I’ve been there, you’ve been there (maybe you still are) – you can “be good” all day, maybe even all day Monday to Thursday, but when the clock strikes evening – the munchies begin. Sometimes it’s nearer 4pm for me. I could eat the entire house including the furniture some days. Perhaps it’s once the kids are in bed, the husband is head first in his laptop and you finally have some ‘me time’…perhaps it’s the second you get in the door from your fucking stressful job. Doesn’t matter. There’ll always be a trigger (I’ll talk about this later on).
Emotional eating and night-time snacking can CRUSH even the most well intended weight loss efforts, and it is my best intention with this blog to give you 5 of my most successful strategies to get rid of it, gradually – then for good. Oh, and don’t forget the wine on Wine Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we’ll be talking about that too.
The reason I’ve written “…and hide the wrappers” in the picture in this blog is because that is exactly what I used to do.
Down the door pocket of the car, the side of the sofa, in the outside bin. Shit tonnes of empty biscuit packets and chocolate wrappers. If you can’t see it, it didn’t happen – am I right?
I was in denial – you might be too.
I’ll break this blog down into manageable chunks for you, take your time and work your way through to see if indeed you ARE emotional eating, and towards the end I will give you my 5 steps to eliminating it for good.
So how do I know if I AM emotional eating?
Emotional eating is a form of disordered eating which can lead to an increased intake of food in response to negative emotions (and positive – ever rewarded yourself with food?)
Simply put – can you relate to any of the following statements:
- Do you treat yourself with food?
- Do you feel a sense of entitlement after a hard day?
- Do you eat when you feel stressed out?
- Do you eat in secret or binge on foods only while alone?
- Do you then hide the evidence?
- Do you plan a ‘binge’ ahead of time to get you through a specific situation?
- Do you prefer eating alone?
- Drown your sorrows because ‘I deserve it’?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, it would seem that you may have a degree of emotional eating going on. Perhaps reading these questions has made you a little bit emotional – and that’s perfectly okay. Remember – you are NOT alone, this is pretty widespread stuff.
Why willpower isn’t reliable
I often hear women blame their lack of willpower for giving in to emotional eating – but I’m here to tell you that willpower alone is NOT a reliable attribute when it comes to beating this. You are NOT weak or useless if you lack willpower, and at some point you are going to need to realise that you cannot rely on willpower alone to tackle emotional eating.
It is a constant battle between internal and external. Emotions and willpower. Sometimes willpower will win, other times emotions will win and there are strategies that we can put into place so that willpower wins more often but we can’t rely on it on its own.
I want you to imagine an elastic band. You can only stretch it so much before it will snap. Willpower is exactly the same and whilst some elastic bands are stronger than others, at some point, it will always snap, and so begins the ‘I’m useless’ cycle of guilt.
Are you truly ready to beat this?
You’re reading this blog because you think you want to beat emotional eating for good so that you can finally start to feel healthier and lose weight (I’m guessing) – but are you TRULY ready to do this?
I say this because sometimes, the pain of staying where we are isn’t stronger than the pain of change – and that’s absolutely okay. You might not be ready yet, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure – it just means you’re not ready!
Have you hit your ‘enough is enough’ moment?
Not one to bullshit people, I’ll be honest with you – beating emotional eating isn’t a linear process, it’s tough – at times, VERY tough, and there will be moments where it all goes tits up. That’s when you need to be ready to learn from these moments and move on. Are you strong enough to tackle this now?
4 things you need to have / get to start beating emotional eating
I believe that there are four things you need before you can tackle this beast. Bear in mind that these are my thoughts, and may not apply to you – but from working with 100s of women – around 100% of them found that they too, needed these four things:
- Intrinsic motivation and desire
- Willpower strengthening exercises
- A clear step by step plan of attack
- Support and accountability
You will need intrinsic motivation – in other word’s – you need to figure out your WHY. Why do you want to beat this, what will it mean to you if you beat this, how will you feel? How would you feel if nothing changed? It might even be a good idea to write this down.
Without further ado (as I know you’re probably desperate to know how you can start working on this…) – here are 5 simple steps that you can take to start eliminating the urge to eat your kitchen cupboards after 4pm every day…
Step 1: Keep a Diary for 5 Days
For 5 days – keep a diary of instances where your emotions ruled your eating habits. For example – write down the following each time:
- When you felt a craving come on
- What you ate
- Where you were at the time
- How you felt at the time
- How you felt afterwards
- The thoughts that were going through your head
This will allow you to start identifying ‘triggers’.
Step 2: Identify your Triggers
- Here are some typical ‘triggers’ from women I have worked with previously:
- “Food is the one thing that I look forward to the most”
- “My job is really stressful – eating makes me feel better”
- Relationship stress
- Rewarding yourself for getting through a tough day or week
- Drowning your sorrows
- “I eat when I’m angry or if someone has pissed me off”
- “I feel entitled to eat and drink wtf I want after a long day or week”
- “Food and eating is the only ‘me time’ I get – especially after the kids are in bed”
- Masking emotions
- “I’ve found myself mindlessly eating whilst sat on the computer at work
Consider if you have trigger PLACES like:
- Sat at your desk at work
- On your desk at home
- While you’re sat on the phone
- Watching TV (eating mindlessly)
Step 3: Take Time Out
When a craving hits – take time out. It doesn’t need to be for long, but distract yourself long enough for the craving to pass. Here are some ideas:
- Download an app like Headspace or Calm and listen to a recording for 5-10 minutes
- Focus on your breathing
- If, after 5 minutes you are still ‘hungry’ – make a proper meal. If this doesn’t take your fancy – you’re not physically hungry
Step 4: Replace the Reward
If you find that your emotional eating takes the guise of rewarding yourself for getting through a tough day, or rewarding yourself for something positive – could you replace this food reward with something non-food related?
Here are some ideas, but this is by no means an exhaustive list – you can add your own:
- Undisturbed hot bath with candles (maybe a bit far fetched hah!?)
- A promise of a clothes shopping trip at the end of the week
- Buy yourself something nice – candles, perfume (maybe not every day – that could be expensive!)
- It can be ANYTHING. Something that you look forward to.
Step 5: Acknowledge How You’re Feeling
This is probably the most difficult step – to truly acknowledge your feelings. It’s easier to ignore them, sweep them under the carpet and hope they’ll go away, but are you hiding something that you should be addressing? Does this go deeper than surface level? Whatever your answer to this question – please know that it’s absolutely OKAY to feel how you’re feeling.
- Do you truly acknowledge how you’re feeling?
- Are you in denial or do you accept it?
- There is no shame in feeling like this – it’s perfectly normal and can be turned around
- Accept how you are feeling
- Think about dealing with emotions that have been buried
- Can you reduce stress in any areas of your life?
The importance of a healthy, whole food based diet cannot be overlooked when it comes to beating emotional eating. If you were to give yourself the best chance possible, it would be a good idea to look at your diet as a whole, rather than just responding to circumstances as they arise. This will give you the best chance possible to reduce cravings from the outset, making your ‘elastic band’ stronger when cravings do hit.
You can’t do this alone – I highly recommend that you buddy up with someone for accountability and support. I can speak from experience as a coach for nearly 8 years that accountability from others can sometimes make or break your success. Ask a friend to be your accountability buddy, and make sure you join my free Facebook community – “Body Confidence for Busy Women” and I will personally help you along the way.
If this blog has helped you, please leave a comment and share on social media with anybody who you think may benefit.