From the moment you are born, being fed is strongly associated with comfort and love. For infants, food and hugs go together, and that emotional imprinting stays with you for life. Cooking for someone is a way to show love. A box of chocolates is a traditional gift of love on Valentine’s Day. So it’s no surprise that loneliness is one of the most common triggers for emotional eating. Food is an emotional surrogate for love.
Everybody feels passing loneliness now and then, but that’s not the kind of loneliness that people eat over. The kind of loneliness that you eat over is the aching kind that feels never-ending, and grows out of another problem that needs solving. Sometimes loneliness is situational – for example, moving to a new place. But if you’ve had plenty of time to develop social contacts and you’re still lonely, you’re "chronically lonely". That’s the hardest type of all, and the subject of this article.
Why do chronically lonely people often feel lonely even when they’re with other people? Why do they often resist spending time with others? Why do they often find it so unbearable to be home alone in the evening? And what is the solution?
Continue reading Eating Out of Loneliness and Low Self-Esteem
There’s been a lot of discussion in the forum lately about mindful eating – generally how much people don’t want to do it. It’s ironic that emotional eaters who claim to love eating find it so hard to just eat – to focus only on eating when they’re eating. It seems the only time that emotional eaters don’t think about food is when they’re eating!
Mindful eating is the functional opposite of emotional eating, and therefore its antidote. It blocks the payoff of emotional eating, so it’s no wonder that people resist it. But for that same reason, it’s essential.
The complaints about mindful eating generally fall into five categories:
- Mindful eating is boring.
- Checking in with myself makes me anxious.
- I’m too busy to take the time to just eat.
- It feels like too much work.
- It feels like a diet.
Here’s what’s behind each of these complaints.
Continue reading 5 Reasons Emotional Eaters Shun Mindfulness
When you’re in the moment of craving – wanting to eat, though you’re not hungry – it doesn’t help to have abstract knowledge of why you eat. If you know that you eat when you’re angry, for example, that doesn’t help much in the moment that you’re angry. You’re still angry and you still want to eat.
The only way to dissolve the craving is to figure out the true need underneath the emotion, and take action to address the true need. Simply recognizing that you’re angry doesn’t help. You need to uncover the reasons below the anger – the unfilled needs or boundary violations that triggered the anger.
Connecting with yourself on this deeper level is hard when you’ve spent years ignoring your own needs, but it’s necessary. If all you know is that you’re unhappy, the only way out is a comfort behavior like eating. If you know the underlying need, then you can work on meeting it.
Over the years of working with emotional eaters, I’ve noticed five main themes:
Continue reading 5 Main Triggers for Emotional Eating
Do you eat in the evening – and eat and eat? If so, you are not alone! Here is a sampling of the many posts about this in the forum:
“Night eating has been my number one curse. When I initiated that terrible habit then the pounds really started a rampant escalation. I have found that this is the time of night I’m fatigued, anxious, lonely and bored. Sadly to say, that an infusion of sugars actually temporarily reduces the anxiousness I feel.”
“Evenings have always been my time to graze, binge, overeat and numb out. There isn’t one simple reason for it with me, it happens for a variety of reasons but one of the primary reasons is that at the end of the day I feel “empty” and I am seeking something to fill the void with.”
“One of my issued is I am a perfectionist and would do well all day and then in the evening eat everything sweet in sight because “I was not perfect today” so I’ll eat as much as I can and surely tomorrow I will be perfect. Never happened.”
“I’ve been fine each morning and early afternoon, but once evening hits, so does my eating. I eat from early evening until I go to bed. I don’t know why, and I’m not sure how to stop it, but I need to.”
“Evenings make me anxious because of their frustrating, ambivalent nature. Is it my time of rest and relaxation, or is it the time to be productive around home, after the whole day of being productive at work? If I sit and relax, I feel guilty at the housework piling up. If I apply myself to housework, I feel resentful. The push to munch serves the purpose of dodging the issue.”
You can break out of this! Here’s how.
Continue reading How to Stop Emotional Eating in the Evening
Are you worried about money? Be careful not to add weight gain to your list of problems. There’s a well-known correlation between low income and obesity. For one thing, high calorie foods are cheaper. For another, lack of money — or fear of lack of money — is very stressful. Feeling trapped in a bad situation is the #1 trigger for emotional eating, and a recession can make you feel very trapped.
So fight back! Innoculate yourself by taking action. The more you do, the better you’ll feel, even if you can’t completely fix the problem.
Don’t know what to do? Start in the kitchen. People are eating out less, and eating at home can mean healthier eating, but not necessarily.
Continue reading Is the Recession Affecting Your Eating?
Food cravings are, without a doubt, the biggest obstacle in recovery from emotional eating. Even when you know what is triggering the desire to eat, the craving can remain. As I mentioned in my previous post, the first step towards stopping is to insert a pause between impulse and action – to not immediately act on the urge. Every moment you pause is a moment of recovery.
But how do you use this pause to dissolve the craving so the pause turns into a stop? That is the subject of today’s post. (You’ll find a more detailed discussion of how to stop food cravings in my book Normal Eating for Normal Weight.)
Continue reading How to Stop Food Cravings
Eating what your body tells you to eat, when it tells you to eat it, is obviously a more pleasant and effective way to maintain a normal weight than dieting, but how do you do that if you’re a compulsive or emotional eater? What you need is a road map of how to get from here to there, and that’s what the Normal Eating® recovery program provides. Normal Eating’s four-stage approach breaks down the recovery process into achievable subgoals, and each stage includes uniquely effective exercises to help you get there. The program is described in detail in the book Normal Eating for Normal Weight.
The most important element of the Normal Eating recovery program is “the pause” – the practice of pausing for at least 15 minutes before acting on the urge to eat when not hungry. Pausing before you act on the urge to eat when not hungry is crucial for two reasons:
Continue reading The Importance of the Pause