Two Emotional Eating Tips That Ben Didn’t Tell Jerry

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emotional eatingYesterday, I ate an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream.

The whole thing. In one sitting.

This is not the first time I’ve binged on a sweet treat like this, but it’s definitely something I don’t do as often as I used to.

So here’s what happened. I was eating the ice cream. My intention was to only eat half the pint. It was my treat to myself.  You may know this as a cheat meal, but I don’t call them cheat meals anymore, rather treat meals because that’s what they are. A tasty, yummy treat to enjoy, because the way I see it life is too short not to enjoy pleasurable foods every now and then.

Then it happened…I got into a heated conversation with my boyfriend at the same time I was digging into the ice cream. It was a heated conversation that stirred up some emotions inside me. A bit of anger and frustration.

So, as we argued, and as I got more frustrated, I kept eating the ice cream, and when I reached the halfway point, I said “Screw it!” and just continued to eat the entire pint of Phish Food flavored Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

In that moment I didn’t really care about the calories or the consequences. I was upset and I was going to do what I wanted. I was simply reacting. Reacting to my emotions rather than accepting my emotions and being mindful of my emotions and what I was doing.

And honestly, I wasn’t even enjoying that creamy, chocolately ice cream because I was too busy being frustrated and getting angry. That could be considered chocolate abuse in my opinion!

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

If so you’re not alone. It’s called emotional eating.

I’ve struggled with emotional eating over the years and I know I’m not alone.

Many woman and even some men struggle with emotional eating. Emotional eating includes things like:

  • eating more food than you wanted or planned to because you’re bored, stressed, angry, or overwhelmed
  • saying “To hell with it!” and eating foods you know you’ll regret later
  • eating foods that logically you know you shouldn’t have
  • giving into peer pressure and eating something you really don’t want
  • doing great on a diet or healthy eating plan until you have a stressful day
  • and it even includes eating certain foods because you’re happy or celebrating, so it’s not always related to negative emotions

As I mentioned, this is not the first time I’ve binged on food, mindlessly, while angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, or stressed. I actually didn’t even realize emotions had such an impact on my eating habits until recently.

Now, it may seem odd considering I’m a personal trainer, nutrition consultant, and healthy living advocate. You might think that eating healthy is just easy for me and comes naturally. Honestly, for me it’s the hardest aspect of living a healthy lifestyle and actually making healthy food choices is something I’ve struggled with over the years, despite my increasing knowledge of nutrition.

Emotional eating is part of the reason why I’ve gained and lost the same 15 pounds over the last 10 years.

When you’re an emotional eater all that knowledge about what to eat and logic goes right out the window. Emotional eating has nothing to do with knowing what’s the healthiest food choices, but rather about recognizing how you feel and being mindful so you can make a conscious decision about what to eat despite how you feel.

Luckily, I’ve come across some great resources that have allowed me to recognize this unhealthy eating pattern. I’ve taken steps in my life to be more mindful of what I eat. This has allowed me to keep off those extra 15 pounds and eat a diet that allows me to feel energized and healthy!

Rather than just digging right into a meal or a snack without thinking about what I’m doing, I always take a mindful pause before I decide to eat something. I take the time to decide if what I’m about to eat is REALLY something I want.

I ask myself, “Am I eating out of emotion or pressure? Is this food something that will fuel my body and make me feel good about myself?”

Sometimes I make the decision to eat the food, even if it’s unhealthy and sometimes I’m able to say no since I realize I really don’t even want it or I realize the consequences such as weight gain, lowered energy, bloating, or digestive issues aren’t worth it.

By taking a mindful pause before eating, I’m able to enjoy my food and avoid feeling guilty about what I’ve eaten because I’ve actually taken the time to make a conscious decision, rather than an emotionally driven, unconscious decision that I’ll end up feeling guilty about later. I’m able to really enjoy the taste and texture of the food and feel satisfied once I’ve finished eating it, rather than wondering where it all went!

Now don’t get me wrong. Every now and then the old Becky sneaks back in and mindlessly eats a pint of Ben and Jerry’s like I did yesterday, but I’m excited to say that it has become less and less often over time. I’ve done the necessary work and taken steps to be mindful before I decide to eat something.

benandjerry'sicecream

So, I encourage you to explore your eating patterns. Start paying attention to what and how you eat when you feel stressed, overwhelmed, angry or sad. Notice what you eat when you’re around others, or even what and how you eat when you’re happy or excited.

Keep a journal if you have to!

I’m positive you’ll start to see a pattern emerge.

If you find that you tend to eat out of emotion the first step is to acknowledge this pattern. Realize it’s not good or bad, but it is what it is and that you have the power to change your behavior.

The second step, is to start taking a mindful pause before you eat, acknowledge any emotions you are feeling, and make a conscious decision to eat that food in front of you or not. It may sound silly, but it truly works, and you’ll find yourself turning down food you may not have before.

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