How To Put A Stop To Emotional Eating

I am no psychologist, and I don’t claim to have all of the answers. All I can ever do is relate my experiences back to you guys and hope that they’ll help at least one of the people reading my blog. With that in mind, I wanted to tackle a subject which as been very close to my heart (and stomach) for about as long as I can remember…Emotional eating. 

Emotional eating is one of the most common trends amongst people who struggle with their weight, and it is certainly something that I have done for a long long time. I remember back when I was 13/14 years old and struggling with my eating patters, my psychiatrist at the time told me that what I was doing to myself was called ‘binge eating’ (where I would eat uncontrollably and then purposely purge because of the guilt) and to me that made total sense. You hear about people who binge on drugs and alcohol, and for many people food can be just as dangerous. When you cease to have control over your eating habits, whether that’s through a diagnosable eating disorder or something that’s less definable, it is usually tied to some sort of emotional issue. If you’re not sure about all of the definitions and terminology around binge eating just pop over to the National Centre for Eating Disorders website where they’ve got loads of useful info!

Personally I’ve spent a good few years working through my issues, both with help and on my own, and have had many epiphanies about my struggles with food. I love food, and I love eating, and one of those realisations was that if I wanted to really enjoy food I needed to work out how to do so without the negative feelings, anxiety and guilt that I’d feel after eating. What’s the point in enjoying an amazing meal, or even a simple homemade one, if you’re then going to obsess about what it’s doing to your body afterwards? To do this I had to work out how to avoid emotional eating, and therefore avoid binge eating. If I could avoid these things, then I could begin to have a healthy and happy relationship with food! It is an ongoing process, but here are a few things that I’ve done to help me, they might work for you or they might not, but either way it’s important to address the issues that you have with food so I would encourage anyone struggling to seek help or advice. 

I identified my triggers…

This is not a moment for me to air my dirty laundry to the world, but there were certain things which when thought about made me reach for the biscuit tin! Everyone who over eats due to emotional reasons has triggers that make them do so…this could be work stresses, home stresses, memories, or even a smell, but it’s important to identify these so that you can come up with strategies to deal with them…with that in mind…

I came up with strategies…

Once I had identified my triggers, I needed to work out how to tackle them when they occured. There are some triggers that you can work through, and others that are always going to be there, so coming up with these strategies is really important. One thing that I had to do was remove (nicely) some of the more negative influences and people from my life as they put me in situations which would lead to bad eating habits… this wasn’t easy but it was entirely necessary! Other strategies include planning ahead to account for situations with triggers in them, arming myself with healthy food, and making sure I had people to talk to when I felt stressed. That last one is particularly important so that I can relieve some of the stress before resorting to my negative eating patterns. One of the other things that I did, although it wasn’t just to help with eating, was to get a new job. When I was unhappy at work, I also had a long drive back in the evenings, which gave me the perfect opportunity to stop and buy packets of sweets and biscuits to drown my sorrows. With a new job this isn’t an issue as I’m super happy and close to home too! This goes back to what I was saying the other day about priorities, even though I know a new job isn’t always an option, it’s a really good idea if your current job is having a serious negative effect on your life!  

I got help…

I’m talking about professional help here. Over the years I’ve been lucky to have parents who made an effort to send me to see someone when I started to struggle, and there is absolutely no shame in that. The stigma around mental health, or even just going to talk to someone, is ridiculous! Things are changing but there’s a long way to go, and I feel no shame in admitting that I needed help. I don’t need to see someone any more, but if in the future I struggle I will have no shame then either…getting help is a positive thing and everyone should be encouraged to do it! Whether it’s because you struggle with food, have lots of negative thoughts, or simply want a friendly face to unburden yourself to, it can really help! By facing some of my issues head on, I dealt with a lot of the things which caused my emotional eating in the first place. It took a while to sink in to be honest, so it wasn’t necessarily when I finished seeing a psychiatrist that I felt OK. But in the years since, a lot of the things that I learnt back then have made more sense and changed the way I do things.

I joined Slimming World…

I’ve already made it very clear to everyone who knows me or reads this blog that joining Slimming World is the best thing that I ever did for myself! Image Therapy (the other name for the group sessions) is the most important way that I have learned to have a healthy relationship with food. That coupled with how well the plan works, and how easy it is to follow, has revolutionised everything for me! I am a true believer in the Slimming World plan and I will shout that from the roof tops (or this blog!) all day, every day if it encourages one more person to walk through those doors! 

I started a blog…

OK so I know this might seem like a bit of an obvious one, given that you’re currently reading my blog, but part of my motivations for starting this was to have a platform to share and save my favourite recipes. More recently though, it has become a place to work out my thoughts (in pieces like this one). It has seriously helped me tackle some of my bigger issues, like those about the bullying I’ve experienced, and in doing so I’ve been able to help other people, thereby turning my experiences into something positive! It has also made me much more concious of when I start to emotional eat, because I’m always considering new things to write about, and that has helped me to identify some more of my triggers. 

I could go on, as there are lots of things that have helped me over the years, and I’m not out of the woods yet. I still find myself falling into old habits, and I still emotional eat sometimes, which is why I can’t say I have all of the answers. But I do it a whole lot less than I ever did before! With some of the strategies that I’ve put in place, and by surrounding myself with positivity as much as I can, I can say that my problems seem a lot smaller than they ever did before. For that I am so thankful, and for the first time in many years I can honestly say I am in a good, happy, healthy place in my life!

I really hope, if you’re struggling at all, that this might have been some help. Let me know your experiences in the comments, or if you’d like to chat or anything at all just drop me an email! 

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  • laura dove

    06/04/2016 at 1:19 pm

    I am very much an emotional eater but for me when I am stressed or sad I don't eat, and when I am happy I cant stop! I think so many people can relate to this, thanks for sharing. #MMWBH
    1. Cliona

      06/04/2016 at 2:20 pm

      Hi Laura, I think you're right in saying that's something lots of people can relate to! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I'm really glad that you found the post interesting. I definitely go through phases of eating because I feel very happy with everything, but it's very closely tied with my weight and if I do that then I over eat and put on weight, which leads to more emotional eating because I get sad! It's a vicious cycle but one that's becoming less and less of an issue, so hopefully this piece has helped you too :) x
  • Aliyah Brody

    12/04/2016 at 3:48 am

    Hi, Cliona, you have such a lovely name (and such a terrific site)! So glad I found you through the #MMWBH (#MadMidWeekBlogHop). I really enjoyed the insights you shared in this post, particularly the importance of devising strategies to circumvent or deal with the triggers. I know when I'm happy and engaged with something I really enjoy doing, hours fly by and I have to remind myself to eat! But when I'm stressed or blue... oy! I admire the work you've put in and the progress you've made. Congrats and way to go! I also really like that you've channeled your energies into this blog: you help others while helping yourself!
    1. Cliona

      12/04/2016 at 8:21 am

      Hi Aliyah, wow that's one of the loveliest comments I've ever had. It means so much to me that you have taken the time to post, and read my blog, and that it resonates with you. Your positivity helps me stay focused, thank you! If I can give one piece of advice to perhaps help when you do have one of those days where you're down or stressed...make sure to get up and away from whatever it is you're doing at least once ever 2 hours. Take 10 minutes to make a cup of tea, walk outside, listen to some music, or just breath for a few minutes without doing anything work related. It has been proven to lower stress levels and you might not feel the need to pick at food! Hope that helps :) x
  • Aliyah Brody

    12/04/2016 at 4:52 pm

    Hello again, Cliona! I'm so glad you liked my comment. I so appreciate the time, effort and thought that goes into a great blog post and am glad if my words have given back to you just a fraction of what your post did for me. Thank you so much for your great tip to schedule in regular, restorative breaks. It is SO easy to get wrapped up in whatever one is doing that one forgets that taking the time to invest in one's wellbeing will reap benefits beyond the investment. I'm going to start setting a recurring alarm on my phone to take a short break every 2 hours as you've suggested. Thanks very much, Cliona! Cheers and all the best to you!
  • Lucy

    14/05/2017 at 10:30 am

    Heya Cliona! I agree with SW being helpful with emotional eating. I avoided it for a while because 'diets' I'd tried before just made it worse, but for some reason SW is different. Maybe because I'm not constantly counting calories or points, or ever going hungry. And I really like the 'flexible syns' thing, so if I do really want a big piece of cake one day I can just have it, without the guilt and feeling like I've 'ruined' my diet. I think it's probably the healthiest easiest way to lose weight, cos I've tried SO many other things! Great post thank you Xx
    1. Cliona

      14/05/2017 at 6:59 pm

      So glad you found the post useful Lucy! I totally agree with you, Slimming World is unlike anything else out there and that's why it works!

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