Of course you want to end your emotional eating. Yesterday, thank you. And while you say that you feel motivated to give it the boot, somehow you lose hold of that motivation most days and find yourself grabbing those cookies or that bag of chips, or going for seconds. Perhaps you’ve convinced yourself that you’re weak-willed, undisciplined or just plain lazy.
Most of the emotional eaters I work with are not lazy or weak-willed. In fact, they are quite disciplined in many areas of their lives. But one thing most do have in common is that their desire for quick comfort, soothing, ease, distraction, reward and excitement is much stronger than their motivation to end their emotional eating.
We all have competing desires. Perhaps you would like to have a life partner but don’t feel like being physical or required to regularly meet someone else’s needs. Maybe you’d like to go back to school, but don’t want to burn through all your savings or study every weekend. You’d like to have a slim body and fit into your jeans, but at the end of the day, your desire to comfort or reward yourself with food wins out. In order to succeed at your goals, be it ending emotional eating or going back to school, you’ll have to be willing to be “consciously uncomfortable” more often than you already are.
Don’t worry: I’m not talking about restrictive dieting, counting calories, carbs or fat grams, or white-knuckling it. When I talk about being “consciously uncomfortable” I’m referring to your willingness to:
- begin eating only when you feel true physical hunger
- stop eating before you’re full and put the food away or have the waiter wrap it up
- feel all the emotions that surface when eating time is over without going back for more food
- process through difficult emotional states without using food or acting out in some other way
- calm and encourage yourself with self-soothing statements (“It’s going to be okay”) and behaviors (like a bubble bath)
- take time to replace limited, self-defeating thoughts with calming, soothing and energizing new thoughts
- set aside time to quiet your mind and turn down the volume on the mind chatter
- eat a serving size only of your favorite, drug-like addictive foods
- choose to abstain, if need be, for periods of time, from those drug-like foods when you are out-of-control with them
- add healthy wholesome fiber-filled foods (like fruits, veggies, lentils and beans ) to your eating plan even though they are not exciting or soothing
- do some form of exercise most days of the week, even though you don’t feel like it and
- cut your evenings short so you can get adequate, restorative sleep.
The bottom line is that you’ll need to access your willingness to be uncomfortable long enough to practice these health-promoting self-care skills. These skills will eventually replace your emotional eating.
Try writing the following affirmations down on a piece of paper:
“I am motivated to end my emotional eating.”
“I intend to be fully conscious of my emotional eating.”
“I am willing to be more uncomfortable than I already am as I practice my self-care skills.”
Now, make a list of some specific intentions regarding being “consciously uncomfortable,” for example:
- I intend to only eat when I feel true physical hunger
- I intend to stop eating at the beginning sensation of fullness and put the food away
- I intend to pull out my journal and write about my emotions when I want to eat and I’m not hungry, or I’m already full
- I intend to walk three times this week, for twenty minutes or more.
You may want to put your affirmations and intentions on your phone, or post them someplace where you’ll readily see them. You’ll have to remind yourself regularly of your willingness to be uncomfortable for brief periods. You can do it. After all, we’re not talking root canal without anesthesia or childbirth! It’s just a brief period of time where you do something different from your usual knee-jerk comfort activity.
Keep in mind that you’re already uncomfortable (in your body, socially, etc.) and this level of discomfort is very familiar. It’s a comfortable level of discomfort. Now, you will be consciously choosing to be uncomfortable in new ways. This is what it takes to end your emotional eating.
Take it slow. Choose one small baby-step at a time. There is no rush. Overwhelming yourself with too much discomfort is counter-productive.
Stay focused on the goal: ” I am truly motivated to stop my emotional eating!” Repeat this daily as your mantra.
And feel free to let me know how it’s going.
Posted by Julie M Simon, MA, MBA, MFT, psychotherapist and life coach, certified personal trainer, founder and director of The 12 Week Emotional Eating Recovery Program and author of The Emotional Eater’s Repair Manual and When Food Is Comfort. If you have a question or topic you’d like to see addressed in this blog, go to https://overeatingrecovery.com.
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