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Emotional Eating. Why is it such a difficult habit to break?

The other day I found myself in the snack cupboard! “Why am I here?” I asked myself? “What am I looking for?” And I realised. I wasn’t hungry, I wasn’t looking for food. I was looking for a distraction.

It was Monday morning. I’d just come back from a wonderful holiday with friends and I was catching up on work emails. I could feel that familiar feeling of stress rising in me. The feeling I’d had before I went on holiday and the feeling that had disappeared while I was away.

I’d promised myself that I would use the break away to build my resilience to stress and to try and be calmer. I loved the person I was on holiday, happy and carefree. The person I am under stress is irritable and short tempered.

Yet there I was back to feeling stressed, looking for a comforting distraction. I know this tactic never works. By avoiding the stress I don’t process it. In fact I only add to it by eating food that I know is no good for me at a time when my body does not require food and of course the emails are still there!

When we explore the habit of emotional eating, it not only makes us prone to weight gain, which is bad for our body. It creates emotional avoidance, which is bad for our mind. We are then left with feelings of regret, shame, guilt, frustration and what does our brain tell us to do when faced with such a barrage….you got it…..before we know it we are back in the snack cupboard. It becomes a perpetual cycle.

We can’t blame our brains though. They are looking for a way to protect us from painful emotions and in fairness, for that very short period our happy hormones spike and we feel better. Unfortunately because the brain is made up of different areas it isn’t able to associate the habit with the negative emotions we get afterwards. That’s where the rational brain plays a part. It has the very difficult job of trying to tame the emotional part of the brain! It is slower to react than the emotional part, which is why we find ourselves in the snack cupboard despite knowing we shouldn’t be but the temptation can feel too great to resist.

So now we know this what can we do! ?Well, i’m afraid there is no quick fix. The answer is to retrain the brain!!!! The answer is to accept emotions as they flow through us. Letting them in and letting them out again. This will not only increase serotonin, our brains mood stabiliser, it will calm the emotional part of our brain and strengthen the logical part.

This will also increase our communication channels between our gut and our brain. We will learn your body’s hunger queue’s and make food choices that are better for the health of our body and mind.

My solution. To stick a note on the snack cupboard that asks. “Why are you here?” “How are you feeling?” Take a moment to recognise the feeling and explore the cause of it. Take some deep breaths and imagine the emotions flowing in and out again. Ask ourselves. “Am I actually hungry?” “Will this food serve me well?” If the answer is NO then step away!

I’m not going to lie. This is a very difficult habit to change. Our emotional brain is very powerful, like an unruly child, and many of us have been at its mercy for most of our lives. However, logical brain is like the wise parent. Slower to react but always trustworthy. Once we have learned how to tune into that part of our brain we can achieve any goal we set ourselves and build new habits for life!

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