Monday, October 27, 2014

Gain control of emotional eating

Today I want to talk about emotional eating. Emotional eating can sabotage your weight-loss efforts, and reak havoc on your self esteem.

This is something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. Growing up, food was used is you were happy, if you were sad, if you were bored, if you were having a weird day. And as I got older, it didnt change. Habits I forged in childhood, followed me all the way through to adulthood.

Social family gatherings in my house centered around food. My mother, in my opinion, is the queen of throwing a party. My mother always had a 5 or 6 course meal going. It was non stop food. Cold hors d'oeuvres, followed by hot hors d'oeuvres, followed by mini meals, then the main meal, maybe some salad, and of course several different kinds of dessert. No one ever left hungry, she made sure that there was more than enough food for everyone and something everyone ate. For me, someone who had absolutely no self control, is was like "heaven". I used the excuse "Oh well its a party, this is what we are supposed to do. We're Italian, Italians eat". 

When I was having a bad day, was bored, or was upset, I looked for food to make me feel better. Oh you got in a fight with a friend? Sit down and have some cookies, and we will talk about it. Got a bad grade on a test? Take this piece of cake and keep studying. Oh you have nothing to do today, just lay on the couch all day and eat these chips. I convinced myself that eating my favorite foods would bring my happiness, and make all the stress or pain or boredom go away. 

Sometimes the strongest cravings for food happen when you're at your weakest point emotionally. You may turn to food for comfort — consciously or unconsciously — when you're facing a difficult problem, stress or just looking to keep yourself occupied. For me, that was the toughest. When I was going through something I felt was so traumatic, I would find any sweet food, that wasnt nailed down and stuff it in my mouth.

For a long time, I have been the type of person who bottles up emotions, I try not to let anyone know what I am going through, how upset I am, or if I'm frustrated. I tend to not share to much of myself...I share just enough for you to think you know who I am, but you really dont. I hold everything in, until I reached my breaking point and then an emotional disaster would flow all over the place. Food was my comfort, food was there for me when I would push everyone away. Food wouldn't judge me or criticize me, or leave me. I can remember the specific moment in my life that became my biggest trigger. Before this moment, my triggers were fights with my parents, because of course I knew better than them, or fights with friends, social gatherings I felt like I needed to just eat to "fit in" or I was just bored. But the one that sent me over the edge happened when I was 16 yrs old. 

When I was 16 yrs old, I was dating this amazing guy. Above anything, we were the best of friends. I could talk to him about anything. I never felt the need to be someone other than me. I trusted him, and he trusted me. I opened up to him, and he was always there for me no matter what. He opened up to me about his hopes and dreams, about his demons and things he wanted to work through. One morning, I went into school. By lunch time, my world was turned upset down. That morning, Travis never woke up. He was 17 years old, had his entire life ahead of him. One I hoped to be a part of. He was gone, my world was destroyed. With all the lack of control I felt, I believed the only thing I had control of what I looked like and what I ate. I felt awful, so I wanted to look awful. First I didnt eat anything, for over a week. Then I would sneak food and binge eat, then I would feel even worse about myself, then starve myself, then sneak food and binge eat, feel even worse, and then do it all over again. I shut down, emotionally, started putting up walls so I wouldnt be hurt again, and turned to food to make me feel better. Food was my friend, food would allow me to love it and not leave me. And so started my roller coaster.

For years after this I continued to struggle. I went through more ups and downs. When I was 21, I
moved in with my boyfriend at that time. When things were going bad, I would bake cakes or cookies, and eat the entire cake or batch of cookies. When I became pregnant with our son, I gained over 75 lbs, from eating cookies constantly because I felt alone. Again, the food would never leave me, the junk food would always love me. When we finally split up I was at my heaviest. I felt awful about myself, from years and years of mental abuse, some brought on from myself because I allowed it to happen. Felt awful about all the weight I gained, and blaming the baby weight helped me justify it to the world. I didnt want anyone knowing what I had been through, so I would hide within myself, eat, binge, repeat. 

I thought I got my demons under control when I met my husband. I certainly fooled myself. My husband is diabetic. And within the first year we were married, his diabetes was so out of control, that we almost lost him. Food was my savior. Not only did i jump right back onto my emotional eating roller coaster, I took a side seat on his. I continued to pack on the pounds, feel like a failure, eat to feel better, starve myself to feel better, and constantly repeat. I never solved the underlining problems, I was just masking them. Never solving my food addictions, my food disorder, just trying to put a band-aide on it.  I would try every yo-yo diet, every well known diet out there, every diet pill, starvation method out there. Nothing worked. Why? Did I not have any will power? Did I not have courage? Did I not have knowledge? No, I had none of it. I did not heal my demons, I pretended they werent there. I just wanted a quick fix, and then I would go right back to my old habits. I wasn't willing to make a decision, to make a commitment, to work my a$$ off, to learn. 

I do not share these stories because I want you to feel bad for me, because I need or want pity, I share this story with you because I know what it feels like to be on the emotional roller coaster of eating. I know what it is like to go through situations and use food as a crutch. I know what it is like to have an eating disorder, and feel hopelessly alone. I know what it is like to struggle for many many years, without letting anyone know how I was feeling, I know what it is like to feel like there is no happy ending in site. 

It wasnt until this year did I have enough. That I knew I needed to make a serious change and commitment. 

Emotional eating is eating as a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions, such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness. Both major life events and the hassles of daily life can trigger negative emotions that lead to emotional eating and disrupt your weight-loss efforts. These triggers may include:

  • Unemployment
  • Financial pressure
  • Health problems
  • Relationship conflicts
  • Work stress
  • Fatigue

Although some people actually eat less in the face of strong emotions, if you're in emotional distress you may turn to impulsive or binge eating — you may rapidly eat whatever's convenient, without even enjoying it.

In fact, your emotions may become so tied to your eating habits that you automatically reach for a treat whenever you're angry or stressed without stopping to think about what you're doing.

Food also serves as a distraction. If you're worried about an upcoming event or stewing over a conflict, for instance, you may focus on eating comfort food instead of dealing with the painful situation.

Whatever emotions drive you to overeat, the end result is often the same. The emotions return, and you may also now bear the additional burden of guilt about setting back your weight-loss goal. This can also lead to an unhealthy cycle — your emotions trigger you to overeat, you beat yourself up for getting off your weight-loss track, you feel bad, and you overeat again.

So how the hell do we get off this roller coaster? I am here to tell you...THERE IS NO QUICK FIX!! (If there was I would have found it) This will not be easy. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself, you have to be willing to admit there is an issue, and you have to be willing to make a commitment to fix it. 

Tips to get your weight-loss efforts back on track
Although negative emotions can trigger emotional eating, you can take steps to control cravings and renew your effort at weight loss. To help stop emotional eating, try these tips:

  1. Tame your stress. If stress contributes to your emotional eating, try a stress management technique, such as yoga, meditation or relaxation.
  2. Have a hunger reality check. Is your hunger physical or emotional? If you ate just a few
    hours ago and don't have a rumbling stomach, you're probably not really hungry. Give the craving a little time to pass.
  3. Keep a food diary. Write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you're feeling when you eat and how hungry you are. Over time, you may see patterns emerge that reveal the connection between mood and food.
  4. Get support. You're more likely to give in to emotional eating if you lack a good support network. Lean on family and friends or consider joining a support group.
  5. Fight boredom. Instead of snacking when you're not truly hungry, distract yourself. Take a walk, watch a movie, play with your cat, listen to music, read, surf the Internet or call a friend.
  6. Take away temptation. Don't keep supplies of comfort foods in your home if they're hard for you to resist. And if you feel angry or blue, postpone your trip to the grocery store until you're sure that you have your emotions in check.
  7. Don't deprive yourself. When you're trying to achieve a weight-loss goal, you may limit your calories too much, eat the same foods frequently and banish the treats you enjoy. This may just serve to increase your food cravings, especially in response to emotions. Let yourself enjoy an occasional treat and get plenty of variety to help curb cravings.
  8. Snack healthy. If you feel the urge to eat between meals, choose a low-fat, low-calorie snack, such as fresh fruit, vegetables with low-fat dip or unbuttered popcorn. Or try low-fat, lower calorie versions of your favorite foods to see if they satisfy your craving.
  9. Learn from setbacks. If you have an episode of emotional eating, forgive yourself and start fresh the next day. Try to learn from the experience and make a plan for how you can prevent it in the future. Focus on the positive changes you're making in your eating habits and give yourself credit for making changes that'll lead to better health.

Allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable emotions can be scary. You may fear that, like Pandora’s box, once you open the door you won’t be able to shut it. But the truth is that when we don’t obsess over or suppress our emotions, even the most painful and difficult feelings subside relatively quickly and lose their power to control our attention. To do this you need to become mindful and learn how to stay connected to your moment-to-moment emotional experience. This can enable you to rein in stress and repair emotional problems that often trigger emotional eating. I never wanted to feel uncomfortable, I didnt want to open myself for fear of being rejected, or left, or ridiculed. What took me forever to learn is life will be richer when you open yourself up emotionally. Our feelings are a window into our interior world. They help us understand and discover our deepest desires and fears, our current frustrations, and the things that will make us happy. Am I perfect? Absolutely not. Are there still times where I close myself off? Yes of course. At this point in my life, with the help of my supportive husband, my beautiful children, my personal Beachbody Coach, all of the like minded people I surround myself with, with the support and challenge groups I am in - I have learned its OK not to be perfect. Its OK to continue to learn everyday. I learned to accept and love myself, good, bad, and ugly, that I am in charge of me. 

I hope you enjoyed my stories, I hope this helped you in some way. If you need extra help, support, or motivation - I would love nothing more to be able to help you on your journey. It will be a tough one, and we all deserve to have someone there to help us.