Do you ever feel a bit ‘out of control’ around food?
Would you consider your overeating ‘emotional’ or yourself an "emotional eater?”
Feeling this way around food can be really disheartening, frustrating and induce feelings of guilt and shame. The good news is, there are clear reasons why this happens and some simple steps you can take to feel more in charge around food.
SO, WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?
There are MANY reasons why this happens but one of the most common triggers for emotionally charged over eating is a natural reaction to perceived or real deprivation.
1.Real deprivation: Real deprivation could be due to food scarcity for low income families etc. Or it could be that we’re on a diet and restricting foods that we actually love and enjoy. Emotionally charged over eating and feeling out of control around food can also be the result of not getting enough food through our day – or not getting enough of the things that our body benefits from.
2. Emotional /perceived deprivation: You are eating the food but not allowing yourself to enjoy it because it makes you feel guilty. Many people who eat emotionally on occasion do not overeat to the point of severe uncomfortableness followed by intense feelings of guilt or shame. They might have to pop a button here and there but it’s not the same as the feelings of ‘being out of control’ that follow eating something with a restrictive mindset.
The combination of these two facts (deprivation and then guilt and shame for eating ‘the thing’) can lead to those feelings of complete lack of control around 3:30pm or late at night once the kids are in bed or sitting in the car with that entire block of chocolate.
So what’s a simple thing you can do? The FIRST thing I suggest to anyone who finds themselves dealing with the above is:
Get enough to eat.
It sounds like a no-brainer, I know but if you can set yourself up throughout the day with nourishing and satisfying meals right from the get-go you are a HUGE step closer to feeling in charge of your eating.
And while it sounds simple – it’s not always easy. There are two types of people that are usually finding themselves a bit crazy around food:
The person on the go: This person is always in a rush – they might skip breakfast to get the kids ready for school, they grab what they can on the fly, they have quick lunch at their desk (or not at all), then they get home after work or work and eat ALL THE FOOD either as soon as they walk in the door or shortly after they’ve rushed through dinner and the kids are in bed.
The person on the diet: This person is trying SO hard to be “good”. They have a light breakfast, maybe a smoothie with banana and yoghurt. They have a light lunch – maybe a salad or some soup. They skip snacks because someone told them they should and they have a beautiful low carb dinner with cauliflower rice, chicken breast and salad. This may work for a while (or not) but by Friday they finally decided to give into their cravings and have ‘just one cookie’ which then turns into 10 because well – ‘they’ve already blown it they might as well keep going’.
So, what’s a girl (or guy) to do? EAT!
Set yourself up however possible to start your day with a delicious breakfast that ticks off all the macronutrient boxes (carbs, protein, fats) and get enough to feel satisfied.
Lately, I’ve been having High Protein Breakfast Cereal with some Greek yoghurt because it’s filing, it’s nourishing, it’s tasty and it’s loaded with protein. Protein helps to keep us satiated and our blood sugars balanced. It is also packed with healthy fats and vitamins and makes me feel great. I don’t even think about food until late morning. Whatever way you start the day, whatever you eat – try to keep in mind these three things: Protein, fats and carbohydrates and flavour so that we’re full, energised nourished and satisfied. If you’re not hungry first thing – that’s fine – eat a bit later but keep the above in mind.
Make sure you have snacks handy for morning tea and afternoon tea. Just in case! You don’t have to eat them if you’re not a ‘snacker’ but if you do feel like you need a bit of energy to get through until lunch, they are there and you’re not left feeling hangry. This could be fruit, nuts, yoghurt, cheese, crackers, muesli bars – whatever!
Make sure you have a packed lunch or a plan to get something in the area. If you tend to forget about lunch – try setting yourself a timer. Step away from the desk and your phone and give your lunch your full attention. This will help you to feel more satisfied, improve digestion and make your meal more enjoyable.
And don’t forget the treats! If you want a treat at any time throughout your day – enjoy it! Eat it and move on. Restriction of any form can lead to feelings of overwhelm when we finally allow yourselves a taste. No one food has the ability to harm you (unless you’re allergic) so enjoy. All foods fit.
If you can do all of this along with a satisfying dinner – you’re taking REALLY important steps towards feeling more in charge of your eating. You’re less likely to overeat or eat emotionally because your body is satisfied and happy, and well, food is delicious. Enjoy it!
Of course, emotional eating is complex and there are lots of other factors to consider which is why I've put together this resource to help you get started.