Emotional eating is one of the major reasons smart, busy women overeat, gain weight, and regain the weight they work so hard to lose. Today I’m sharing part two in my series, 5 Things Anyone who Struggles with Overeating Needs to Know about Emotional Eating (if you missed Part One, you can find that here.)
In Part One of this article series, I shared how emotional eating can operate outside your awareness and gave you some powerful examples of hidden hungers and emotional eating. Today, let’s talk about the time, energy, and confidence that emotional eating and overeating cost you. Many women are concerned about emotional eating because they want to lose weight, but emotional eating struggles go even deeper than this. In fact, for some women, emotional eating happens even at their “ideal” weight.
Here’s the second thing you need to know about emotional eating:
You don’t have to be overweight to be stuck and unhappy with emotional eating. There are plenty of women who are at a healthy weight who rely on food to cope with feelings or who feel out of control with their eating in certain situations.
You don’t have to binge eat or eat constantly to be an emotional eater. Most people eat emotionally sometimes. Emotional eating becomes a problem, even for women who are not overweight, when your relationship with food takes up time or energy that you would rather spend on other things, when it is affecting your weight, your health, or your happiness, or when you feel dependent on it and feel trapped or at a loss for how you might do things differently.
Emotional eating can leave you feeling out of control, ineffective, irritable, and frustrated with yourself – definitely not a recipe for success and thriving.
That’s exactly what happened to Diane.* Diane wasn’t overweight, but she felt like she was always on a diet (or falling off one). She was tired of cycling between strict “discipline” and stress eating that felt out of control. She was an emotional eater and worked very hard to be “strong” and to not “give in to food.”
Diane never felt like she could take her weight or her pant size for granted. Staying the weight she wanted to be required a lot of vigilance and hard work. She tracked her food choices and her activity in a variety of ways and was sick of how much time it took. Diane sometimes avoided social situations because she didn’t trust herself to make “the right” food choices. She felt like she was constantly battling mindless eating. Finally, Diane was bored and unhappy with the narrow range of food that she felt she could eat and “be healthy.”
Diane was the size she wanted to be, but she definitely felt like food and weight were controlling her (rather than feeling in charge of her life). She did not feel peaceful with food at all and sounded exhausted when she talked about “always needing to be on top of this stuff.”
Although I never worked with Diane, I’ve worked with hundreds of women (at least) who believed that food would always be a struggle and that in order to “win,” they were going to need to stay alert and disciplined. They never felt confident about any results they had achieved and usually worried that the weight could come back.
This is because they are missing a critical piece of the puzzle (and you may be too).
Diane was working WAY too hard because she was lacking an effective strategy for taking control of the reasons food was such a struggle. Instead, Diane tried to take control of emotional eating without tools and without a plan. She didn’t know what to do instead of eating or how to make her cravings dissolve. She had no method to take her focus OFF of eating and food. Diane’s only strategy was “don’t do it.”
Spending your life “not doing” something is like holding on for dear life. It’s certainly not peaceful, fun, or easy. And it’s not a recipe for success that’s likely to last.
The cost of emotional eating and overeating goes far beyond weight. These struggles can literally take the joy out of life.
Take good care,
*Name changed to protect Diane’s privacy.