Have you ever wished that you could just control your emotions so you could fix your emotional eating? You’re not alone.
Recently, I asked a group of businesswomen about why they think they can’t stop themselves from emotionally eating. One woman said, ‘I wish I could just control my emotions, because then I would stop emotionally eating all the time.’
But guess what? You can’t control your emotions. And even if you could, you don’t need to! Emotions are just responses based on what you make a situation mean.
Emotions aren’t the enemy
Imagine that your kids are arguing with you because they don’t want a bath. You decide that it means that they are defying you, just to spite you.
So what happens next? Your cortisol levels spike, you feel stressed, and you get angry. The only way your body knows how to make you feel better is to encourage you towards that block of chocolate. So the minute your kids are in bed, you’re munching through the entire block.
But what if your kids weren’t rebelling? What if it was because they were overtired and couldn’t process properly, so it turned into a tantrum? What if they’ve had an upsetting day at school? Would you feel something different in that case?
Emotions are only there because you make a situation mean something – even if what you make it mean is completely off the mark.
Ask yourself: what else can this situation mean?
Dealing with your emotions
You can’t control your emotions. But what you can do is learn how to work through those emotions. How can you deal with them in a healthy way?
When you try to control your emotions instead of processing them, what you’re really doing is stuffing them down. But emotions just bubble back up again.
If you find yourself reaching for the biscuits or wine after a tough day, check in with yourself. What emotion is present? If you notice you’re feeling anything negative like stress or anger, or even the desire to reward yourself in response to the day, pause.
Ask yourself – do you really want to have that food or wine? If the answer is no, think up on 10 things you can do instead that will still make you feel better.
Could you have a bath or a shower to wash off the day? If it’s nice outside, can you go for a walk around the block? Is there a book you’re reading that you could settle in with? My favourite treat at the end of a big day is to go down to the beach and put my feet in the water.
This method also works with any other emotionally linked habits such as spending, smoking, drinking or gambling.
How to master emotional eating – one bonus tip
Do you have that ONE favourite food that you would eat every day?
Allow yourself to enjoy that food! But here’s the trick – eat it only when you feel that it is good for you.
Don’t eat it when you’re stressed, angry or upset. Otherwise you’ll end up putting a negative connotation onto that food, and make it a ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’ food instead of just being your favourite food!
But if you’re feeling calm and content, and feel like you can savour every bite – go ahead and enjoy it.
It’s always better to face your stuff and deal with your emotions than to stuff your face and push those feelings down. There’s no such thing as ‘good’ food or ‘bad’ food – it all comes down to whatever you make that food mean to you.