Emotional Eating, A Subconscious Response
Emotional eating is when we eat in response to our feelings regardless of whether we’re hungry or not. We can also use food as a tool or coping mechanism to either numb pain or to feel better. It’s the automatic and subconscious responses that make our emotions so powerful and dangerous. At some point, part of our brain may have initiated the sequence of events to eat, but then it became habituated and routine. When actions become habituated, they run on autopilot.
I remember when my doctor told me that I was borderline diabetic. You would think that would have been enough for me to change, but as much as I tried, I still could not stop myself from binging on sweets.
Why couldn’t I stop even though I knew this could lead to irreparable hardship? Because I was not conscious of what triggered my emotional eating. Even when I did gain awareness, willpower was no match for my feelings and emotions. I’ve spent most of my adult life learning how to stuff my uneasy feelings back down with food, so I don’t have to feel them. Like a baby-soother or pacifier, a large population of society and I use food to comfort us. It makes us feel better when we’re stressed, angry, lonely, bored, frustrated, or a multitude of other emotions that we experience.
But it’s not supposed to be this way. Our goal is to learn how to feel our feelings and feed our hunger instead of feeding our feelings and refusing to feel hunger.
Feel Your Feelings
Why is it important to feel your feelings and feed your hunger? Because emotional eating plays a big factor in our “inability” to eat healthily and reach or maintain a healthy weight.
Experts estimate that 80% of overeating is emotional. I don’t know who those experts are since this is one of those statistics that gets thrown around the health and wellness world, but my own life can attest to the relative accuracy. After my first meal of the day (around noon), most of what I eat is usually out of boredom, habit, anxiety, or, if it’s the weekend– entitlement.
My body feels healthiest when I eat a fairly large meal at lunch, a light snack a few hours later, followed by a very light meal around 5:00 P.M. Admittedly, everything outside of those three meals is emotional.
What’s at the Root?
Know this. There’s a reason why you choose to feed your feelings instead of feeling them because these feelings are painful! Their roots are grounded in discomfort, pain, or trauma. And why on earth would we want to experience pain?
Except you probably know all too well that “feeding” them with food does not take away the pain permanently. The benefit, if you want to call it that, lasts only as long as the taste of the food swirling around in your mouth. Soon after that comes the guilt and shame if you’re conscious of your patterns. If you’re on automatic pilot, then you may not even be aware of why you’re eating when you’re not hungry.
In Ephesians 4:26-27 (“Be ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”), Paul is using the emotion of anger, but we can apply any emotion that leads us to eat. He is saying that we can feel our feelings, but we don’t have to act on the feeling. We can feel anger, frustration, sadness, or stress and NOT eat to numb those unwanted feelings. As we learn how to stop allowing our emotions to lead our behavior, we keep the enemy from having control of our health.
I encourage you to pay attention to the emotions that dictate and sabotage your health. Then you’ll discover how to let the Word of God dictate your actions, choices, decisions, and behaviors. It’s the only way to true healing and freedom.
Just for today, track everything you eat. Write it in a journal, placing either an “H” for hungry or “E” for emotional beside everything you eat. If you’re not hungry, assume it’s emotional. Then write out what the emotion is that led you to eat. See what you discover about your eating habits.
To Learn More
To learn more about emotional eating and how to overcome cravings to achieve a more healthy lifestyle, pick up a copy of my new book, “Healthy Eating, God’s Way,” available now on Amazon.
For Your Success,