What Triggers Emotional Eating?

Emotional eating is when we use food to alter our mood or push down uncomfortable or painful feelings. In this mode, feelings are enemies that need avoiding. While giving in to emotional eating, we succeed in avoiding some feelings, but after overeating, we often have a new set of feelings to deal with, including guilt and shame.

Emotional eating is a yearning for something that reaches far beyond nutritional fuel. Many forms of STRESS can trigger emotional eating – including feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

When we’re “emotionally hungry” we may be starving for LOVE and UNDERSTANDING; we may be yearning for respect, acceptance, or a sense of belonging.

Did you know that TRANSITIONS during the day also trigger emotional eating?

Those in-between times throughout our days—the times when we’re shifting from one activity to another – are challenging and often lead to emotional eating and compulsive snacking.

For example, the TRANSITION TIME of:

  • Driving from one destination to another
  • Shifting from one project to another (at work or at home)
  • Coming home from work
  • Getting ready for bedtime (shifting from evening activities to sleep)

Attempting to push down our uncomfortable
and anxious feelings by overeating has
increased during the Pandemic.

In my private practice, before I teach clients tools and strategies for breaking unhealthy eating habits, we often investigate under the topsoil. For instance, if a client is getting a benefit aka: a “secondary gain” from emotional eating – then there may be a protective part in the client that will rebel against changing.

For this reason, my client and I explore possible HIDDEN BENEFITS of the unhealthy habit. Secondary gains are often very hidden – otherwise the person would not have so much trouble breaking the habit. When there is a benefit or a “secondary gain,” that’s where we focus our initial attention.

For example, a few years ago a woman named Marie came to see me (name and details changed for confidentiality).

Marie’s doctor referred her. For health purposes, her doctor encouraged her to lose weight. During our first session, Marie explained to me that she’d been struggling with overeating and weight gain ever since her divorce five years ago. I learned that Marie experienced a major (and super stressful) “life transition.”

Marie explained that her husband asked for a divorce after he began an affair with a woman he worked with. She felt devastated that her marriage was over. Marie identified her secondary gain for being overweight within her first couple of sessions and hesitantly shared that she used her weight as an excuse for the fact that she hadn’t had a date since her husband left.

As we explored this further, it became clear that since the end of her marriage, Marie isolated herself a lot (even before the Pandemic) and turned to food for comfort and pleasure. She also realized that she “used food” to push down her anger, her sadness, and her overwhelming loneliness.

So, before we worked on weight loss, Marie and I focused on the UNRESOLVED GRIEF that she held due to her marriage ending. After Marie moved through her unfinished grieving process, we addressed her negative core beliefs about feeling unattractive, “too old,” and unlovable.

Through our work together, Marie compassionately addressed her negative core beliefs. To her surprise, she discovered that her negative core beliefs originally developed in childhood. Through her courageous explorations, Marie gained a much clearer understanding of herself.

Next, we focused on uncovering the POSITIVE CORE BELIEFS buried under her negative core beliefs. Together, Marie and I went on a treasure hunt and “mined for gold.” I’m happy to say she found it – her inner gold!

Once we found Marie’s inner gold, she started my Weight Loss 18 Minutes program to transform her relationship with food. While losing the unwanted pounds, she regained her zest for life.

Marie reached her weight loss goals and moved forward into a life that included dating again!

That’s why it’s vital to explore
under the topsoil of emotional eating,
and NOURISH those RESILIENT roots.

Finally, remember that transition times (small and large) can be triggers for emotional eating. Being aware of these stressful times is a great way to avoid “grabbing and gulping” while creating deliciously healthy, MINDFUL EATING habits.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

If you’re struggling with your relationship with food
and are interested in getting leading-edge tools and support,
check out my program: Weight Loss 18 Minutes  – > click here.

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