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Emotional eating – How to cope with it

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Emotional Eating - How to stop comforting yourself with food and find comfort in yourself

Are you an emotional eater? Is food giving you comfort? When faced with overwhelming emotions, do you turn to food and overeat? Hello there! I can relate. Emotional eating is my number one problem when it comes to food, and to be a type 2 diabetic and an emotional eater on top of that is not really a combination made in heaven.

What is emotional eating?

What is emotional eating. How to deal with emotional eating,Emotional eating is usually described as a coping mechanism where a person is overeating in order to deal with certain emotions, mainly negative emotions. Personally, I have been an emotional eater for most of my life. It was my way of dealing with all of the emotions, not just the negative ones. Anyone else in the same boat?

Basically, I would react as follows:

  1. If I’m happy = this calls for a celebration! Let’s order some pizza! Let’s have a chocolate cake, or two!
  2. Getting angry = I would stay silent and binge away my anger.
  3. I’m under stress = oh, look! chips or anything salty to snack on.

I think you get the picture. Although someone might think it has to do with self-control, someone suffering from emotional eating is using food (or should I say abusing) because at that moment it soothes us and gives us pleasure. Sounds a bit like drug abuse, doesn’t it. Hmm..

What causes emotional eating?

I remember that when I was younger when I did something good I would get a treat. Pavlov’s reflex hah. Plus, I was never really allowed to get openly angry at my parents. They would just send me to my room. So I learned to stay silent and eat it. This is probably why I let my son argue with me. Which he does. Daily. Anyway, back to the topic.

The truth is, I always had a hard time expressing my emotions and dealing with them. The food was my way of expressing myself. Each time something good happened I would celebrate it with some junk food or a cake. Whenever I was stressed I would overeat. As years went by I was overeating all of my life.

There are numerous scientific articles about this subject, and the academics devise several factors which play an important role in emotional eating:

  • Biological – it is in our genes to seek food. It’s a survival instinct. Our society has evolved but our bodies, not so much.
  • Psychological – we are taught from the day we are born that food is a comfort, and it progresses through the years. For example, we make yummy foods for our kids when they’re really upset or had a really rough day. I’m guilty. I admit it.
  • Social – parties, celebrations, family gatherings. It all causes an emotional link to food.

The problem occurs when this link becomes too strong, and when all emotions become connected to the food. For an in-depth academic analysis, you can check one of the articles I came across: Fat brains, greedy genes, and parent power: A biobehavioural risk model of child and adult obesity, by Susan Carnell, Yale Kim and Katherine Pryor.

Type 2 diabetes and emotional eating

Type 2 Diabetes and Emotional EatingEventually, I had to seek help. Especially after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Continuing with my old eating habit of overeating and emotional eating would be nothing short of a suicide.

Type 2 diabetics suffering from emotional eating is an increased hazard. Continuous overeating not only leads to higher blood sugar but also increases the chance of complications sooner than later. The increased sugar and fat going through the blood vessels of type 2 diabetic increase the build up of plaque (build-ups on the sides of the blood vessels). This, in turn, leads to clogging of the blood vessels, slows the blood flow of the blood, increases blood pressure, and leads to possible heart attack or stroke. Scary right? It definitely scared me.

For more information on the issue of emotional eating and type 2 diabetes please check the article by Jen Nash The type 2 diabetes crisis: Is emotional eating the missing link?

How to stop emotional eating

How to cope? Admitting to yourself that you have a problem is the first step. You know, like in the movies, hello I’m Lena and I’m an emotional eater. HELP!How to stop emotional eating

All joking aside. Emotional eating is a serious issue, especially for a type 2 diabetic. Here are some of the steps that helped me:

  1. Talk openly to a health professional. With their help, I was able to become more aware of my own personal triggers.
  2. Start to think mindfully about food. Self-awareness when it comes to eating is the first step. I started writing down what I eat (truthfully), and also how I felt when I would turn to food as comfort. You can check out daily meal planner and type 2 diabetes meal tracker printables on my free resource page if you want one for yourself (p.s. it is password protected so you need to subscribe to access it).
  3. Learn how to express emotions. Verbally, creatively. I already wrote a little bit about it in my post on the healing power of art and creativity.
  4. Educate yourself about food, as well as how to motivate yourself. I suggest you check out a podcast by Chalene Johnson where she talks about habit, motivation, and discipline. To me, this was a real eye opener.
  5. Be kind to yourself. We all have occasional slips.

If you are an emotional eater, and especially if you are a type 2 diabetic I urge you to talk to a professional about it. Creating healthier habits while dealing with it without some additional help can cause even more stress. Take care of yourself and your health. And if you need a little push on top of that feel free to contact me.

 

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6 Comments

  1. Linda

    June 12, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    I am an emotional eater. I eat to comfort myself when things go wrong, telling myself that I deserve a treat. I have found that pausing, taking a deep breath and asking myself if I am physically, emotionally, or spiritually hungry helps. Nine times out of 10 it is not a physical need and I can support myself in other ways.

    Reply

    • Lena/Befithappy

      June 12, 2017 at 8:45 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing that Linda. I do the similar thing. At first, it didn’t always work, but planning out meals and possible emotional triggers helped me a great deal.

      Reply

  2. Dawn DawnBlogtopus.com

    June 12, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    This post really resonates with me, especially the “Yay, let’s celebrate with a pizza!” and “I’m sad, I need cookies :(” feeling. Thanks for writing, it’s nice to know that other people feel this way, too.

    Reply

    • Lena/Befithappy

      June 12, 2017 at 8:43 pm

      hah I knew I wasn’t the only one. And the funny thing is it usually happens when I’m on the right track and then a family gathering happens and the next thing I know is I can’t breathe :p but fortunately I have learned how to stop myself. I prepare myself in advance for the possible setback, and it actually helps me keep things under control. Stress and sadness are bit trickier though 🙂

      Reply

  3. Jessie

    June 14, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    Yes! Love this! I have chronic depression and always tend to overeat when I am just really down! I am slowly learning to walk away from the food and try to get healthier!

    Reply

    • Lena/Befithappy

      June 14, 2017 at 7:50 pm

      Hey Jessie 🙂 I know. That was always my problem. Overeating and walking away from it is hard. Feel free to poke around my blog. I write about my experiences with anxiety and depression and on how to create healthier habits. If you need any help or someone to vent to feel free to contact me 🙂

      Reply

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