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When Emotional Eating Catches You By Surprise

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Emotional Eating

My dear husband left for 10 days yesterday on a well deserved trip. (That isn't actually of photo of him :)

He is my partner in many things. He does a lot of the childcare, cleaning, and cooking that happens with a small family.

Without him, I will work REALLY hard and if I'm not careful - I will be completely overwhelmed. And, of course, I will miss his company, his encouragement, and his calm demeanor.

Many people asked me if I was getting any help for his time away. That WOULD be a good idea.

But instead of asking for help - a mere hour after he left, I found myself at a bakery staring at one of these:

pumpkinpie.jpg

(Actually, the one I was staring at was apple - but you get the idea.) It wasn't until I reached the car with this PIE that I realized what I had done.

My choice was either cry or laugh - so I chose laugh. He left, I was uncomfortable, so I purchased a pie. I NEVER buy pies. Somewhere in my psyche I decided that I needed this pie.

The PIE had magical qualities that would make his time away be easier. How crazy is that?

This situation is defined as "emotional eating". For example, you have an emotion - like FEAR or SADNESS and decide that a donut, cookie, or ice cream is what you need to fix it.

Food doesn't solve your problems. Yes, it solves the "I'm hungry" problem - but other than that food is just food.

The pie isn't going to make me feel less afraid or sad, it is just a pie. What do I really need? To ask for help, probably. Or just allow myself to feel the emotions and let them flow without needed to shove them down with pie.

I believe the first tool in tackling emotional eating is just to become aware of it. I woke up when I opened my car door at put the pie inside. Did I go back to the store to return it? No, I just shared it with friends and gave it to my kids so I didn't eat the entire thing myself.

One really good way to figure out if you are eating emotionally is to food journal with EMOTIONS. For example when I ate my toast this morning, I was feeling hungry and stressed. I probably didn't even taste it (and yes, I was standing up when I ate it).

After you get a handle on when emotional eating occurs in your day, you can start substituting other things for food. For example, deep breaths, a hug from someone nearby, or chewing on some gum.

Check out the book below for more ideas (I have this one next to my bed). How do you deal with emotional eating? Please share.

After I posted this, I have received direct e-mails from readers who are telling me how hard it is to stop emotional eating. I did not mean to say it is easy . My path to becoming aware of this habit has been a long one. I just didn't want to bore you with the details.


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First 20 Comments: [ see all 25 ]

Thank you - I have been stuck in this mode for a while and it shows. And yes, I need to completely get out of this mode. It's my own doing and I am going to claw my way out of this funk.

on March 16, 2012

I don't know if I'm so much of an emotional eater as I am a boredom eater. I eat till I'm stuffed than wonder why the scale keeps climbing. I'm trying to change my eating habits and it's so hard!

on March 16, 2012

Wow, I guess I am one of the lucky ones. If I am stressed, upset (sad or angry), etc., I don't eat, I loose my appetite -- period.

on March 16, 2012

Great message. I've always been an emotional eater. I actually have this book and it really is a good read.

on March 16, 2012

this is your best article yet !! hope it will help many people. I eat no meats and mainly raw, so a lot of the topics i read and pass info to friends and family. Your food selections if people will follow will help those who want to loose weight and one has to remember this is a healthier way.. not always healthiest. keep on with the info and i have needed some of the advise !! my temptations are dark chocolate and pastries at whole foods... as you would say, at least no fake coloring, preservatives and flavors, but the fat and calories are there !!

on March 16, 2012

Oh, Lisa...this is really me. I have been trying to be aware of my feelings for years now, with little success. I am eternally optomistic though and have been "getting it" lately and hope it stays with me. Thanks for a helpful read this morning.

on March 16, 2012

First, Hope you manage through the next 10 days! Sounds like your husband is a gem. :-)

It might be fun to do special things with your kids this week, like a mini-vacation, rather than a stressed out time without dad - movie night, bowling, kids make (healthy) dinner night, etc. Heck, even take them out to dinner where you can get something healthy & don't have to cook - I never feel like cooking if its just me & the kids.

Thanks for a great post!

on March 16, 2012

Oops... what I originally meant to comment on is that we talked about emotional eating in WW a few weeks ago. Of the 40 or so people in the room, there were about 7 or 8 men - the leader asked each of them if they ever emotionally ate, and NONE did (vs. almost all of the women)... Interesting...

on March 16, 2012

@Maria - thanks so much for the HELP - seriously - my instinct was to relax more without him instead of trying to get it all done - and you just gave me permission :)
big hug to you. Lisa

on March 16, 2012

What I think is really great is that you realized and acknowledged what you were doing. I can't always do that, but am learning how! Cheers to you.

on March 16, 2012

Hi Lisa. Thanks for always being "real"! I eat for emotional reasons often and then beat myself up for it. It helps to know I am not alone! Prayers to everyone who is on the healthy lifestyle journey. Little by little, we will make it!
Cathy :)

on March 16, 2012

It's great timing for me to read this. We are in the midst of big changes -- all good, but changes nonetheless. So far I've been able to resist temptation, but it's easy to go astray. Thanks for sharing your story. It helps me as we go through the next month or so when there will be a lot of upheaval.

on March 16, 2012

Thank you for this Snack Girl! It was only when I developed a yeast infection (TMI?) and was put on a candida diet that I noticed my emotional eating. All my favorite foods being off the list, I realized how often I was going to that well, and what for: pleasure, because, after I examined it, I felt deprived. Mother of four, my life is all about everyone else, I ranted. My husband suggested I eat a piece of cheese. Still working out my perspective, need to start out letting myself be happy, "feed" myself properly, not with yummy treats.

on March 16, 2012

Wait, so you're trying to tell me that CHOCOLATE won't really solve all my problems??? Darn! ;) I totally find myself doing this all the time. And yes, chocolate is my drug of choice. Even better when it is chocolate combined with other fat sources in a baked good.

on March 16, 2012

Oh, I am SUCH an emotional eater. Don't show me pictures of donuts around finals time. It won't go over well. Or Nachos. Or French Fries, for that matter.

http://collegecookingandironchefamerica.blogspot.com/

on March 16, 2012

Congratulations on this post. What great timing for a lot of people, including me. I gained 0.6 this week as shown by my weigh in at WW. I know it was related to eating more than I should and some of it was "pie" eating - no real reason other than the urge to do something, anything. That's not a good reason and it's not an excuse; it just is. I'm back on track and working hard to not buy a pie unless I'm sure I can cut it into small pieces and enjoy one piece a day. I'm not there yet. Enjoy the time at night when you have some quiet. Turn his absence into a mini-vacation for you during those quiet hours. I am still working on strategies for emotional times. I probably always will.

on March 16, 2012

Great post. It is so sneaky and pervasive, if you're not in the habit of looking for it and heading it off, it gets you. Even when you know it, it can be tough. I always stop myself and ask, "is this going to help me get where I want to be?" and usually, it's "no" or "not that, have ___ instead."

on March 16, 2012

Stress is a big emotion, whether we feel it or not. Fortunately for me, its not one that seems to trigger my munchies.
I found "Junk Food, Junk Mood" by Lindsey Smith, HHC. She gets deeper into the emotional eating I do-making me look deeper. Making me be conscience of it! I am a big boredom eater. If I don't have a zillion things going on my desk at work, I start to munch-healthy stuff or not, so I try to keep the healthy around a lot more. At home, where there's always a list of stuff to get done-I could go without eating until my blood sugar plummets! Its a good book-out recently. It's helped me look at other foods, too.

on March 16, 2012

1. Set the pie on the table next to a bouquet of spring flowers.
2. Brew some tea
3. Call 2 friends who live nearby
4. Say: "I just got a pie, and I brewed some tea...do you have 20 minutes to share a slice?"

You're welcome. :)

on March 16, 2012

When I first started reading this, I thought "Ha! 10 days, that's nothing". My husband left almost a year ago, but that's a good thing. Although I'm glad he's gone, the stress of having to do everything myself (I have a 3 year old at home) has taken it's toll and I've gained a bit of weight due to emotional eating. I try not to stress too much about cleaning the house or getting a gourmet meal on the table every night, because if I did, I'd be eating a chocolate cake every night too, but there's plenty of other things to stress about. I do get some help from my parents who live nearby (well, the meals part, not the cleaning). I'm glad you've given yourself permission to relax and I hope you ask/get help if you need it. Unfortunately for you (well, sort of), you will actually miss your husband, that's something I don't have to worry about to add to my stress. :) I wish you a fantastic 10 days with your kids and tell your husband he owes you a back rub when he gets home.

on March 16, 2012

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Welcome! I’m Lisa. I write about simple snacks, healthy recipes, and products that help me WIN my battle with donuts!

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