How I overcame 'Emotional Eating'
For many years I grew up thinking that loving myself meant that I can do whatever i feel like. Others who would notice this pattern in me would try and correct me. But I always beleived i was doing the right thing.
I was 7 or 8 years old when I made food my companion. It was my best friend. A friend that was always available. When i was sad or upset with school, I would come home to find some comfort food. I would lock my room and binge on it. Even when I was happy, all i wanted to do is eat my favourite food to express my happiness. And I would eat without thinking because i was celebrating my happiness. I thought i was giving myself what i needed and hence, loving myself.
Somehow even after eating all that food, the empty feeling from me would never go. And after I started putting on weight, I had to deal with the guilt of eating junk and bingeing on it. I knew something was wrong. But I never understood what it was.
Once I got into Counselling and started doing self work and take therapy, I realized that food had become my emotional crutch. I still remember one EFT session that i had with a colleague, where she was helping me work on my food addiction. Once I was able to access some past memories and make sense of what was happening, I realized i had felt deprived of love. And this made no sense to me. I came from a joint family and my parents had been super supportive and loving to me. So where did this deprivation feeling come from?
It so happened that as a child I wasn't very good at anything in particular and comparisons that are quite normal in a joint family started making me feel that I was not good enough. To top that I was a socially awkward and shy child who never felt that she could fit in. And that's when i started feeling this lack of being loved and accepted for who was. And guess what? Food made no discrimination. It was always there like a loyal friend. And somewhere along the journey i substituted love for food.
After much self work i was able to discern this difference between love and food. Slowly i felt more in control of my addiction. But still there were these bingeing episodes that got the better of me. And the guilt trip would start again. So after consistently working on my addiction for food and using it as an emotional crutch, i somehow managed to find a grip on myself. I was able to differentiate between hunger and cravings. The moment i felt uncomfortable, i just wanted to run to the kitchen and find some food. I started working on these cravings and trying to find the underlying emotion bothering me. That helped me to work on my emotions immediately without letting food be the one comforting me.
This has however not diminished my love for food. I love food and i am a complete foodie. But now i understand when to eat, what to eat and how much to eat. The excess cravings and helpless feeling while eating has gone. Now even if i am eating my favourite ice cream or a burger i am able to stop myself after one serving. Previously, one serving was never enough for me. I could never follow diets previously because i was never satisfied with eating less. But now i have been able to follow a diet and eat healthy. Even when i am snacking, i have become mindful of what i am eating.
This has been one of the biggest breakthroughs in my journey so far. I always had a love and hate relationship with food. But now i love food but i love myself even more. I am able to listen to my body and respect it. And that has allowed me to form a healthy relationship with food.
So here are some steps that you can take to overcome 'Emotional Eating' if you too have been struggling with it.
1. Listen to emotions. If you feel a certain way, acknowledge it. That is the first step. The awareness of your emotions will make you mindful of your cravings.
2. Honor your emotions. Express them in a healthy way. Write a journal, go for a run, punch the pillow and so on. Expressing emotions is a great way to release them and stop the cravings from taking over.
3. Work on your insecurity about not having enough. One of the biggest reasons we indulge in emotional eating is because we believe that we will not have enough of food next time. So we keep eating and overstuff ourselves. (You might need professional help to deal with this one)
4. Listen to your body. Often our body gives us signals about what food suits it and what doesn't. It will give you signs like indigestion, cramps, stuffiness etc. If you feel any of these note your meal intake and change what doesn't suit your body.
5. Be aware of your relationship with food. How you relate to food will tell whether you are an emotional eater or not. If you go to food in good or bad times, you are an emotional eater. Find ways to express your happiness as well as your sadness other than indulging in food.