Taking control of emotional eating and overeating is usually a process. Figuring out what to do instead of emotional eating can be tricky, in part because food is so darn easy to turn to and it is so widely available.
If you want to make lasting changes with your eating habits or your weight, it’s important to have two sets of strategies—quick, practical strategies that get you through difficult times, and tools and strategies that help you address the root causes of your overeating—so it doesn’t keep coming back and taking control of your life. I shared tips for creating quick, in-the-moment strategies in my last post. In this post I’ll share why it’s crucial to identify and address the root cause.
Stress eating, anxious eating, eating because you are bored or lonely, eating because you are angry or tense or overeating after a hard day are all types of emotional eating. It’s all too easy to turn to food to try to comfort or to distract or to numb. Food is quick, easy to “apply,” and almost always present. Food often makes you feel good—for a few moments. The problem is, the salve doesn’t last, and, the food doesn’t do anything about really addressing the problem that triggered your eating.
If you are an emotional eater, one of the most empowering things that you can do is stop berating yourself and calling yourself names when you overeat and turn to food. Start by respecting that you do it for a reason. If you can face your desire to eat with respect, you can start to examine what I call the “real cravings” that underlie or trigger your desire for food.
What are you really hungry for? Whether it’s love or respect or stress relief; excitement or comfort,, compassion, or something different, identifying your real craving puts you in the driver’s seat. When you identify and begin to address the root cause of your food attraction, food loses a lot of its power and its hold on you (you might be amazed). Once you are clear that it isn’t really about the chocolate doughnut (or whatever you are craving), your mind won’t be so persistently focused on it. There’s a huge bonus payoff as well. When you identify the root cause of your emotional eating and start feeding that true craving, not only does emotional eating get better—so does your life. Truly taking charge of emotional eating guides you to address important concerns so that your life works better for you. Creating peace with food really does mean creating a better life.