Emotional Eating can get triggered at any time of day or night. You get an upsetting phone call, text or email and suddenly you’re starving. You’re out to dinner with friends and you feel left out of the conversation and dessert immediately seems like the perfect escape. Your husband and kids have gone to bed and you want some special time all to yourself but don’t know what would feel rewarding besides a few stolen cookies and a handful of chips. Emotional eating is using food to numb, comfort or reward one’s self. It is using food, not just as nutrition but also as a coping mechanism for life.
Therefore the answer is both simple and difficult. It’s simple because if you deal with your feelings head on, you won’t need food to help you along. It’s difficult because dealing with feelings head on can be frightening and overwhelming, particularly when you don’t yet have the skills to do so which is what makes the quick fix of food so enticing.
To begin to face your feelings you can build yourself an Emotional Eating Rescue Kit. This is something that you can have fun with. Just follow these three simple steps:
Step One: Identify Your Top Three Emotions That Trigger Emotional Eating
For a few weeks take the time to observe yourself. Notice which emotions send you to the drive thru lane of your nearest fast food joint. Look for the times of day that you overeat. Some people binge in the afternoon and others do so at night. Look for places where you overeat for instance in restaurants, at family gatherings, at work, or at home. Does anger, sadness, loneliness, or boredom make you most hungry? You can keep a journal or calendar until you notice some regular patterns. When you do, pick the top three feelings, times, or places that you emotionally eat.
Step Two: Build Your Rescue Kit
Get a shoebox or a big manila envelope. You can use a drawer in your night table or even the glove compartment of your car. Collect things that address the feelings that trigger you to eat. You can put inspirational writings in your kit, passages from a spiritual book, or aromatherapy, or a CD with songs that shift your mood. You can put the phone number of a friend who will hear you out. You can put pictures or images that soothe you. You can put anything in there that will help remind you to address the real feeling instead of trying to eat it away.
Step Three: Use Your Rescue Kit
Your rescue kit will only work if you use it. Practice using your kit. Develop it so that it really does address the feelings that trigger episodes of emotional eating. Don’t be afraid to use trial and error. This is about getting better and better at attending to your real needs. You can even create a pocket sized rescue kit that you keep in your purse or in your desk at work. When your emotions trigger you to eat, you can always excuse yourself, go to the restroom with your rescue kit and keep yourself present to what’s really going on for you.
Remember when you eat, you abandon yourself. By eating you don’t address your real needs, hurts, and concerns. As a result many people report feeling stuck in their lives. But when you begin to address your true feelings your life starts to propel forward. If you’re a Shrink Yourself member you have already learned to look for the underlying feeling behind the urge to binge or overeat. You may even use the Pocket Hunger Coach regularly (This is a specially designed program that you use on your computer or phone to help you understand a craving in the moment when you have it). However, there are going to be times when getting to the computer isn’t always an option. When the power is out, or your internet is down, or you’re traveling in a third world country you can still take steps to slow down, stay aware, and hold your own hand through your feelings, without the escape that food provides.