The End to Emotional Eating

BY SINDHUJAA KUMAR FOR THE TIMES OF INDIA.

Your weight is your smoke detector for deeper issues.


For most folk, irregular weight can correspond to unresolved frustrations and anxieties. Both ends of the spectrum- a tendency to over-eat or under-eat, are linked to kinks in emotional health. If we are feeling powerless over food, it is a reflection of our sense of powerlessness in life. It is a direct mirror of how we lose control of our mental strength and emotional stability.


We distract ourselves with food.


Stress, boredom, anxiety, depression, loneliness, hyper-excitement etc. are emotional upheavals that can lead us to go searching for comfort in food.


WHEN DO YOU KNOW THAT YOU ARE LIVING IN THE UNHEALTHY ZONE?


The 80/20 rule is a good plan to live by! Each day, 80% of the food that we eat needs to be natural, nutritious and healthy. 20% can be the not-so-healthy options, although by spending just a little time researching healthy treats, we needn’t foray into the unhealthy zone at all! Whether you are looking for dessert, traditional food, cheesy Italian cooking or any other dish, there are healthy twists available!


What we need to become aware of is this: there is a difference between intentionally reaching out for processed food as a treat, and going into a frenzied, uncontrolled binge! The problem starts when the intentional decision turns into a week-long junk food avalanche that makes you feel worse about yourself, degrading your health in the long run! The guilt, the shame, the worry about your health condition – catches up.


You might have reached out for the ‘cheat treat’ as a ‘comfort food’ when you were feeling blue. But then you realize that the ‘comfort’ was ridiculously short-lived and the trauma was instead amplified. You haven’t managed to make a dent in the stress which triggered your binge. Your problems haven’t gone away. The sugar-loaded cookie did NOT resolve your personal issues. The fries did not drive away your loneliness. The elephant in the room – the real root of your troubles – are still very much staring you in the face. All you managed to do was make yourself feel worse because now you have to additionally worry about your health, weight, skin etc. that just took a hit because of your binge!


THE MIND AND BODY ARE NOT SEPARATE. WHAT AFFECTS ONE, AFFECTS THE OTHER.

When you eat erratically, it isn’t just your body that suffers, but also your mind. Your brain needs good nutrition to function well. Otherwise, you end up triggering hormonal upsets in the body - causing negative thoughts, low energy, stress response and poor emotional state.


Here are a few powerful ways to deal with this:


1) Recognize when you are falling off the wagon: The first step to change is ACCEPTANCE. We need to be honest with ourselves when we are starting to lose control, instead of living in denial and telling ourselves that all is well. Do not pretend to not notice the emotional out-spill and frenzied eating.


2) Habit formation: It is perfectly ok to cheat within the 80/20 principle. But if you are unable to stay in these boundaries and find yourself hooked onto unhealthy food, then you have a HABIT to beat. Dedicate yourself to at least 21 days of healthy eating. This period can be challenging. So mentally prepare for it. But the good news is, post 21 days, it becomes second nature to reach out for healthier food. You would have changed your neural pathways to build a preference and taste for unprocessed, healthy food and habituated yourself to desire healthy food.


3) Do some emotional digging: If stress drives you to binge eating, then it’s time to come to terms with the fact that food simply won’t make your problems go away! Identify the triggers which get you stressed out and find a way to directly confront your problems.


4) Find replacement habits: Prepare a list of healthy treats that you enjoy, which you can reach out for as soon as you get a craving! It could be a banana-chocolate smoothie (sugar-less), a piece of a multi-grain pizza with goat cheese etc. You can also go for warm drinks such as honeyed herbal teas, hot chocolate (dark, sweetened with stevia) or a warm bowl of soup – as ‘warmth’ provides a sense of great comfort to us biologically. Find other stress-busting activities you enjoy such as dancing, playing a sport, meditating, kickboxing, traveling etc.


5) Understand food cravings: You may have eaten a filling meal, but if you continue to have cravings, your body is indicating that your meals are lacking in critical nutrients which are the cause of cravings. When you don’t consume enough vitamins and minerals, your body remains hungry – not for more food, but for more REAL NUTRIENTS. Your body could also simply be asking for more water, and you mistake it for hunger. Till you satiate your body’s need for nutrients, you will continue to have cravings!

Working with several clients, I’ve seen that once they grasp these few simple but powerful concepts, their energy is more balanced, their weight is easily optimized and they find food freedom which is liberating!




Choosing the holistic approach to wellness heals both body and mind. Let eating not be used as a substitute for entertainment, to fill the void created by emotional lows or to make up for the lack of nutrition in our primary food.


Mindful Eating – taking the time to tune into the needs of our body and soul, consciously changing how we view our bodies and how we relate to food – can deeply enrich our lives and heal us from within. This shift will make you glow with good health, joy and confidence. These changes will spill over into every aspect of your life – giving you a radiant personality, lighting up the energy in your relationships, giving you a stronger and clearer mind for your work-life.


Eat mindfully!

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