According to the American Psychological Association, 38 % of adults say they have overeaten or eaten unhealthy foods in the past month because of stress. Half of these adults (49 percent) report engaging in these behaviors weekly or more.
After I recently chatted with my good friend Jessica Procini, an emotional eating coach and the founder of Laugh Yourself Skinny®, I once again realized how much of a concern emotional eating really is for many women.
Some people assume that emotional eating is only an issue for people who are over-weight and I strongly want to denounce that.
Emotional eating can be an issue for people of all and any size as well as for people with varying activity levels. In addition, emotional eating doesn't have to mean that you overdo it on the ice cream, it could also mean that you are taking out your emotions on nuts, fruit, or any other traditionally "healthy" food.
If you are confused about what emotional eating means, here is a quick definition from the Mayo Clinic:
"Sometimes the strongest food cravings hit when you're at your weakest point emotionally. You may turn to food for comfort — consciously or unconsciously — when facing a difficult problem, feeling stressed or even feeling bored."
Here is the deal: emotional eating isn't necessarily always a terrible thing. After all, eating is a very emotional experience.
I am the first to admit that 1. I get a ton of pleasure from eating delicious food. Food -the taste of it as well as the company and conversation that results from joint meals- is an extremely positive emotional experience for me every day. 2. sometimes I turn to food for comfort when I am stressed, over-tired, or sad. And guess what, it does make me feel better in the moment. It happens and it's ok as long as I know that the chocolate bar or 5th apple won't actually solve my problems.
In my opinion, it's actually really damaging for us to think that we should never ever eat emotionally and always be in control of every single thing that goes into our mouth.
Where is the pleasure, freedom and joy in that? We don't have to count bites or calories and nor do we have to be a walking measuring device for how full or not full we are at all times of our waking life. Sometimes we eat a bit too much and sometimes we may miss a meal. It's ok!
Here is when emotional eating does present a problem:
1. Our health actually suffers.
Food does impact our physical health, especially our hormonal health and so it's important that we make sure that the food we eat doesn't jeopardize our well-being (NOTE: a chocolate chip cookie here and there probably won't destroy your health). However, if your emotional eating has effectively eliminated all nutrients and vitamins from your diet and is heavily based on sugar, it's probably becoming a problem you should investigate.
2. We ONLY use food to deal with our emotions and never do the real work that is necessary to create a beautiful life.
As I said above, the chocolate bar won't solve the problems in your relationship and the overloaded plate of mashed potatoes won't get you out of your sucky job. Instead of trying to never eat emotionally, why don't you take emotional eating as a clue that you have to shift some things around in your life and take charge in a new way.
3. We feel enormous guilt and shame around eating and beat ourselves up to the point where our relationship with ourselves suffers and prevents us from feeling worthy and good in our own bodies and lives.
Eating and weight is a very charged topic in our society at large and it can come with a lot of pressure to be perfect. This can become a very vicious cycle that often leads to tons of insecurities and thus, creates massive unhappiness.
No doubt, emotional eating is a complex topic and not always an easy one to talk about and discuss openly.
The truth is that emotional eating is much more about learning how to deal with your EMOTIONS, not so much with your EATING. The latter will be solved if you deal with the former.
To provide you with a true expert resource, please meet my friend Jessica Procini.
Jessica is different from most other emotional eating experts, because she works on addressing the real root of the issue: the sources of people's overwhelm and the tools that help people to cope with their emotions in a healthy way. That way food can become a positive source of fuel rather than an escape from an unpleasant reality.
What I love about Jessica is that she is all about transformation because she herself has undergone her own transformation when it comes to food and emotions.
Here is a bit of Jessica's story:
I used to have this thing with granola. Where I could eat bowl after bowl after bowl and never feel full. I would often tell myself it was no big deal because it was granola. Not French fries. But then the same thing started happening with peanut butter. Then chocolate.
Eventually it didn’t really matter what I was eating because I felt like I could literally eat and eat and eat and nothing would satisfy me.
I tried portion control, counting calories, even abstaining from purchasing my “trigger” foods. Back then, I was continually searching for ways to be in control around food with diets, meal plans and exercise but none of those were addressing the real root of my issues: the sources of my overwhelm and how to cope with my emotions in a healthy way.
If emotional eating is something you struggle with, make sure you check out Jessica's work (her newsletter and videos are full of great tips. Plus, they are hilarious!).