Last week, Hungry Girl’s Ask HG column asked for advice on “how to NOT eat emotionally. ” I love HG–recipes, product tips, eating out guides, mock-tails. The advice on this one, however, is a little lacking… She admits she is not speaking from experience, as she is not an emotional eater, and gives helpful “swap” tips. You can see her address the issue on Dr. Oz.
I AM an emotional eater. I am also a very emotional person. Unfortunate combination–there’s food for happiness, food for sadness, and cake for anxiety attacks (and caramel-apple martinis to wash it all down with)! It has taken me YEARS to learn to identify the crazy, manic, addict feeling that sends me to the pantry in search of ANYTHING to stuff down my face, as an emotional issue. Somehow, I have even come to eat things semi-unconsciously as a means, I believe, to take my mind of whatever it is I’m thinking or feeling. For example, I’m feeling frantic trying to get lunch out to both kids so I can get dressed while they eat, and trying to remember to put new wipes in the diaper bag and change over the laundry before we leave. While I’m bustling about, I shove a handful of whatever I’m fixing for the girls in my mouth (without even really focusing on or realizing how much or wanting it in the first place). It’s a reaction to the frantic feelings, not hunger. This behavior alone can add up to ten pounds a year. I caught myself yesterday as I was about to put freeze-dried apples in my mouth–for no reason! Freeze dried apples!! Certainly it could be worse, but it is the fact that I do this unconsciously that is the problem. What ever happened to that jar of peanut butter….?
1. Deal with the immediate food impulse first.
Craving a candy bar? Write it down. Recently, a friend suggested “drawing” my craving . I laughed, but it is a thing. There is a study out suggesting that drawing your comfort foods can boost your mood and curb a craving at the same time. Read more here. I have a “cheat” day built in my life. Saturday. I write my cravings down in my phone every time I have one–telling myself I can eat it on Saturday. Give value to it, “Hello, cupcake. There you are, french fries. See you on Saturday, maybe.” Then get out. Away. Move. Splash water on your face. Chew gum in an angry way. Roar in the closet if you have to (I’ve done it).
List writing makes me feel like I’m taking it seriously—I am actually working on the craving, doing something for it, giving it offerings if you will… Come Saturday, I eat only the ones I can remember or have on that day. Turns out, I don’t remember very many of them. Also, because it’s not in the moment, I’m satisfied with just a bit. Giving in during the heat of a craving, I’m likely to down a whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
2. Recognize the need to express the emotion (or squash it).
Dr. Phil, who really does have great advice on weight-loss, always talks about “feeling the feelings.” Deal with the craving first. Deal with the feelings when the mania passes. Recently, and I really mean recentely, I have been able to stave off a craving by exercising. (This is the first time in my life I have ever been able to say that). While I am exercising, I stop focusing on my inner brain because the workout is so intense (I am waaaaayyy out of shape). At some point, when I am on the verge of collapse, I realize my head is clear and I can look at the situation/emotion from a distance. Then I can punch that “situation” in the face (in the confines of a Zumba class). Maybe this will work for you.
3. Take a Shower.
This is perfect after exercise anyway, but even if you haven’t had a workout, take a shower. It can be quick! Imagine the water washing away all the stress, the emotion, cry if you feel like it. Then let the water wash your face, taking your tears into the drain-beyond… Come out feeling fresh and renewed.
4. Write a thank you note.
The day/week that has led you to this craving has probably sucked. A lot. You’ve followed the steps above, you are feeling spent and clean. Now change your thought direction entirely. Write a thank you message (it can be an e-mail but why not use a cute card and surprise someone?) to one person who you appreciate. This is good practice anyway, but it is especially helpful when you need to really shift your focus. If I don’t feel gracious and filled with gratitude, I keep writing. Sometimes, I’ll write a list of people who need thanks so I don’t forget them, and then write to them. Sometimes, I’ll look up a clever card on Pinterest to make the person, make it, then fill it out and send it. I have issues…
Hopefully, these tips help you. Maybe they are something new you can try. This whole thing is very difficult and I empathize completely. Being chronically overweight is more complicated than “eating less than your body burns.” People that reduce the weight-loss process down to that philosophy enrage me. That might work for “Suzy-needs-to-loose-10-pounds-so-she-can-get-back-in-to-her size 2’s”. Suzy Twos and I are NOT in the same league. Suzy probably wouldn’t stab somebody in the hand for Snickers. I would.
My weight, my food addiction, are all tied up in a complicated series of knots. I’m trying to find each one and work away at it util it comes loose, making it easier for me to see the next one.
Loves, I have started this journey many times. I’m with ya.