Emotional overeating is almost a joke in our society – movies, TV shows, and the resulting stereotypes cause many of us to laugh about how much ice cream it takes to get over a breakup, or how much chocolate we need to overcome rejection.
But for those who actually suffer from emotional overeating, it’s anything but funny.
First, it helps to be honest with yourself and identify whether you have this problem or not.
Here’s some tips to help you figure out if you’re an emotional overeater or not.
- Keep a food diary. In this diary, in addition to noting everything you eat, also note how you feel when you eat it- sad, angry, upset, elated, joyful, etc. Don’t judge yourself or make any changes to your habits when you start keeping this diary; you’re not trying to impress anyone or prove anything. You’re just trying to get an honest picture of your eating habits. After several weeks, you’ll discover a pattern will probably emerge.
- Are you under a lot of stress? Do you find that you gain weight when under stress? There are other factors that can come into play, of course, causing you to gain weight. But this is something to consider if you are trying to figure out if you have an emotional overeating problem or not.
- Get advice from a therapist or specialist if you really want to find out if you are a victim of emotional overeating.
How Can It Be Overcome?
If you’ve identified emotional overeating as something you suffer from, you may benefit from some tips on overcoming this problem.
Here are some to consider:
1. Seek stress relief
If you overeat in response to stress, it makes sense to find alternative ways to relieve and manage that stress. Meditation, Yoga, Pilates, martial arts, and other regular forms of exercise and relaxation techniques can help alleviate the stress that is triggering your overeating.
2. Swap goodies for goodies
Try to find substitutions for the comfort foods or food rewards you seek when you are feeling positive or negative emotions. Having something in place already is key – keep a list handy or another reminder that will prompt you to turn to the alternative rather than the candy bar. (Some alone time, a short walk, reading a magazine or book for pleasure, doing your nails, etc. are all little emotional pick-me-ups that you can implement in place of food.
3. Why am I doing this?
Before eating, ask yourself why you are doing it. Do you feel genuinely hungry? If you’re truly hungry, you may feel fatigued and, of course, feel the hunger in your stomach. Ask yourself if you really feel hungry or if you are seeking an energy boost or a calming effect instead.
Alternative Therapies for Emotional Overeating
Emotional overeating can make a person feel imprisoned – it can seem like there is no way out of the cycle of feeling sad, angry, and anxious and so forth, and then eating to alleviate the emotional pain.
There are treatments that are available, though – some of the conventional and some alternative.
Conventional therapy, surgery, and medication have all been utilized at one time or another for the treatment of emotional overeating. There are, however, some alternative therapies that are worth exploring. Here are some of them.
Because emotional overeating begins in the mind, hypnosis is said to be effective because it addresses the mind directly with the power of suggestion. Hypnosis is not the mumbo-jumbo stuff of cartoons and swinging pocket watches; it’s a clinical practice and many practitioners have used it with success to treat emotional overeating.
The intent of meditation as a treatment for emotional overeating is to “tune in” to the emotional thought center that is driving your cravings and/or binge eating. Meditation, sometimes taking a form called “mindfulness,” is the opposite of mindlessness, which is what often happens in emotional overeating. The person does not really think about what he or she is doing; it’s mindless eating.
It seems like every time you turn around there’s a new herbal supplement promising to help you lose weight. But there are some herbs that can help with the issue of emotional overeating. Here are some of them.
* Hoodia – This much-publicized herb is said to be effective at appetite suppression and boosting energy. Its effects tend to be subtle, and it also has a good safety record.
* Vitex – This hormone-balancing herb for women may help those whose emotional overeating is influenced by hormone fluctuations.
* Ginseng – This ancient herb is said to help sugar cravings and curb the compulsion to overeat in response to one’s emotions. Both American and Asian ginseng are purported to be equally effective.
Acupuncturists are often asked if acupuncture can help with weight loss. The answer, in general, is yes – but not always. However, the good news is that acupuncture tends to be more successful in treating emotional overeating than just overeating.
This may be due to acupuncture’s alleged ability to release endorphins and boost metabolism – making the client feel better emotionally, effectively curtailing the emotional overeating.
Interestingly, having the right balance of vitamins and minerals may affect emotional overeating – it’s not too much of a stretch to speculate that nutritional deficiencies could play a part in this kind of overeating. So make sure you’re not eating a lot of artificial, processed, pre-packaged foods; opt for fresh, whole foods as a general rule.
It’s also a good idea to take a vitamin and mineral supplement that is formulated for your gender and life situation.
Nutritional Treatments for Emotional Overeating
It may seem ironic to turn to nutritional treatments for emotional overeating – after all, isn’t the problem too much eating? Why would you want to look at more foods you need to eat? But more and more experts are seeing the connection between nutrition and emotional overeating.
The fact is, when you overeat in response to emotions, you may not be eating the healthiest foods. You become full – even sick – on junk foods, and there’s no room left for the good stuff.
It’s common knowledge that you do need the right nutrients to be healthy, and if those foods are not being eaten, then it’s more a matter of quality than quantity.
Another aspect of emotional overeating may be nutritional deficiencies – and the deficiencies might bring on cravings. The theory is that the body craves certain foods in response to a need – in the case of emotional overeating, the need is emotional but it may also be physical. For example, a craving for ice cream may signify your body’s need for calcium.
Here are some vitamins and minerals that, according to research, are implicated in the management of emotional overeating.
This vitamin’s effect on mood is well-documented and is even suggested for people who suffer from certain depressive disorders, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Foods high in Vitamin D include:
* Cod liver oil
* Sockeye salmon
* Soymilk (fortified with Vitamin D)
* Cow’s milk
Remember that Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so sources with healthy fats, such as fish, maybe absorbed better by the body.
These important vitamins help increase energy levels and manage water retention. Foods with B vitamins include:
* Lean beef (B12)
* Dark leafy greens (kale, broccoli, spinach)
Magnesium and Calcium
This is a powerful pair – many supplements put them together in one pill or capsule. These minerals are important for managing muscle and nerve tension.
Interestingly, when these minerals occur naturally in foods, there is usually a higher proportion of magnesium to calcium, whereas supplements generally have more calcium than magnesium.
* Nuts, especially peanuts, hazelnuts, and pecans
Zinc has been shown to have a profound effect on appetite and cravings, and many people with eating disorders are deficient in this mineral. Zinc is found in the following foods:
* Shellfish, especially oysters and crab
* Beef, particularly beef shanks
* Garbanzo beans
Making deliberate, conscious choices about what you do eat can go a long way toward managing emotional overeating. Plan your meals and make a shopping list, and be proactive about meeting your nutritional needs.
Emotional Overeating: Where do you turn to?
Emotional overeating can seem like a prison with no way out, and when you think of seeking treatment, it often seems too overwhelming to consider.
Sometimes it helps to have some simple steps and treatment programs laid out clearly, so it doesn’t seem so consuming.
Here are some common treatment options for emotional overeating disorder and tips on things you can do (+ some cautions on what not to do)
Note: I’m not a doctor and I don’t pretend to be one. Take my experience and advice with a grain of salt. Please see your physician before implementing anything you read here! Lol sorry for this #endoflegal
First, recognize your problem. Know you’re not alone. There are a ton of people who silently suffer from emotional overeating. (Myself included)
* Counseling – Individual, group or family counseling can be really helpful for people who experience emotional overeating. Counseling treatment usually involves some nutritional and dietary guidelines and treatment of underlying emotional problems.
* Surgery – This is a somewhat controversial treatment for emotional overeating. It addresses the physical aspect of the problem rather than the emotional. However, in combination with emotional therapy and extensive medical counseling, surgery can be a viable choice for some people. I’ve personally had friends that went this route and were satisfied with the experience. Usually, surgical options involve decreasing the space available in the stomach, usually by a lap-band or gastric bypass procedure.
* Medication – Under the care of a professional, medications – usually anti-depressants – have been shown to provide relief for many who suffer from emotional overeating. This may be due to the suspected connection between overeating and depression – research continues to point to the relationship between the two problems.
Tips: What YOU CAN Do
* Exercise regularly – Yes, you’ve heard this before, but it really is an important aspect of managing emotional overeating. Exercise improves your mood, improves energy levels, and increases your self-image. All part of pushing through emotional overeating.
You can start with just 20 minutes of brisk walking three to six times a week. Every small win counts.
* Eat well – What you do eat is as important as what you’re “not allowed” to eat! Sometimes, emotional overeaters can be overcome by cravings for certain “forbidden” foods, like ice cream, candy bars, and chips. But if you’re full of and surrounded by healthy foods, it’s okay to indulge (in moderation) without feeling guilty.
Keep fresh produce on hand and eat lots of lean protein, veggies, fruits, and whole grains.
What NOT to Do
* Keep unhealthy snacks handy – Oh, this one is so tough & I even feel like a hypocrite sometimes but I’m writing it anyway.
If you don’t have the unhealthy food in the house, you will probably be less likely to head for it in times of emotional distress.
In other words, make it hard on yourself to get the foods you want to eat when feeling bad – cross ice cream, junk foods, and fatty snacks off your grocery list!
* Crash diet – Trying to starve yourself or go on an extended fast is not the way to go. You risk compromising yourself nutritionally and physically. Plus, crash dieting almost always results in more overeating afterward.
I’ve seen women do this so many times & I guarantee you, you don’t want to waste your time with this one!
As moms, we always have a knack for “knowing” and”feeling” when things are just not in line…
What do you do when you feel yourself coming out of balance?
When you know you’re about to turn to that the ice cream or an entire container of croissants?