When I have eaten for emotions instead of hunger, the top two reasons that I would reach for food have their basis in fear. The number one reason that I have eaten emotionally has been for feelings of anxiety (worry, based on fear), the second being procrastination (fear of not doing a task correctly or perfectly).
What occurs if I reach for food though, is that I get into a cycle that becomes worse the longer it continues: I eat because I’m anxious for some reason, feel poorly afterwards because I ate to make myself feel better rather than to fuel my body, eat again to feel better, feel bad about that action, eat again for those feelings, feel depressed because I am not going to attain my weight loss goals on this path, eat because I feel depressed, get depressed about gaining weight, eat again, and so on and so on.
Recently I came across a post by Scott Davis that is very refreshing. His post is titled “How Winnie The Pooh Taught Me Courage“. In it, he writes about how Pooh helped him realize that fears are not overcome by ignoring them, but by accepting them. Scott points out that Winnie the Pooh is afraid of everything, however he accepts his fears and then goes on to share them with others, thereby taking the power out of his fears.
Everyone feels fear. Even those who we think are the bravest of people feel fear. These people however, do not allow their fears to immobilize them. Instead, they feel their fears, and take positive action anyway. As emotional eaters, we can do the same. Instead of ignoring the fears and negative thoughts that we eat over, we can instead begin by accepting that it is normal to feel fear. Since it is normal and OK to have fears, if we can accept this, then we do not need to bring ourselves down by eating to soothe our fears. It is also very helpful to share those fears with others as Scott notes in his post. This truly will take power out of your fears, making them much easier to handle.
In addition to sharing your fears with others, another positive action to take when a fear or negative thought surfaces is to immediately write it down. In a previous post, I mentioned this technique that I discovered through previous months of journaling. I have found it to be most helpful in preventing me from unconsciously reaching for food to salve whatever negativity I am suddenly feeling.
The mere act of writing down the negative thought or feeling brings it to your conscious awareness, and you are then able to see that it is “just a feeling” (and feelings come and go). You may even see patterns emerge in your negative thoughts and feelings that “appear” at the same time each day.
If we continue to eat over our fears, over time, the cycle of emotional eating can lead to overweight which can lead to depression. It can then be a struggle to get motivated to lose the weight. There are many who are living with depression daily, and who at the same time are struggling to find motivation to lose weight.
If you are clinically depressed you may need professional assistance, however if not, in addition to his post pertaining to Winnie the Pooh and courage, I recommend Scott’s site in general. He has some wonderful insights and first hand experience with depression. If you are severely depressed and want to lose weight, you may need to first work on the depression (and reasons for it) before you are able to work on your weight loss.
Please feel free to leave any comments. I’d be happy to hear your feedback on this topic, or if you have any comments/feedback on my site in general.