How to Stop Emotional Eating
I used to be an emotional eater. After a long day, I would turn to food for comfort (typically in private). I'd promise myself that the diet would start again tomorrow. This went on for years and years and I was too ashamed to get help. I wish I spoke out sooner.
When I turned to Google for answers, all I found was well-intentioned yet shockingly bad advice from people trying to help others stop emotional eating.
So I guess, after many years of hard work, I want to share the information I wish I had when I was struggling and feeling too shameful to speak out. I want to teach you what I know to help you stop emotional eating.
So today, I'm sharing My 10 Commandments to Stop Emotional Eating. There is so much more I wanted to say, but I'll be sharing more and more so keep checking the blog.
But for now...
My 10 Commandments to Stop Emotional Eating
Want to stop emotional eating? These tips can really help turn things around.
Don’t be angry with yourself
If you are emotionally eating, your relationship with food has taken a massive hit and needs some TLC. Do you fix a broken relationship by being angry at the person, making them feel like a failure and adding to their insecurities? Nup. No way. You fix a broken relationship by being kind, understanding, patients and curious to work out a solution. Anger will only aggravate emotional eating.
Treat your relationship with food like a relationship with another person. Instead of being angry, learn from emotional eating episodes and try to understand the problem. Ask: Why did that happen? Was I feeling emotional? About what? Do I feel like I'm not allowed to eat this? Do I feel deprived? What can I do to make a change? Who can I speak to who can help? etc.
MORE: Just binged? Read about what to do after a binge
Don’t analyse your food intake
Please don't lie in bed at night and think about what you ate that day, deciding if you were good or bad or worthy or unworthy of food. Don’t lie in bed at night trying to grab your fat fat or feeling for your hip bones.
I used to do this. I would ‘self-indulge’ in hating my body because I thought, "If I realise just how fat and pathetic I am, maybe it will help me lose weight!" It didn't. It only makes you hate yourself more ...which makes you eat more. When the thoughts come at night, gently push them away as many times as it takes to fall asleep.
Don’t google images of your dream body
Actively trying to compare yourself with other people is harmful, not helpful. I used to have a Pinterest board with pictures of my dream body and follow people on social media who were way prettier/better/skinnier than me for 'motivation'. But comparing yourself with skinny models, people on Instagram, friends or strangers, won’t motivate you to lose weight.
Even if looking at photos of your ‘dream body’ has motivated you in the past and 'worked', if you are now emotionally eating - your body has outsmarted you and adapted. Move on from that trick - it isn’t going to work anymore. Rather than focusing on on looking a certain way, focus on feeling a certain way (and the looks will follow). In other words, focus on being healthy, not skinny.
Don’t write a meal plan or try to restrict
After overeating, it’s really tempting to want to restrict. I mean, REALLY tempting. It is a natural gut reaction - that you need to fight. Something I needed to fight. If you write a meal plan, you are unlikely to stick to it… maybe you will for a few hours, days, weeks but then it will come crashing down. As I mentioned above, your body has adopted and is outsmarting you. It doesn’t want to feel like you’re not feeding it enough and have become hypersensitive to any whiff of restriction so meal plans or restriction won't work for you anymore.
Don’t be tempted to eat less to compensate
Most emotional eating happens in private (does eating in front of the TV or from the fridge whilst no one is home sound familiar?) Don’t be tempted to 'eat perfectly' or try and eat less to make up for the calories you ate in private. When you’re at social occasions, don’t be the person to refuse the piece of cake or scoop of ice-cream because people ‘may judge’. When you are in social occasions, that is the moment you must say "yes, please!" (if you feel like it).
Let me tell you a secret... if you're an emotional eater - if you just eat normally (no diet needed!) chances are you'll lose weight naturally. You don't need to restrict and compensate. You just need to try and eat normally again.
MORE: Read more tips to help you stop emotional and binge eating
Do mirror healthy behaviour
Do you have a friend or family member who eats naturally and intuitively? Someone who has never dieted or had disordered eating and doesn't think much about food. You know... the kind of person to push a dessert away after a few mouths because they are full or they have had enough. You can learn from them.
By noticing what and how they eat, you may get a sense for what normal, intuitive eating looks like. Try and mirror they behaviour for some really interesting insights. If you're comfortable, ask them about how they think about food. Btw, I bet they barely think about food, never lie in bed analysing their intake, restrict their food, google skinny models or any of the above!)
Do give up the food guilt
I get it. If you eat too much or too much of the ‘bad’ food - you’re going to feel bad. But it’s a waste of time. As I've mentioned before, giving yourself a hard time for eating in the hope that it will motivate you actually have the exact opposite effect. In fact, the best thing you can do it let up the food guilt.
Stop reminding yourself you need to lose weigh because it makes you feel guilty about food and only makes you eat more. Let go of the food guilt and just eat when you are hungry. Every time you emotionally eat - it’s a lesson about yourself. If you can’t shake the food guilt, see a counsellor or psychologist like I did. But don’t live with yourself feeling ‘good’ or ‘bad’ after eating food. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Do get out there and have fun
Saying no to fun things because you’re ‘too fat’ to go out and be seen? You might be thinking - “But they haven’t seen me since I was skinny! What are they going to think?” Who gives a shit what they think. Not everyone will like you but no everyone matters!
Stop waiting on the weight and get out there and have fun. What I can guarantee is that you definitely won’t lose weight whilst being at home alone in front of the tv because that is the perfect emotional eating environment! Do you know when you don’t emotionally eat? When you’re out having fun with friends, on adventures and feeling fulfilled. So get out there and make plans!
Do buy clothes that actually fit you
If you are stuck wearing your ‘skinny’ clothes because you refuse to buy clothes in a bigger size, if you are wearing track pants or your ugly ‘fat’ clothes because you don’t want to ‘waste the money’ on new clothes when you know you’re going to lose the weight soon (you hope!) then you have to snap out of it. A sure fire way to feel shitty, uncomfortable and unsexy in your body is to wear the wrong size clothes or wear clothes that make you feel less than amazing.
When you feel happier and more comfortable in your body, you’re less likely to need to turn to food and more likely to exercise for fun. So, buy it's time to buy new clothes that fit and make you feel great. Try online shopping if that helps make it less painful...
Do listen to your body
How the heck did people manage their weight before diets?! With very little and very, very well. Why? because they didn’t get distracted by all the noise and hype around what we should and shouldn’t eat. They didn’t obsess about what was ‘good’ or ‘bad’. People just listened to their body and their body told them if they were full or hungry. Stop eating with your head and start eating by listening to your body.
Want to learn more about intuitive eating and listening to your body? It’s all in the BodyLove eCourse, specifically designed to help you heal your relationship with food and find out what you should be eating.