How did I gain 100 lbs.? Simple. I wouldn’t admit it to myself at the time but emotional overeating not only led to weight gain but to Type II diabetes. It was a mess. At the time of this post, I lost 25 lbs. so I still have 75 more to go.
In terms of technology, we have it good these days. I can log on to a language website and have a conversation with a Spanish instructor from Ecuador. I can connect to past classmates on Facebook. I can walk into a Sam’s Club and walk out with the latest flat-screen TV.
Food is also more accessible now and I can walk out of a grocery store with enough food to last me a week or two.
However, this easy access to food has a sinister side to it.
Once upon a time, people had to grow their food before they could eat it. Therefore, food was more a necessity than a luxury. They didn’t have weekly social gatherings with refreshments. They ate only when they were hungry.
Things changed after the Industrial Revolution when our societies became more industrialized rather than agricultural.
It became easier to purchase food, and unhealthy processed food selections became much more readily available.
In the United States, commercialization of food production has allowed us to buy any amount of food we fancy and store them in our house. Now, it’s no longer about eating because we were hungry. We eat simply because there is food stored in our house. We eat when we’re bored, when people visit, when we watch TV, when we entertain visitors, or whenever we feel like it.
There’re unhealthy fast-food joints on every street corner with chemicals in their food that are illegal in other countries.
Well, this is where all that weight gain came from. Food was too easy for me to come by.
I ate when I was lonely, depressed, and angry. Given my situation at the time, that was almost every day.
We know that emotional eating often leads to overeating and secondary obesity. Like what happened to me, emotional eating is based on how you feel instead of hunger. Like I said, our ancestors did not have the luxury of emotional eating especially if the harvest was bad. With the convenience of food, I was making poor food choices—eating potato chips, ice cream and other salty or sugary foods.
I could open a tub of strawberry cheesecake ice cream and not stop until the container is empty. I was eating hundreds or thousands of calories in one sitting. How can an emotional eater not help but gain weight then?
Add to that, I was eating too much sugar. Sugar is more likely than fat to make you gain weight.
Many of the chemicals in food, like MSG, activates pleasure centers in the brain. When I see that slogan “but you can’t eat just one,” I feel like they’re giving me the middle finger. They’re right because a lot of junk food have chemicals that make you crave them like donuts, candy, ice cream and chips.
When you are in a state of emotional vulnerability you have the perfect storm., for weight gain and Type II diabetes.
4 Quick Tips to Decrease Emotional Overeating
There are things you can do to reduce the negative effects of emotional eating. Let’s look at some of these:
• Recognize the connection. This is a simple yet difficult one. This requires self-realization. If I had just done this first, I would have not had the health problems I do now. Once you recognize when you are eating because of emotions rather than eating for hunger alone, you can understand your emotional triggers and the emotions involved. This opens the door for you can deal with your emotions in healthier ways.
• Find out the emotion behind the eating. Once you recognize the connection, narrow down what emotion you are experiencing when you eat. I said before that mine were loneliness, depression, and anger. Did you get into a fight with a friend or family member and are now angry? Do you feel lonely? Are you using food to reward yourself for accomplishing a goal? Are you just bored? When you can recognize the emotion, you can deal learn how to deal with it or them in healthy ways and not with food.
• Journal your thoughts. Put a pen to paper instead of a tub of decadent, rich, creamy, mouth-watering strawberry cheesecake ice cream. Write down in whatever detail you can exactly the emotions and thoughts that lead to binge eating. Something interesting happens when you write things down. You make things real. When you write things down in a journal, you can help to dissipate the magnitude of the emotions so you don’t feel so overwhelmed. You will naturally eat less.
• Own your emotions and change your eating habits instead. Regardless of how you are feeling in the moment, acknowledge those emotions. You are human. It’s not the emotions in and of themselves that is the issue. It’s how we channel them. Emotional eating may take some time to correct. Take baby steps to changing your eating habits. For example, don’t eat right out of the package, whether eating out of the pie tin, the potato chip bag, or the tub of ice cream. Instead just put a single serving on your plate or in a bowl. This takes discipline but you will get the same emotional benefits you get from eating the entire amount of food without the excess calories and sugar.
Emotional eating is a cry for help. Besides leading to complications of obesity, you predispose yourself to a destructive cycle of emotional turmoil-emotional eating-emotional turmoil etc.
Following these tips, you can help you reduce the amount of unhealthy foods you eat leaving you with better options for healthier eating and emotional wellness.