One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they are trying to take control of their overeating is to deny their hunger. This is often the result of lots of bad diet advice. It goes something like this: “The hunger is all in your head, you don’t really need any more food, it’s “just” emotional hunger, so ignore it and don’t give in to it.”
This advice might work in the short-run–sometimes. In the bigger picture, it is NOT a recipe for success.
I’m here to tell you that the hunger IS real. When we feel hungry even though our body doesn’t actually need fuel, we need to respect that we are thinking about food for some reason. The odds are that we are hungry for something. It might be stress relief, or a break, or love or even excitement or sleep.
Our job, if we want to take control of emotional eating is not to deny the hunger, but to acknowledge it, respect it, and develop the tools to identify whether it truly is a hunger that will best be fed with calories, or whether we hunger or yearn for something else, and we’re just using food as a stand-in. Make sense?
It’s only by respecting and exploring our hungers and feelings and needs that we can start to develop better strategies for feeding ourselves–strategies for meeting our emotional needs, our feelings, and our desires.
This can be tricky, and for many who struggle with emotional eating, it’s a whole new world. Some of us have gotten so good at addressing our emotions, needs and desires with food that we don’t even register the emotional part anymore–our brains try to convince us that we REALLY ARE just hungry for food. What we may need then, are more effective tools for clarifying and responding to those hungry feelings. Lots of people need help with that–and a good coach or emotional eating program can be the best resource we provide ourselves. What we really don’t need is to ignore what is going on. Because if we do, the thing we are hungering for–whatever it is–never truly gets fed and never really goes away. And if we haven’t figured out any other way to cope with it, eventually we overeat, blame ourselves, and the cycle begins again.
Take good care,