What are Some Emotional disorders?
Why are you eating? Knowing the answer can help you stop. Image: Flickr/pfig
Most people think emotional eating is due to lack of self-control. However, in my extensive work with eating disorders and disordered eating, I would say that is rarely the case. If emotional eating were a simple issue of discipline, we could easily find this discipline without torturing ourselves over meal plans, paying money for special diets, and constantly obsessing about who is eating what and when. And, of course, no eating disorders
What I have to say on this subject matter is not original, however sometimes a reiteration of the information can serve as a helpful reminder. Over and over again I see the following 5 things that contribute to emotional eating.
Emotional eating can be a direct result of not being conscious of what or why you’re eating. Therapists call this unconscious eating. Unconscious eating is when you’re done with your meal and you continue to pick at it, slowly eating the remaining portion that you intended to leave behind. It can also be putting peanuts or crackers or any other food in your mouth, just because it’s in front of you.
The solution? Try to remain mindful of what and when you are eating. I know it can be tedious to focus completely on your eating, especially at first! Try to start slowly and avoid self-judgment as you try out a new way of being. For more on mindful eating, see THIS article.
2. Food as Your Only Pleasure
I’ve often asked people what they would have to feel if they did not binge or overeat and the common answer is, “I would have nothing to look forward to.” And at the end of a long and hectic day, a big bowl of ice cream can be especially effective in temporarily soothing our exhausted, hard-working selves. Why? According to many sources (e.g. HERE), eating sugars and fats releases opioids in our brains. Opioids are the active ingredients in cocaine, heroin and many other narcotics. So the calming, soothing effects you feel when you eat ice cream and BBQ potato chips are real. And breaking these habits can be like kicking a drug habit.
The solution? Find other ways to reward and soothe yourself besides food (and other self-destructive behaviors.) Will these other ways be as effective at soothing you as food? Absolutely not! The things you come up with will help somewhat, But. In order to truly give up emotional eating, you are also going to have to practice tolerating difficult feelings. Which leads us to #3.
3. Inability to Tolerate Difficult Feelings
In our culture, we learn from a young age to avoid things that feel bad. Unfortunately, the ways we have found to distract ourselves from difficult feelings are not always in our best interest. Without the ability to tolerate experiencing life’s inevitable yucky feelings, you’re susceptible to emotional eating.
The solution? Practice letting yourself experience difficult feelings. I know! Much easier said than done! I know you don’t like feeling mad, sad, rejected, and bored. And people often ask me, “What’s the point in feeling mad? It doesn’t change anything.” Well, it may not change the source of your anger, but it will prevent you from having to blunt your feelings with behaviors you’d like to stop – like eating.