Have you ever eaten an 7 slices of pepperoni pizza, a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough icecream, a block of peanut butter chocolate and three cheesy garlic bites because you didn’t feel adequate at work? How about half a dozen doughnuts, a bag of mini Kitkats, approximately 57 chocolate covered almonds and a Pad Thai with a side of self loathing, because you were going home to an empty house and an empty bed?
And while that might make for some drool worthy reading, it turns out that happy people don’t regularly eat things that make them bloated and uncomfortable for days, until they feel like they are about to suffocate. Weird!
A little over a year ago I made a decision to address the fact that when I was sad I would eat like I was possessed by an (incredibly hungry) demon. By realising the difference between treating myself and eating to fill an emotional void, recognising which events would trigger this behaviour and developing strategies for when the urge to consume the confectionary isle in its entirety hit, I haven’t eaten anything that has left me with a food hangover since. Something I’m low-key proud of, but probably won’t be putting on my resume.
I now realise these binges were being triggered by unmet needs. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating whatever you want if that is what truly brings you happiness, my overeating was preventing me from showing up and fully living my life, and was my way of putting a sticking plaster on a severed limb.
Here are the 8 steps that I use when emotional disaster strikes, or someone doesn’t reply to my email (honestly,) and I feel compelled to order one of everything from the McValue menu:
- 1. Recognise when you are wanting to eat for reasons other than genuine hunger and ask yourself “What do I really want?” The last thing you want to be doing is depriving your body. Emotional hunger tends to come on quickly and ravenously, and does not feel like it can be satiated by the likes of a salmon salad. What you really are craving is usually something along the lines of love, comfort or feelings of worthy-ness.
- 2. Remove binge worthy foods from the house. This is a temporary measure until you are able to assert more control over these feelings. Once you are in control you could reside at Willy Wonka’s and still continue to treat your body right. What this does is buys you some time when the compulsive feelings hit. It is much more difficult to binge on whole foods than packets of biscuits. It is also much more difficult (although trust me, not impossible) to go to the 24 hour supermarket and purchase said packets of biscuits at 3am. Any steps between you and the biscuits is a positive.
- 3. Address your emotions and what has triggered them. By acknowledging your feelings you are much less likely to try to numb yourself with food. These feelings, although uncomfortable or even incredibly painful, will not kill you. Eating until you feel sick solves no problems.
- 4. Partake in an activity that is uncomfortable if you are too full. If you make plans to do something that is near impossible if you have consumed your bodyweight in noodles, I can guarantee you will be much less likely to do so. Go for a walk, a swim or to the gym. If the option is there, have sex. Lucky you!
- 5. Eat something else. There are plenty of quick and healthy options you can make that will help you feel more full and satisfied until the urge to binge passes. Try blending some frozen fruit into a sorbet if you are craving something sweet.
- 6. Fill someone in. Telling someone close to you why you feel like inhaling the entire fridge and better still working through those emotions with them can help alleviate the cravings. A problem shared is a problem halved. Except when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases.
- 7. Show yourself some love. Eating eating sugary foods releases opioids in the brain similar to cocaine or heroin, and while I’m not suggesting you turn to drugs, finding another way to satisfy your brains pleasure response and help you to feel loved can be helpful. A bath or treating yourself to a non food related item can do the trick.
Last but not least
- 8. If you can’t stop yourself from overeating, at least eat foods that will not leave you feeling horrendous for the next few days. I can promise you will feel a whole lot better from over doing it on natural foods than anything overly processed and nasty.
You’re worth so much more than stuffing yourself with junk, I promise.