Perhaps you feel lonely, struggle with being depressed or anxious. You may also believe that you are not living your life to your full potential and are lacking meaning. As such, you find yourself engaging in behaviors that are contradictory to your intentions and deepest desires in life. So you do what has become familiar and feels safe to you at the moment. You reach for the chocolate bar or pint of ice cream, eat it (often mindlessly), and experience feeling guilty and shameful afterwards.
If this sounds like you, you are not alone. Many people struggle with emotional eating. Understanding and learning to deconstruct your cravings for different foods is a challenging task. However, the long term rewards far outweigh the emotional or physical pangs that this process may provoke in you.
Food cravings and emotional eating may be related to nutrient deficiencies. Chocolate, for example, is a great source of magnesium and many other antioxidants. So while the occasional piece of quality organic, dark chocolate is harmless and may even be good for you, eating a bar every night after a long and stressful day at your job and being alone without a loving partner or friends to talk to and socialize probably suggests that your cravings are fundamentally symbolic substitutes.
Your cravings and emotional eating may be pointing to unmet needs and your need to align your life so that you are consistently experiencing more pleasure and fun in your life. Instead of using food as an instrument to cope with emotions, take action and participate in activities or join groups that will support you in experiencing fun, pleasure and allow you to socialize with people so that you are attending to and addressing the root cause of your maladaptive behavior.
Unlike other substances (e.g., alcohol, marijuana, cocaine) that your body does not need to survive and thrive, food is necessary to nourish your body and optimize your health. Thus, it is socially acceptable to cope with your emotions and turn to foods that do not serve you. Binge eating and emotional eating frequently commence after adverse and stressful life events and goes “under the radar” because it is socially acceptable. You may never seek treatment because you experience shame or genuinely believe you can quit “cold turkey” without any assistance.
In order to prevent or heal from emotional eating or binge eating, reflect on and consider what you might be doing or thinking instead if you were not thinking about your next “sweet treat.” Perhaps you have neglected friends or family who you believe are unavailable to spend time with you or would consider you a “burden.” Learn to be loving with yourself and stop before you indulge in any food your higher self knows does not serve you to ask yourself if eating the slice of cake or scoop ice cream is worth the unsavory effects that follow (e.g., brain fog, fatigue, weight gain, the constriction and narrowing of your life as you further isolate yourself). As you learn to pause, reflect and become curious about your behavior, it is important to simultaneously send your mind and body compassion and kindness; learn to attend and befriend. Practicing Loving Kindness Meditation is one such practice that may help you cultivate self-compassion. Finally, recognize that you are simply misdirecting your desires for love, affection, and appreciation or any other unmet needs and using food to briefly provide comfort. It is a very courageous act to seek help and accept that you have been coping with your painful emotions in an ineffective fashion.
To your health and success,
To learn more about how working with a psychologist and holistic health coach can help you to enhance your health and well-being, call or email Dr. Sandoval to schedule a free consultation.
The information, published and/or made available through the www.drjosesandoval.com website, is not intended to replace the services of a physician, nor does it constitute a physician-patient relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use the information in this post for diagnosing or treating a medical or health condition. You should consult a physician in all matters relating to your health, particularly in respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention. Any action on the reader’s part in response to the information provided in this blog is at the reader’s discretion.