Emotional Eating – Why We Turn to Food

Last week, I saw a movie called “Scoop” with Woody Allen. While there was a lot of great dialogue, my favorite line went something like this:

“I never put on weight. My anxiety acts as an aerobic exercise” 🙂

If only that were the case, many women would be in much better shape than they are with emotional eating.

Unfortunately, it often works just the opposite. We turn to food when life gets tough, and we have feelings that we don’t know what else to do with.

It’s not surprising that we turn to food when we feel stressed, depressed, anxious or just about anything.

It’s the easy thing to reach for.

After all, life is hard . . . food is easy.

A UCLA study of 17,000 dieters, most of them women, found that virtually ALL of them relapsed because of emotional eating.

Women are much more susceptible to emotional eating than men, primarily because we are taught to stuff our feelings.

Even when we figure out that it’s ok to express feelings, we simply don’t know how.

Logically, we know it’s ok, but emotionally, it doesn’t feel ok, and we fear the consequences of doing so.

We also don’t know how to ask for help . . . so we turn to food for comfort and self-soothing.

Because it’s easy.

We do everything for everybody else — FOOD is what we can give ourselves. (After all, we DESERVE it, as the logic goes).

And since we are used to using food in response to feelings, it becomes associated with positive events and feelings too.

A common refrain: “I eat for every feeling I’ve ever had.”

We don’t want anyone telling us we can’t have it. It’s the one thing we can absolutely control, even though it can feel out of control when we overdo it.

It often just seems too HARD to manage feelings any other way.

And it DOES take more time and attention.

It’s not that it’s hard, really . . . it’s like anything else . . . it’s just a matter of learning the right things.

Once you learn it . . . then it’s easy.

But I won’t lie to you . . . sorting things out emotionally, and being willing to feel your feelings DOES take a bit more effort than reaching for a carton of ice cream when the going gets rough.

You CAN get a quick soothing effect with emotional eating. That is why this phenomenon is so resistant to change.

The problem is, of course, it doesn’t last. In fact, it only makes things worse in the long run.

Now you have the stress you were acting on, AND the feelings about the emotional eating (and the feelings about yourself) to contend with.

So, it’s your decision . . . resolve to learn what you need to learn to manage emotions.

Give yourself some time to do this (6 months to a year is a good time frame).

Be willing to invest time and energy in yourself.

Or keep things the same. It’s up to you.

I’ll be here to help.