Hey! Over Here...Eating my emotions!

Ever experienced that moment where something super crappy happens or you have and extra stressy day at work, and you find your mind wandering to where the nearest burger place is, or if you have a packet of tim tams on hand, or how quickly you can get to the store to buy that block of chocolate? If you know what I am talking about then you probably have some experience in the subject of Emotional Eating. I'm going to talk about myself here, because you know, I do that a lot, but also because if there was a poster child for emotional eating, it would probably be me. Before any of you think it, no, I am not proud of that. But I am acknowledging it. I've been doing a bit of research into the topic. Honestly there is a bombardment of information out there. I typed into Google "emotional eating" and a whole lot of bogus health articles came up with how to deal with it. As I read some of them I wondered if the authors had ever even dealt with it. Telling someone to 'just say no' when your upset, and have been emotional eating for years is like telling an alcoholic not to have a drink when they are sitting in a bar, after experiencing whatever their trigger might be [ok I'm not an alcoholic so I'm not sure that's fair but it's the best comparison I could conjur up this morning]

I identify as an emotional eater. I have for years. I have always known it. It is something that I struggle with on a daily basis. Every time something happens in my life that warrants an emotional response [ be it happy or sad] my brain just sends me a little message, reminding me that I can comfort myself with food. It's like a little email popping into your inbox, 'don't worry Tillie. I know your feeling really crap but if you stuff your face with sugar and carbs, it will make us feel better. I promise." The problem with this is that because over time this has happened again and again and again [and probably a few more times after that] it is now so much more than an emotional response.

By engaging in emotional eating, we are subconsciously seeking comfort or pleasure from food. Without getting technical [because let's face it I'm a no technician] emotional eating is regulated by the reward system in our brain. If you have any connection with emotional eating you will know the types of foods you reach for. These foods basically send messages to the rewards system in our brain and we receive what we know as pleasure. You feel good for a minute of so, and then it passes. But the effects of this last so much linger than that hit of satisfaction. We pave the way for our brain to want that reaction on a regular basis, we crave that hit. I know it all sounds very drug addict like, but actually, food has become a drug for a lot of us. We use it to comfort and to escape. But no one looks sideways at us because it's socially pretty damn acceptable.

Since refocusing in this journey, my emotional response to food has become so much more apparent than it ever was. I have become aware of it so much so that I almost can hear my brain sending that message as it happens. I suppose the difference in this state is that because I am aware of it, I can address it. But I do know that a lot of us don't even realise what is going on. So often habit is so deeply engrained into us we don't even realise that there is another option. Well my dear friends, I promise you there is. Emotional eating is such a shitty topic, but I know how much it effects me, so I wanted to talk about some of the things I am trying to do to combat it.

1. Recognise your triggers.
Understand your responses to situations and take check of whether you are actually physically hungry or responding to something else. I know this sounds a bit fluffy, but trust me. Something I have been doing over the past few weeks is having a glass of water when I think I am hungry. 9 times out of 10 this has subsided my 'hunger'. It's harder when it's an emotional response, but for me, I have been writing this down in a little notebook. When I'm stressed what is my response? How about when I'm pissed off? I'm noticing a trend and that is making me powerful in responding to it.

2. Distraction
Emotions are a funny thing. If you know me you know I am highly in touch with my emotions. I cry at almost anything that is sad, or even too happy. But sometimes, when you focus on the emotion that your feeling it just intensifies. Lately when I feel the stress monster looming I try to focus my energy into something else. Switch the conversations up, go for a walk, pick up my book, or close my eyes and meditate for a few minutes. It's been making the world of difference.

3. Write it down,
This won't work for everyone, and I know I've already mentioned it, but I find writing things down and keeping a track to be really helpful. It's like, everything is there and I can start to see patterns. It also helps with the distraction thing, I turn my mind to writing, in whatever form and it helps.

4. Talk to someone.
I'm not suggesting you get a counsellor! But rather someone you can chat to when you feel that emotional repsonse rearing its head. I have a group of 3-4 people who I know understand my journey. They are encouraging and supporting and they give me that reality check that I need when those emotional moments want to take over. This has been an honest lifesaver to me, and I couldn't suggest it enough if I tried.

5. Be kind to yourself.
Most important of all of this. Know that overnight things aren't going to change, you are fighting something that is so hard. Sometimes it's not even about a lack of willpower. It's science. It's shitty and it's hard. Don't beat yourself up. Don't allow guilt and shame to sneak in and steal your victory. Work hard, equip yourself with the tools and people who will help you, focus and be kind to yourself. Because you are wonderful and strong and you can do this.

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