defining moment 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 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 my drug to deaden feelings.

Yours truly,

EE.

 

Calorie King
CalorieKing's mission is to provide the best information, tools and education to Australians to help them conquer their weight.

CalorieKing is the brainchild of Allan Borushek, registered dietitian, co-found here at food.com.au and author of "Allan Borushek's Pocket Calorie & Fat Counter", Australia's best-selling calorie counter for over 30 years.

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