Ever devour cookie dough out of boredom? Binge on ice cream to numb sadness? Consume chips because of stress? Emotional eating occurs when the desire to eat is driven by emotions rather than hunger. Most people who set a weight loss goal do well at first. But one of the biggest obstacles to weight loss is to feed emotions with food. Apostle Paul himself got stuck in a cycle of doing something he didn’t want. Romans 7:15 (NLT) says, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”
Does this sound familiar? To stop emotional eating, follow these two simple steps.
Step One: Identify the emotions driving the urge to eat.
Find out what emotions drive the desire to eat. Emotional eating distracts people from the rawness of being alive and allows them to bypass it. Many people are afraid of their own emotions. They avoid crying or experiencing the depth of their negative emotions, perhaps fearing they will break or fall into some horrible abyss. No matter how terrible a situation is, what damages people the most is when they don’t allow their feelings to surface. The fear of the feeling is at the root of emotional overeating, not the feelings themselves.
Become aware of your emotions when tempted to eat food to satisfy an emotional need. Feel any feelings that come to mind. Are there any feelings that need to surface? Is there sadness, loneliness, anger, fear, or another emotion? Learn to accept feelings—even the uncomfortable ones.
Step Two: Find healthy solutions to your emotional needs.
After identifying the real emotions, the next step is meeting the actual need. When you feed your feelings with food instead of experiencing them, this is when mindless eating happens. Instead, address the underlying needs.
So, what’s the right solution? Check out these recommendations:
- Anger – take a break, write a letter of forgiveness and sharing any feelings to those who’ve hurt you and destroy it
- Loneliness – call a friend, attend a Life Recovery Group, volunteer, or go to a church service or a Bible study
- Sadness – make a list of things to be grateful for, cry, or laugh along with some comedy
- Boredom – finish a project, take up a new hobby, watch a movie, or read a book
- Anxiety – breathe deeply, pray, read Scripture, journal, walk, or talk to a New Life Counselor or Coach
Although the two steps of identifying emotions and finding healthy solutions may sound simple, following through with them is challenging. If it feels like one step forward, two steps back, that’s okay. Be patient. For more help, attend our Lose it for Life Workshop. Putting an end to emotional eating is a process, but it’s worth it!
by Susan Eppley