Right now, as I sit and write this, I am single parenting four children (their father is currently overseas), trying to keep my business chugging along and dealing with my 100-year-old grandmother, who is likening going into a nursing home to having to leave Germany in the second world war.
I am doing some emotional eating and I am okay with that. I am also sometimes taking a bath or reading a book. I am mindful that I don’t want my emotional eating to become problematic, nor do I want it to be the only strategy I use as a response to an emotional state.
Emotional eating is normal! A completely normal human response and even children do it. It can become problematic when done mindlessly or to mask deeper emotional trauma. It is fine to do sometimes, but if we do it too often, we might make ourselves feel bad and the experience become negative. We want to have a happy and calm relationship with food and emotional eating can be a part of this.
The world often tells us to not feel, just brush it off and smile, but feeling emotions is okay. It is the response or reaction to these emotions that matters. What we need to try and learn is respond and not react to situations and emotions. Take a moment to think about what happens in the moments or hours leading up to emotional eating, what are your thoughts and feelings? Look inwards and investigate from a place of compassion and respect for your body (not from a place of shame, blame or criticism). Notice, without judgement, your thoughts and feelings.
So when you feel like emotional eating, stop and pause. Take a moment to be present, be mindful and think about how you are feeling and how you would like to respond.
Emotional eating is not about the food. Something else is going on underneath. It is about finding some comfort and calmness in a crazy world. Eating, when done in a mindful way, can be used as a response to stress, boredom, sadness….but what other things can we do to feel calm and get a moment of pleasure? How else can we care for ourselves?
(Note: if the emotional issue is deep and ongoing, professional help (from a non-diet dietitian for food or GP or physiologist or counselor) might be a great place to start.)
So, ask yourself do I feel like some wine, a little chocolate or an apple or do I feel like….
Here is a list of other self-care ideas:
Reading a book
Do you love reading? If readings not your thing then maybe it’s worth giving it another chance; maybe a new genre or try an audio book? Research suggests that reading can work as a serious stress buster (can reduce stress by up to 68%) and improves brain power. Wow, thank you book! So, go ahead and curl up with that book, allowing your mind to slip away and get lost in a story.
Move your body
Move your body in a way you enjoy (and do it like no-one is watching). What do you enjoy? Maybe you like to take a short 10 min walk (enjoying the surroundings). Did you know that walking can increase endorphin levels that can help ease depression? Perhaps a workout is your preferred choice. Exercise triggers the release of chemicals in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin. So, it might just help lift your mood; walk, dance in the lounge room, head to the gym, swim or take a yoga class. Move your body in a way your enjoy.
Re-organise your spice rack
A good technique to gain a sense of control back is to keep busy. Just last Sunday, I did a bit of a clean and tidying to get some emotional energy out and it felt good. This can be the spice rack or anything that needs a spring clean.
Call a friend to chat
Go for on the phone or in person, rather than text or social media. You’ll know the right friend to call. Research says friends are a great thing to support you when emotional. So, call them up and see what’s happened since you last had a good chat.
Romance under the sheets is not only pleasurable but good for your well being. Scientific studies suggest sex helps cope with stress and helps you feel healthier and happier. Some say morning sex is the best as it acts as an immunity booster that can last throughout the day helping you to reduce your anxiety or emotional state.
Hug it out
Hugs are the best and make the world a happier place. Go get a hug from your love one, child or your fur baby. Remember it is okay to feel emotions but when you are ready, try a smile. When you feel, stressed or flustered, even a forced smile can genuinely decrease your stress and brighten you up a little.
Have a cup of tea
Personally, I can’t go past a nice warm cup of tea. Grab your favourite and relax in the moment. Savour the sips. Focus on your emotions, tell yourself it’s ok to feel down, mad or tired, sometimes it’s okay to just sit and be mindful in your thoughts. Later you can think about what you would like to change.
Have a bubble bath
Nothing better than a soak in a bubble bath to make you feel warm and fuzzy. Maybe add some relaxing music to keep you company. Try some nice scented candles and voila, welcome to happiness.
Take a nap
Don’t feel bad to just stop and relax your mind. If you’re not in the mood for anything else, try a nap. Sleep or just lay calmly.
Meditation has been around for centuries, it uses the practice of mindful breathing to help clear your mind of clutter. Research has shown it is highly beneficial to your mental health. Breathing deep through the nose, not through the mouth can help relieve emotional problems. There are many meditation apps you can download my top three are; Calm, Headspace and the mindfulness app.
Emotional eating is normal and not about the food. Treat yourself with kindness, but start to think about our reactions to situations. When you feel like emotional eating, recognize it, pause and think about it for a moment (from a place of respect for your body, never contempt) and decide how you choose to respond. Food is delicious and easy to access. It can be the response sometimes (and using another response won’t work if you really feel like something else). Food is meant to be enjoyed.
We hope you enjoy the above techniques and if you want some more info about food, the non-diet approach and treating yourself kindly here are a list of a few resources we love:
Great books to read
Blogs and Social Media we love:
Zoe Nicholson – Love What You Eat