Are you Eating Emotionally?
Emotional eating has always had a bad connotation as if it is something that needs to be avoided, or we should be ashamed of. There is so much talk about mindful eating and how to tune in with our hunger and satiety cues, but it doesn’t work for everyone.
How can you tell a pregnant woman or even a grieving human to avoid eating past fullness? How can we be so rigid to dictate how people should be eating based on our own experiences and point of view?
There is nothing terrible about mindful eating, and I have embraced the theory entirely; yet, sometimes I eat with my daughter sitting on my lap. She loves smashing, throwing, kicking and vomiting food; I could certainly sit there and be mindful about the all experience, but the truth is, it makes my blood raising and my head spinning, and I normally end up shoving my meal down my throat in a matter of seconds, to avoid more peas on the wall. When I get really exhausted, I pass on the meal altogether.
Sometimes I get so upset I reach out for a soothing piece of chocolate, which is typically followed by another one, or even two. That’s emotional eating, which isn’t bad, but absolutely understandable.
By definition, emotional eating is the “propensity to eat in response to positive and negative emotions.” While the term emotional eating often refers to eating as a means of coping with negative emotions, it also means celebrating and sharing meals.
Think about your birthday, or when you go on a date, and you are all nervous and excited, or even Christmas Day; would you say that you eat emotionally in those circumstances? You do!
And what about funerals, or the meal after getting divorced, or when your kid leaves for university? You are sad, and your propensity to avoid foods or binge on it is quite well excused.
Why do we shame us, and why do we feel we are not good enough when we use food as a tool to alleviate or soothe our emotions?
What I’m saying is that:
Emotional eating isn’t as bad as they make it sound.
We have to stop demonising our relationship with food. Sometimes we restrict, sometimes we binge. This is part of our biology; back in the days, people would go through famines (winter, wars, migration), and when food became available again, they would eat past satiety to compensate all the nutrition they had lost in the past days, months, or years.
That tendency to oscillate between one end of the spectrum or the other it’s deeply ingrained in our DNA, and only when we make it a problem, it does become a problem.
What if we teach our children that eating is very subjective, there is not a size-fits-all, and following our body’s and brain’s need (not what the magazines say) is the only way forward?
If you get permission to eat 10 cupcakes every single day, how long do you think you would need before you start craving something salty or a plain salad? Our body knows how to auto-regulate, as long as we stop getting so obsessive about it.
It helps when we stop deeming foods “Good” or “Bad.”
Foods, in fact, have no values. We are the ones that called them a name; it is also very subjective, as sugar can be really bad for the westernised countries, but it’s a dream come true for the starving people. Or even grilled chicken, it sounds so innocent, and diety and basically the definition of good food; but have you ever asked a vegan what they think about chicken?
Food is just food, is nourishment, is entertainment, it’s an excuse to get social, it’s happiness, it’s comfort. It’s not only about a combination of macros, and it’s not calories that need to be burnt. Start by thinking about what food is for you and see if you can approach it from a different angle.
Accept being intuitive
You have screwed up again and you “binged” all weekend, but now is Monday, and you are going back on track.
What if we stop that stupid “post-holiday diet” mentality, and we start living our own life?
Back in my twenties, I was a hard-core dieter; I used to eat way past satiety for a full 24 or 48 hours, and then starve for another day or two. Not only I was miserable, but my sleep quality was really poor, I kept piling on kilos, and I was demotivated and fixated on foods.
One day, after another binge, I woke up knowing I had a low calories day planned ahead of me, and I felt so exhausted, sad, and over it that I started crying. That was the last day I lived that way. I started taking binges for what they were (hunger or an emotional response to satisfy my needs), I didn’t make a fuss out of it, and I kept eating normally the next day.
Do you know what happened? The binges organically stopped, and I didn’t buy more diety magazines, as I didn’t need them any longer.
This process took me two years, and it didn’t happen overnight. But it was 15 years ago, and I never went back to that behavior as it wasn’t serving me, and it was making me feel utterly miserable.
Allowing yourself to eat emotionally doesn’t mean getting obese overnight or surviving on a pizza’s regime (although it may work for a while, if that’s what you want and need). It means letting go of control, stop putting yourself down, admitting that you are human, and biology is quite powerful in that sense. It also means enjoying life with all its ebbs and flows, sharing foods with the people you love and have the cake, without needing to say, “I shouldn’t have it, but…” or without thinking “I will eat less tomorrow.”
Eat when you are hungry or when something is appealing to you, move your body because it’s made to do so, sleep plenty, laugh a lot and always strive for health, instead of thinness.