Emotional eating is one of the biggest cause of weight gain in the western world. It’s so common we probably don’t even realise we’re doing it when we do it. But for me and my clients it’s the most common thing I need to tackle when it comes to weight loss hypnotherapy.
I’ve written very openly about my struggle with emotional eating in the past, so I don’t want to go into great personal detail here but what I will say is that my relationship with food and my struggle with weight got so much easier when I realised that allowing myself to feel and especially to cry was ok.
What do I mean by emotional eating or eating your emotions?
Sometimes (often in childhood) we learn that we shouldn’t express our emotions. We’re told that ‘big girls don’t cry’ or that ‘that’s enough now’. Perhaps we think we should ‘get over it’. There are so many expressions that are to do with suppressing emotion and not showing how we feel.
We learn to find other coping strategies when we feel that other people don’t want to know about what we’re feeling or that we just don’t know how to fully express it.
At the same time as we are learning to suppress our emotions, we’re also learning that food is for feeling good. Reward for good behaviour in the form of sugary treats, the language used around sweets and desserts when they are referred to as ‘treats’, celebratory meals out when we get good exam results, have birthdays or parents get job promotions.
Over time, as children, we learn to associate food with feeling good and we begin to cover up those negative emotions with the good feelings we associate with food.
By the time we’re into adulthood we’re used to eating chocolate to cheer up, having cake to feel better, sticking our hand in the biscuit tin after a sleepless night with the kids and opening that bottle of wine after a stressful day at work.
It’s become normalised.
American films show heartbroken teens opening and devouring pints of ice cream. I remember an episode of friends where Monica and Rachel consoled themselves with pizza and ice cream. Feeling better through food is openly acknowledged as a coping mechanism.
But what happens when you’ve eaten that pint of ice cream or entire pack of chocolate digestives? What happens when you feel sick and disgusted with yourself, to ill to move and too ashamed that you gave in – again.
Then you start to have feelings of inadequacy. The thoughts you have around your willpower, your self worth. You begin to use words like ‘disgusting’, ‘useless’, ‘no willpower’.
And when you internalise negative thoughts about yourself, you start to erode at your self worth and your self esteem.
And when you have low self esteem, you are more likely to sooth yourself with food or alcohol… and so the cycle begins again.
This behaviour is so usual and so normalised, many of my clients don’t even realise that they’re doing it until we dig a little deeper into their habits and see that it’s there.
Do you have emotional eating habits? Have you recognised any behaviours here that you have? You might like to check out Understanding Emotional Eating – a small course delivered in bitesized pieces that will help you understand and move forward with it.