As a recovered emotional and binge eater, I know how frustrating it is to feel out of control when it comes to food. The ongoing cycle between deprivation and binges is totally exhausting and overwhelming, not to mention tricky to escape from.
The biggest mistake people make (I know because I made it myself!) when trying to normalise disordered eating habits is thinking it’s all about the food. Newsflash: its not. To overcome emotional eating you need to address the physiological, psychological, and spiritual causes of the behaviour.
Binge or emotional eating is something I work through with many of my clients - in The Soul Sister Sessions, there's a whole session dedicated to healthy and happy eating. Here's the crazy part - I am yet to meet anyone who doesn't have some kind of struggle to speak about when I ask them "How's your relationship with food?", yet we feel so alone and abnormal when our eating feels out of control. If eating is something you struggle with, I hear you! Here are 12 tips that helped me learn to listen to my body and love myself enough to break free from that tortuous relationship with food:
1. Take a deep breath and consciously bring your focus into your body
This will help you decide if you’re actually hungry, and it will help you identify and observe any emotions that are coming up (instead of numbing them with a tub of ice-cream!).
2. Have a big drink of water or sip some herbal tea.
When you find yourself about to eat when you're not actually hungry, you're probably a little off with the fairies or caught up with worries or thoughts in your mind. Having a drink will not only give you a sensation of fullness that will take the edge off the desire to polish off that block of chocolate but if you take it as a moment to slow down, come back into the moment and become conscious, you'll find that urge to binge will naturally dissipate.
3. Chew your food until it’s liquid before swallowing and put your cutlery down between each bite
Training yourself to eat consciously and slowly gives you a chance to register when you’re full so you don’t overeat or feel the need to keep going back for more food.
4. Give yourself time to eat
Put aside at least 30 minutes each for breakfast, lunch and dinner - rushed eating will lead to overeating in the moment and more food cravings later on because, mentally, you missed out on your eating experience.
5. Stop dieting
Depriving yourself now = bingeing later. Strict dieting is a common response to the guilt of emotional eating but it’s only a matter of time until the diet is broken, the guilt reappears and the cycle starts again. This is why diets make you gain weight in the long run. If you feel like you need a diet to tell you what's "healthy", you don't - in reality a healthy diet is different for everyone and the best way to figure that out is to learn to tune into your body. You'll naturally feel which foods nourish you and which foods make you feel a bit crappy. This can be a little foreign at first because if you tend to follow diets, food choices become very intellectualised. If you need help tuning into your body, let me know - this is exactly the kind of thing I work with my clients on.
6. Give your teeth a good clean and floss once you finish your serving
This helps you take a conscious break from eating which gives you a chance to feel satisfied. Plus, if you feel like you want to keep eating, you can remind yourself of the inconvenience of having to do it all again. No thanks!
7. Put on your favourite song and dance it out
Feel your body as it moves and tune into the emotions and sensations that come up to practice feeling your feelings (instead of eating to avoid them) and tuning into your body. It’ll only feel awkward for a minute, I promise! I love using 8 tracks to pick a playlist that suits my mood.
8. Use affirmations
Grab a couple of post it notes to jot down reminders/affirmations like “I will eat mindfully”, “I eat slowly and only until I am satisfied”, “I am willing to experience my emotions, not eat them”. Put them on the fridge or pantry door so you get that positive reinforcement exactly when you need it.
9. Get used to being with your emotions
Try journaling or even recording videos on your phone or laptop of what you’re going through or simply sit down and feel the physical and energetic sensations of an emotion in your body. It’ll seem much less scary out in of your head than it does going around and around in your mind and you'll be practicing allowing your emotions to be, rather than avoiding them by eating.
10. Eat “bad” food and savour it
Revel in the experience and be grateful to be enjoying such a treat! If you do this with the first cookie of the packet, you’ll be less inclined to polish off the whole thing. If you mindlessly keep going you’ll end trying to quash that rising guilty feeling by eating more and perhaps even try and rationalise what your doing (e.g. "I'll give myself the day off from being 'good'", "It makes no different anyway", etc.) which only perpetuates the emotional binge eating cycle.
11. Enlist support from a coach or counsellor
A coach, will help you learn how to cope with your emotions in ways that don’t involve food and help you create healthy eating habits. Getting support is the best thing you can do to free yourself from emotional binges and food obsession. I have started working with a coach myself recently (yep even coaches get coached!) and oh how I wish I had taken the plunge years ago. A coach would have been invaluable and spared me so much angst as I worked through my binge eating issues. If you want to talk to someone, you can schedule a free 30 minute chat with me here.
12. Know that you have divine support to stop emotional eating
Trust that your desires are divinely supported by your version of God, Guardian Angels or the Universe because they are. When you focus on the solution rather than the problem you’ll start to bring the healing you desire into your life.
Emotional and binge eating is something that so many people struggle with but not many people talk about. Share this article around, you never know who's life you could change.
Lots of love,