Are you an emotional eater? Do you turn to food when you are upset? Even more common place is stress eating. In today’s society, continuous exposure to stressors is somewhat out of control. Many of us don’t even realize we are stressed and turning to food to make us feel better, unfortunately only temporarily. For that matter, many of us are out of touch with our emotional states, as we just push through each day, running down our to do list.
In my opinion, for many of us emotional eating may be a symptom of emotional or soul starvation and feeling unfulfilled with our lives. Becoming more connected to our emotions and our soul is ultimately our journey, but that is a lot to take on in just an article (for those of you who are interested, stay tuned because there is al lot more to come on this topic from me). So, I will move on to helping address the issue of emotional eating a little more technically, for now.
First of all, let me address stress. I have written extensively about the concept of while you may not be able to control the stress in your life, you can take significant steps to change how your body reacts to stress and how much impact it has on your physical and emotional health. This includes basic like making sure you are getting enough restful sleep, exercising regularly, practicing gratitude and positive mindset, but may also include nutritional and herbal supplements.
Next, emotional eating has been shown to be somewhat hard wired, written into some people’s DNA. There is a genetic variant that is very common that compels people to have trouble with what is referred to as ‘eating disinhibition’.
The eating disinhibition gene is quite common in people struggling to maintain a healthy weight. This is what can make some people more prone to emotional eating. When people with this gene are under more stress, they can be more likely to use food as a way to help them cope with it. I can’t begin to count the number of patients I have seen who have been derailed by stress and turn to food as comfort.
In my clinical practice, I developed a series of behavioral modification techniques to address genetic variants that can impact a person’s relationship with food. For the eating disinhibition gene, these are the techniques I recommend to my patients:
1. Recognize your triggers for emotional eating and when you see one coming have a substitute lined up. Find something other than food that elevates your mood — music, exercise, dancing, talk to that friend who always makes you laugh!
2. Don’t buy those foods that are your saboteurs.
3. Don’t start eating the foods that you know you can’t resist finishing. You really do need to practice avoidance.
4. Measure or portion your foods. You can’t put a large piece of chocolate cake on your plate and say to yourself, “Oh, I’ll just take a couple of bites.”
5. Tell your friends, your partner, anyone who will listen!! Get it out in the open and you will feel so much relief. People can save you, especially in social settings. Ask them to “Keep me away from that buffet table” or “Don’t offer me dessert”.
Maintaining a healthy relationship with food is incredibly complex and as I mentioned, may be a sign of a much deeper emotional and/or spiritual disconnect. This is a good place to start but if these concepts seem to create a stirring in you, then it is likely time to start working on yourself at a deeper level.