This is Part 4 in a 4-part series on Sugar and Other Sweeteners.
(1) Sugar Is Toxic: Heart Disease, Cancer & More
(2) Sugar: How Much Is Too Much?
(3) Artificial Sweeteners Make You Fat (3a: Health Risks of No-Calorie Sweeteners)
(4) Sugar: Physical Addiction or Emotional Craving?
One of the most frequent questions in the Normal Eating Support Forum is whether to cut out sugar in the early stages of recovery. For most emotional eaters, sugar is a two-edged sword: They feel out of control with it so cutting it out completely seems like the only solution. But when they cut it out completely, they eventually end up bingeing on it.
Is this apparent addiction physical or emotional, and what is the way out? Is it possible for an emotional eater to become a normal eater who eats sugar occasionally, as described in Part 2 of this series?
Continue reading Sugar: Physical Addiction, Emotional Craving?
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 are many reasons that people continue eating after they are no longer hungry. Here’s the short list:
- You don’t recognize satiation cues. You don’t recognize that you’re no longer hungry until you are past full.
- It bothers you to leave food on your plate. The reasons for this can run deep, as you’ll soon see.
- The food tastes good and you want to continue experiencing that. But what aren’t you paying attention to?
- You are in the grip of compulsion. You don’t want it, it doesn’t taste good, but you can’t stop.
Continue reading Stopping When Full
Are you an emotional eater? If so, what are the reasons you eat? Are you mainly soothing negative emotions, or do you eat primary to distract yourself from the real problems in your life? How does being fat affect your view of yourself, and perhaps even serve you?
Take the test and find out! After you’ve completed the test, you’ll get:
- An interpretation of your own answers.
- A summary of how others answered, shown separately for men and women.
Men and women both struggle with emotional eating, but they may eat for different reasons – as the summary stats will reveal. (You may have to come back to check the summary stats. The test was just posted so the counts are still low.)
After you take the test, come back here and post a comment saying what you thought of it. Was it informative? Did the interpretation seem right? Were you surprised at the scores of men versus women?
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
What makes people fat are the two main factors that interfere with body wisdom:
- Emotional Eating and Compulsive Overeating – Eating when you’re not hungry, to meet emotional needs and cravings.
- Processed Food – Processed foods are engineered to pervert body wisdom so people eat more.
Body wisdom is an inborn attraction to the foods that our body needs for nutrition. It tells us exactly what, when, and how much to eat. We know that humans have this instinct, just as animals in the wild do, thanks to a study presented 70 years ago today.
Continue reading The Original “Body Wisdom” Study
Since I started the original Normal Eating Support Group in 2002, only a tiny fraction of members have been men – well under 1%. And those few men who joined have never stuck around. In contrast, many of our female members have been active participants for years. (I’m very grateful to those who have found recovery and stay to help newcomers.)
When I developed the Normal Eating logo with the silhouette of a woman, a member wrote to me and said I shouldn’t use that because it will make men feel less welcome. I considered her point, but men weren’t joining the forum anyway, so I just went with it.
Recently I did a Web search on emotional eating in men and it’s generally thought that men constitute just 10% of emotional eaters. But I’m not sure I believe this. I wonder if men are just less likely to admit it. I had an experience today that reinforced this idea.
Continue reading Emotional Eating in Men and Boys
The Normal Eating® approach is to figure out the reasons behind emotional eating, and then take steps towards fixing the real problem. So if you’re eating out of loneliness, you’d take steps towards enriching your social life.
The tricky part is figuring out the real problem. It’s not always obvious. For example, consider this question from a Normal Eating Support Group member:
What’s the solution for feeling a drab kind of emptiness at nighttime? Or feeling lonely? I do have lots of friends, and I see them regularly. But still I feel lonely when I come home at night.
I don’t think loneliness is the real problem here.
Continue reading Eating Out of Loneliness (or Is It?)