Eating is emotional, period.
It’s normal and healthy to enjoy good food, especially when we’re enjoying it in good company.
But, there’s a difference between healthy emotions related to food and allowing emotions to drive our decisions about when, what, and how much to eat.
I’ve lived in both camps, and I’m here to tell you, it IS possible to conquer emotional eating!
5 Steps to Conquer Emotional Eating
1. Know Your Emotional Eating Triggers
To gain freedom in this area, it’s important to identify the specific triggers that lead to emotional eating.
Based on my personal and clinical experience, here are three of the most common types of triggers:
- External Stress (positive or negative) – Examples include family problems, financial strain, or a special achievement.
- Negative Self Talk – Examples include bashing oneself for mistakes or obsessing over physical inadequacies.
- Boredom –We don’t often associate boredom with emotional eating, but boredom and its cousin, procrastination, account for a lot of emotional overeating.
2. Journal Emotions Before and After Eating
It was extremely helpful for me, and for many others I counseled over the years, to take a minute journal to the emotions that precede and follow emotional eating.
This can help identify the feelings that accompany triggers and the as well as the emotions you experience as you “come down” from an emotional or binge eating episode (e.g., fear, anger, guilt, etc.).
I suggest a small notebook and pen that fit easily into a purse so journaling can be done anytime and anywhere.
3. Identify Truths to Keep Emotions in Check
When surging emotions (and probably hormones, but that’s another post) cloud your judgement, it’s vital to allow objective truth to guide your behavior.
For me, that came in the form of scripture. Bible verses scribbled on note cards were stuffed in my purse, taped to my mirror, and mounted on my fridge. When I my feelings and behavior seemed out of control, I chose to trust what God said was true of me, of my body, of food, and of Himself.
- Emotion: I am so stressed out! What if I…(fail this test, can’t give this client what they need, ruin my kids, am embarrassed in front of that person, etc.)
- Truth: Eating will not fix this problem, but there is somewhere I can turn. “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’” (Matthew 11:28)
Once I identified truth statements, I realized the root issue of my emotional eating was less about food and more about whether I believed what God said.
4. Develop a Redirect Strategy
A redirect strategy provides tangible steps to stop you from eating in response to an emotional need, and to redirect those feelings in a more appropriate way. In my experience, the most successful strategies include these two things:
- Physical Interrupters – These are the “first responders” to physically remove you from a situation when you sense a surge of emotions that could trigger overeating. Examples include going outside, calling a friend, journaling, or painting your nails.
- Spiritual practices – God alone can meet our deepest emotional needs. I’ve found that inviting Him into the situation through prayer and reciting scripture was the single most powerful tool in overcoming emotional eating.
5. Enlist Accountability
Emotional eating is often a secretive and guilt-ridden battle. Having at least one person in whom you can confide and ask for help is hugely important.
This should be someone you can trust not to shame you, but who is also not afraid to speak truth to you in love when needed.
You Got This!
If you struggle with emotional eating, I want to leave you with one final word of encouragement from someone who’s been there.
There was a time when I honestly never thought I could be free from emotional and binge eating. For me, it took years to heal from my eating strongholds. But God, in his grace, never left me to struggle alone, and He won’t leave you alone either!
“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy…He rescued me because He delighted in me.” (Psalms 18:16-19)
Get help from a trusted expert whose been there
I’ve been there, I’ve overcome emotional eating, and I’ve counselled countless women to do the same. And I’d love to help you too! We’ll work together to create a personalized plan, and I’ll be right there with you every step of the way. Learn more here.