A lot of people feel like they are out of control around food and often this is more related to not being connected with your emotions.
When we eat to feed an emotion that’s typically labeled as emotional eating.
Food can be a powerful coping mechanism and can also subconsciously be connected to almost any emotion. There’s nothing wrong with that.
When it becomes problematic is when food is the only coping mechanism in your toolkit and managing your emotions can be a barrier to your health goals and even food freedom.
We as a society tend to rely on food as a coping mechanism a lot!
👶 It starts as soon as we’re born. I’m sure many of us have heard the suggestion that if a baby is crying they must be hungry! 🍼
🧒 As a child we often experience food rewards for learning a new skill or being on our best behaviour.
👩 This continues through adolescence and early adulthood with more experience based food learning opportunities to connect food and emotions.
👩👧👦 Food can also be used to indulge, escape or relax especially when there is not enough time for fun and relaxation. Hello motherhood!
We use food as a way to confirm and soothe emotions a lot.
Food is also a basic need so, feeding our body is a sign of love. ♥
As you can see, emotional eating is murky and the bad rap it receives isn’t the whole picture.
Here are 3 things you may not know about emotional eating:
1. Emotional eating happens in both positive and negative emotions.
Food can be linked to love and satisfaction and reward and appreciation which can help create soothing moments and motivation. Food is also used to numb uncomfortable emotions like loneliness, boredom, anxiety, anger and sadness which can help you feel distracted or avoid feeling those feelings.
2. Emotional eating can actually be a really good thing.
It can be protective and useful in emotional regulation. It can be a powerful tool and warning sign that something is out of alignment in your current lifestyle
3. Emotional eating is often a taught or learned coping mechanism
The best way to decrease emotional eating is to unlearn it by interrupting the behaviour and replacing that coping mechanism with something else.
Interrupt the learned behaviour:
Get curious and ask yourself, “What am I feeling? What happened to make me feel this way? Can I accept this emotion at this moment?”
If the answer is yes and you are in a safe environment, think about how you could create a pause. Manufactured pauses can be incredibly helpful when you aren’t really sure what’s going on or to give you an opportunity to try a different coping mechanism or address the emotion.
Try a new coping mechanism:
Maybe it’s a 10 min walk or a 5 min audio book break or a little foam roller action, yoga, meditation, music break, work break, cleaning break, journal moment, etc.
Or better yet, get to the root unmet need and figure out how to meet that need.
If as a parent you notice your kids turning to food as a way to cope with their emotions, consider what other coping mechanisms they have.
If you can’t think of any others or notice that there’s certain emotions that the go-to coping mechanism is to turn to food, consider learning new coping mechanisms and sharing them with your kids.
Here’s some ideas to start you off:
We take a really deep dive into emotions and food in module 4 of the FED Mamas program. In that module we get into how to help you connect to your emotions and food, create space between the trigger and the response and help you bring some of those things to the conscious mind.
It’s never too late to learn new coping mechanisms but the longer food has been your main coping mechanism the longer it’ll be until another one is strong enough to become your go-to when emotions are intense.
Be patient with yourself and try to stay in tune with your emotions.
If this feels really hard, consider talking to a therapist to support you.
With kindness and compassion,