Does it surprise you that 75% of the time our food choices have nothing to do with their nutrient value? It shouldn’t! If you’ve been through cancer and had any side effects that affected your eating, you know that food choices weren’t based on nutrients as much as being able to swallow and keep the food down.
And when you’re sick, what do people want to do? Bring you food! Because feeding people is closely tied to caring for them, it’s not a surprise that we associate food with comfort and love.
Food choices are usually based on the situation you’re in, what food is available, how you feel and what you "want" rather than what types of nutrients are in it and what your body needs.
Emotional eating is consuming more than normal amounts of food in response to feelings, rather than hunger. It’s even worse if you happen to be hungry AND emotional at the same time! Think about when you were sick with cancer or other illness. What foods provided you with comfort in that time?
When it comes to a healthy lifestyle, it’s not knowing what is the right choice that makes the difference. What matters is having the skills to MAKE that choice. It’s also important to recognize that it’s not only overweight people who struggle with this. We ALL have emotional eating habits regardless of our weight status.
Three things to do about emotional eating:
- Recognize why you are eating. Take some time this week to really think about why you are eating. If you’re eating when you’re not hungry, then you can be pretty sure there are some emotions involved.
- Figure out why you are needing comfort food at that time. If you discover you are eating, but aren’t hungry, ask yourself what emotion you are feeding. Why are you looking for comfort? For me it is stress. If I feel overwhelmed with work or other activities, I tend to look for junk/comfort food. However, eating it doesn’t make me feel better, it just makes me feel guilty AND stressed!
- Utilize expert advice. If you find yourself eating for emotional reasons a significant amount of the time, then you know it has become a habit. And it’s probably a habit that you’d like to break!
Here are some places that you can get good assistance in dealing with emotional eating:
- Read a book by someone experienced in emotional eating (look for a book written by a health professional such as counselor, social worker, psychologist or dietitian). One example is Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
- Consult a licensed counselor, social worker, psychologist or dietitian in your area who has worked with others on emotional eating.
- Find support from a friend who has successfully worked through emotional eating and has changed their behavior.
Having multiple resources to help guide you can be the best medicine. Until next time, look for comfort in things other than food!