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Recently a dear client asked me about the virtues of protein powder as a snack to help tackle a habit of emotional eating that has snuck back into her routine.
It felt like a good opportunity to share a few thoughts on something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. Today:
Emotional Eating Revisited.
As my client revealed with extreme frustration, “I was going so well! And now, I’m eating stuff I don’t even love – just because it’s there.”
I inquired, “So what’s changed since you were going so well hon?”
The thing is (and I know this from personal experience) a tendency to emotionally eat is something that sticks around. It’s always lurking. I don’t really believe you can cure yourself of the need to demolish for good.
Humans are built to seek. We always want more. As such there’s always a potential to feel a lacking… and to try (as stupid as it sounds when you’re not in the grips of that “I must demolish” moment) …to try and fill, even to stuff that lacking, with food.
Thankfully you can get really expert at outsmarting or at least diminishing the potential for hugely detrimental demolishing.
Let’s tackle an A – D of the reasons emotional eating may rear its greedy head and of course also some tactics to deploy in your defense.
There’s something you should be doing that’s hard, boring or just plain UN-fun. Certainly not as fun as mindlessly devouring anyway!
At the point in time I’m tempted to Avoidance Emotional Eat I do my best to skip forward those fleeting few food filled minutes and ask myself how I’ll feel after the eating.
Your solution to outsmart avoidance emotional eating is awareness.
Awareness of what you’re about to do.
Awareness of why.
Most importantly awareness of how you’ll feel after.
That task will still be there. It’s not going to magic itself done while you get lost in a bag of corn chips and salsa. Now though you’ll have to contend with the useless emotion guilt. Perhaps you’ll also feel weak. Disappointed in yourself.
Whatever words and feelings resonate with you use them on yourself before you take a detrimental eating action. Be hard on yourself before the deed is done.
Conversely, the time you do slip up. That time when you don’t outsmart your avoidance eating? Let it go. Learn from it. And, let it go.
Are there times in your week when food is the thing you turn to simply because it’s there? It’s reliable. It’s easy. It’s a habit you’ve fallen into to fill those little gaps in your day when truthfully, you’re not hungry – you’re just bored.
This might be in front of the T.V. each night. Or a quiet patch at work.
Your solution to outsmart boredom eating is to ensure your environment is set up to support you. Environment will always trump willpower.
If you’re in the habit of sinking into the couch with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s and losing yourself in front of mindless T.V. the simple fix to Boredom Emotional Eating is to not let the ice-cream… or chocolate… or whatever it may be into your house.
Home and ideally work too need to be a temptation free zone.
A safe food haven where you can be at your most bored and also most sad, lonely, moody and regardless of how you’re feeling those foods that have previously led you down the emotional eating path are not available. They’ve been evicted.
Boredom eating red capsicum strips and zucchini hummus or even cheesy, salty, crispy kale chips made with nutritional yeast just isn’t going to do the damage to my body gain goal that 200 grams of roasted cashews nuts or a loaf of fresh bread would.
Cravings fall into the, you’ve got to experience it to believe it category.
So, I guess I’m being overly optimistic when I appeal to any fellow carb and sugar lovers to please know: You crave what you eat.
I didn’t believe I didn’t need refined carbs at every meal until gradually, bit by one-meal-at-a-time bit I was eating and loving zero refined carbs at every meal!
Even more hugely LOVEABLE (!) was the lack of cravings.
I don’t have an easy solution to outsmart Cravings Based Emotional Eating. As simple as cutting the craving causing crap is, it’s not easy. My best advice is to imagine how fab it’d be to not be at the mercy of such cravings?
To feel in control of your food choices. To be able to eat delicious, generous, nutritious meals that are great for your body and leave you guilt free. Beyond imagining the craving free result it’s also vital to replace rather than just eliminate the craving causing crap.
Focus on the great micronutrient rich foods you’re giving your body rather than the stuff you’re avoiding.
The dual benefit to this approach is that while on the one hand you’re cutting back the rubbish that has been manufactured to be as addictive as possible on the other hand you’re also fuelling your body with the micronutrients it really needs.
Those micronutrients that are often severely lacking in an overly processed eating approach. So you now have the double edged sword working in your favour rather than the reverse. The more fresh, nutrient dense food you consume – the more of that type of food you actually crave! Equally, the more fresh, nutrient dense food you consume – the less likely you are to crave zero value processed crap-o-la.
Most of the time routine sets me free. I like rules… as long as they’re my own! I’m pretty relentlessly focused on taking the right actions. However from time to time I feel like I’m holding on too tight. Like I’ve backed myself into a little routine rut.
I feel the burning-Overwhelming-NEED to self destruct!
Do you sometimes encounter a self destruct desire too?
Potentially this could be the time when work is super busy and forcing yourself to power on with everything that needs to get done burns through the majority of your limited daily discipline quota. And then there’s the exercise you set an early alarm for and prioritize first thing in the morning. Perhaps the cake or muffins or biscuits you dutifully decline.
These are the times you (and I!) are more susceptible to the sneaky suggestions of the little devil each of us has lurking in the back of our mind. Perhaps you don’t call yours a devil. Maybe it’s just those dark, unsupportive voices that can get really insistent and demanding when they’re not kept in check.
Insistent and demanding enough to not always be quietened with the suggestion to:
“Go for a walk” or “Have a glass of water” or “Call a friend”
This is the time to devote the better bad.
I’m serious. Sometimes fellow emotional eaters I think you need to emotional eat. As much work as there is to be done on filling that gap or lacking or fear that it’s natural for us all to feel with something beyond food… that work is great and valuable however it’s not the answer in an extreme moment of “I must demolish”!
My better bads’ are now, cheesy kale crisps and almond milk + chia seed protein shakes.
They used to be, low carb chocolate protein bars and protein pancakes.
Before that? They were mainly just bad (not much better) like, an entire packet of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and hot chips.
To get actionable today, I’d love you to arm yourself with a better bad. The food that’ll fill the gap – guilt free – in an extreme moment of “I must demolish.”
If you liked Emotional Eating Revisited you’ll also like: How You Can Eliminate Emotional Eating.
If you’re yet to share the Healthification love – just click here to zip over to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review. It’d help me out big time. With gratitude, Kate.