It happens to all of us. After a long, busy, stressful day at work, we arrive at home tired. Too tired to start cooking right away, we decide to sit down for just a few minutes. But we’re hungry, so we grab a bag of potato chips and a bottle of wine and before we know it, we’ve inhaled the entire bag of chips. Of course, we still have to cook for the family, and – in order to negate the unhealthy pre-dinner snack – we still end up eating whatever ‘healthy’ family dinner we prepare.
If this only happened occasionally, it would not be that bad. But for many of us, it’s a regular occurance.
Many psychologists believe that emotional eating stems from the love we experienced from birth when we were being nursed and fed. As babies, we would cry because we were wet, angry, sad or uncomfortable and since we were unable to verbalize our feelings, we were fed. As an adult, we are sad, tired, lonely, bored or happy, and we immediately associate that with hunger. Most often, emotional eating does not involve crudite or a protein shake, but rather something sweet or fatty, or a takeout food with that perfect blend of addictive fat, sugar and salt.
The deeper the level of consciousness at which this association occurs, the less likely you are to give much thought to what you eat. However, even if it is an unconscious decision, the results inevitably catch up with you when guilt takes over. Either your body will react to bad food choices with food allergies or intolerances or indigestion, or the scale will remind you. Unfortunately, at this point, most people will start beating up on themselves for their weakness and it can lead to depression.
Jennifer Kromberg, PsyD, says that she frequently sees the following five reasons for emotional eating:
Unawareness – Do you often find yourself picking at food constantly, just because it is there?
Pleasure – For many people food is their only pleasure. In periods of stress, the fats and sugars in foods can release opioids in the brain. These are the same active ingredients that can be found in narcotics such as heroin and cocaine.
Intolerance of difficult feelings – Some people use food to drown out bad memories and feelings.
Poor self-esteem – Many people can’t break the emotional eating cycle because of self-loathing. They want to reach their goal weight before they learn to love their bodies.
Over-tired and over-hungry – When we’re too tired or too hungry, we’re unable to fight off cravings and the urge to overeat.
Breathe, Focus, Action – The Solution to Emotional Eating
As with any other emotional issues, Breathe, Focus, Action (BFA) can help you develop awareness to help reduce emotional eating.
Mindful breathing is known to reduce anxiety, and when the mind is more at peace, you are better able to make sensible choices.
One FIERCE reader, Sharon*, is a teacher who uses the method I describe in my book to stay on track with her goal of eating more healthily and walking at the end of the day – even when she’s tired. She says that it has helped her to drink more water during the day, and to make better food choices.
How can you use FIERCE and the Breathe, Focus, Action in particular to help you achieve your health and weight loss goals? Let’s discuss in comments.