Emotional eating, what’s eating you? Part 2

Last week I highlighted what emotional eating is, how it can be a very normal process, but also what to look out for if you have concerns with your eating habits and patterns and suspect they could be symptomatic of deeper emotional distress. This time I would like to draw attention to how we may develop these patterns and what to do about them if we do.

How and why do we develop this cycle?

From a very young age we are soothed by our parents with various foods or drinks, and this may not be restricted only to infancy. Many parents and families show love through preparing and enjoying food for every day affairs, as well as when we are sick or celebrating, hence this association with food being a comfort can be instilled through many avenues.

Additionally, we can form habits with our food as eating is a necessity for life. For example, if we enjoy coffee in the morning, the association between morning and coffee may be made, and the habit of drinking coffee may be established even if we don’t always feel we need it, and we do the same with different foods for different times of our day or times of the week.

So what can I do?

  1. Take the time to notice…am I eating because I am hungry, or am I eating because I am feeling something? Remember, emotional hunger feels urgent and unrestrained in comparison to the body’s natural hunger response.
  2. Cultivate a greater sense of self-compassion, be kinder to yourself as you would to a friend in the same circumstances that are leading to your emotional distress….if your emotional response is less intense, then the binge-eating or emotional eating cycle is less likely to occur (please refer to my blog from January on Self compassion and reducing stress and anxiety for more tips).
  3. Notice throughout the day if and when you are feeling vulnerable and prepare to do things differently. Many of my clients notice that their binge eating often occurs when they get home from a day at work or university, despite having been very disciplined with their eating throughout the day. It is often reported that if their day has been particularly stressful, they have been restrictive with eating, or when they are more tired than usual, then the binge/emotional eating cycle is intensified. If we can take note of our habits or cycles with eating, we can be prepared to notice and then challenge these patterns before finding ourselves in the depths of the binge cycle or out the other end left in despair and shame.

If you or someone you love is having issues with emotional eating, restrictive eating  or other disturbed eating patterns, please reach out for support or further information from Alyce by contacting Attuned Psychology on 8361 7008.

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