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Overcoming emotional eating

Are you an emotional eater?

  • Do you eat more when you’re feeling stressed?
  • Do you eat when you’re not hungry or when you’re full?
  • Do you eat to feel better (to calm and soothe yourself when you’re sad, mad, bored, anxious, etc.)?
  • Do you reward yourself with food?
  • Do you regularly eat until you’ve stuffed yourself?
  • Does food make you feel safe? Do you feel like food is a friend?
  • Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?

If any of these points listed resonate with you then the chances are that you are an emotional eater. First of all you need to know what it is that triggers you to emotional eat.

Identifying your emotional eating triggers
What situations, places, or feelings make you reach for the comfort of food? Most emotional eating is linked to unpleasant feelings, but it can also be triggered by positive emotions, such as rewarding yourself for achieving a goal or celebrating a holiday or happy event. Common causes of emotional eating include:

Stuffing emotions – Eating can be a way to temporarily silence or “stuff down” uncomfortable emotions, including anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, resentment, and shame. While you’re numbing yourself with food, you can avoid the difficult emotions you’d rather not feel.

Boredom or feelings of emptiness – Do you ever eat simply to give yourself something to do, to relieve boredom, or as a way to fill a void in your life? You feel unfulfilled and empty, and food is a way to occupy your mouth and your time. In the moment, it fills you up and distracts you from underlying feelings of purposelessness and dissatisfaction with your life.

Childhood habits – Think back to your childhood memories of food. Did your parents reward good behavior with ice cream, take you out for pizza when you got a good report card, or serve you sweets when you were feeling sad? These habits can often carry over into adulthood. Or your eating may be driven by nostalgia—for cherished memories of grilling burgers in the backyard with your dad or baking and eating cookies with your mom.

Social influences – Getting together with other people for a meal is a great way to relieve stress, but it can also lead to overeating. It’s easy to overindulge simply because the food is there or because everyone else is eating. You may also overeat in social situations out of nervousness. Or perhaps your family or circle of friends encourages you to overeat, and it’s easier to go along with the group.

Stress – Ever notice how stress makes you hungry? It’s not just in your mind. When stress is chronic, as it so often is in our chaotic, fast-paced world, your body produces high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol triggers cravings for salty, sweet, and fried foods—foods that give you a burst of energy and pleasure. The more uncontrolled stress in your life, the more likely you are to turn to food for emotional relief.

Very often many people often are triggered into emotional eating because of a lack of self esteem about their physical appearance, which then causes them to eat to make themselves feel better which then in turn keeps them in a negative feedback cycle that keeps them from losing weight. Learning how to break this cycle is the most important thing you can do in order to be successful at losing weight.

People will often also emotionally eat because of their negative beliefs about themselves. I am a firm believer that our physical health is a manifestation of our mental health. Learning to identify and heal from any negative beliefs we have about ourselves is extremely important in being able to live a fulfilled, happy and healthy life.

Find other ways to feed your feelings
If you don’t know how to manage your emotions in a way that doesn’t involve food, you won’t be able to control your eating habits for very long. Diets so often fail because they offer logical nutritional advice which only works if you have conscious control over your eating habits. It doesn’t work when emotions hijack the process, demanding an immediate payoff with food.  In order to stop emotional eating, you have to find other ways to fulfill yourself emotionally. It’s not enough to understand the cycle of emotional eating or even to understand your triggers, although that’s a huge first step. You need alternatives to food that you can turn to for emotional fulfillment

Alternatives to emotional eating
My personal number 1 favourite solution for if I am ever feeling stressed or down and that is boxing training!! 

The human body has its own great mechanism for feeling good and that is by releasing what is known as Endorphins. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, known as a “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life. I have found that the feeling of euphoria is even greater when taking part in boxing than from when I go running.

One of the best ways to overcome emotional eating is to simply go and do some exercise. You can either do this at the time of feeling the urge to emotionally eat (if time allows) or you can exercise in the morning (which will cause you to have endorphins in your system helping you feel good throughout the day) or straight after work (meaning you will feel happy and relaxed for the rest of the evening).

How you manage your emotional eating will largely depend on the way that it affects you personally. Exercising is not always an appropriate method due to circumstances so you can also try these methods:

If you’re depressed or lonely, call someone who always makes you feel better, play with your dog or cat, or look at a favorite photo or cherished memento.

If you’re anxious, expend your nervous energy by dancing to your favorite song, squeezing a stress ball, or taking a brisk walk.

If you’re exhausted, treat yourself with a hot cup of tea, take a bath, light some scented candles, or wrap yourself in a warm blanket.

If you’re bored, read a good book, watch a comedy show, explore the outdoors, or turn to an activity you enjoy (woodworking, playing the guitar, shooting hoops, scrapbooking, etc.).

This may be an area where you have to really look into yourself and take a look into your lifestyle. Things such as emotional eating from loneliness could be massively reduced by starting to get involved in more social activities for example. By eliminating the majority of the causes of the things that trigger your eating will reduce half of the psychological battle. Before you begin your weight loss journey it will be useful to know about any potential psychological barriers that may hold you back. This is so that you are ready to deal with those issues when they arise.

Using a coach to help you identify and overcome your emotional eating triggers
Its not always easy to dissect and uncover what is going on under the surface of our conscious mind. Sometimes we think we know what is causing us to feel or act a certain way, but in reality the root cause is often buried deep within our subconscious and often the result of something that may have happened to us as early as in childhood. In order to truly overcome your triggers you need to bring in to awareness that which causing the trigger and then learn new methods of coping when the triggering feeling arise. Things that trigger us often come from traumatic past experiences which once identified can be dealt with by further help from qualified professionals in order to truly heal. The first step of identifying and becoming aware of these triggers is where using a coach becomes effective.

One of the best ways to alleviate uncomfortable feelings is by talking through them with someone. By using a coach that is experienced and understands you, you will find that you will be able to cope and overcome your emotional eating triggers much more effectively.

Boxing Evolution has the perfect solution with our very own ‘Zero to Hero’ boxing body transformation course.

You will learn about all the different aspects of weight loss, nutrition (including monthly recipes) and developing fitness along with learning real boxing skills. There is no better way to lose weight and get in shape than with boxing!

For more information please check out the ‘Learn More’button below.

Learn More


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