WHAT IS EMOTIONAL EATING?
As emotional eaters we live in an either/or world. Everything is either black or white. We’ve either done well, or we’ve done badly. Something is either allowed or forbidden. We must either be rewarded… or we must punish ourselves. Both superiority and an inferiority complex co-exist in a wonderful mix. Food is our best friend and our worst enemy.
I can’t repeat this often enough: Emotional Eating is the malnutrition of emotional needs.
WE EAT INSTEAD OF FEELING
Does that sound strange? Maybe, maybe not.
When you begin to read about emotional eating you will discover that you become increasingly conscious about exactly what happens with you in relation to eating and food. Those of us who suffer from emotional eating, experience eating food as a way to suppress and soothe difficult emotions such as anger, sadness, longing for love and intimacy, grief and frustration.
That’s why emotional eating is closely connected with our emotional life, and can easily be triggered by a bad day at work, or something that we perceive as criticism or rejection. The same applies for great feelings of joy, an experience or event that we want to celebrate or a feeling of happiness.
WHEN FOOD IS BOTH FOE AND FRIEND
In other words, food is used to switch off thoughts and to relieve experiences of physical pain and chaotic feelings. Eating becomes a way to resolve problems – a kind of survival strategy, but because of the shame over losing control, and the subsequent weight gains, this solution ends up becoming our actual problem.
WE FEEL GUILT AND SHAME
The emotional eaters’ great paradox is that although we eat to suppress difficult feelings, we become overwhelmed by an enormous sense of shame and guilt about overeating as soon as we’ve done it. With time, this sensation will start to set in before we’ve even stopped eating. It is a progressive condition.
Whilst we’re emotionally eating we often experience a sense of calm and an absence of emotions, but afterwards the feeling of shame and guilt about the loss of control adds to the original difficult emotions we were experiencing. The shame and guilt is often followed by feelings of self-hatred and self-contempt, which further reduces our low self-esteem.
And then we go back to eating…
Many emotional eaters describe the sensation of their condition escalating until they feel shame as soon as they take their first bite. The joy and calmness that they originally experienced has disappeared.
WE RARELY SEEK HELP
Emotional eaters, compulsive binge eaters and food addicts rarely seek help. UNFORTUNATELY.
And those of us that do seek help have often suffered for many years and primarily seek professional help to deal with obesity or mental health issues like anxiety or depression.
It’s my belief that the biggest reason for this is the shame connected with emotional eating and the common mistake (and socially reinforced idea) that you should just “get a grip” and “pull yourself together and stop eating!”. Which has NOTHING to do with it.
In addition, emotional eating is still an overlooked and unknown disorder, compared to anorexia and bulimia, which is why many people simply don’t realize that they are suffering from something that can be treated. Help is here.
This is unfortunately also often reflected in the treatment our doctors recommend, which usually only focuses on being overweight.
Does that sound familiar?