Recently, one of my clients confessed that the night before, she had eaten an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby ice cream. Now I’m going to turn into a chubby hubby!, she wailed, so disappointed with herself. She hadn’t intended to eat the whole thing — in fact, she just wanted a taste — but it was there and it tasted good good and she felt like such a badass doing it and she couldn’t stop eating until every last chocolate covered pretzel was gone.
How many of you have had the same experience? Once you start eating something, you just can’t seem to stop. The food takes over control and you’re just along for the guilt-ridden, nauseating ride.
Um, I have! Throughout my life, I’ve experienced this many, many times. Ben & Jerry’s is often the culprit, though it can also be Whole Foods spelt vanilla cake (because it seemed healthier?) or chocolate covered pretzels or tortilla chips. Emotional overeating can take many forms.
When we’re in the middle of emotional overeating, our first reaction is to feel guilty and/or ashamed. Why can’t we control ourselves? Why do we have no willpower! Why are we so WEAK?
But that response is what encourages many of us to continue eating — because we have to erase the proof that it happened in the first place. If the entire pint/bag of chips/piece of pie is gone, then there won’t be any incriminating evidence the next day! There will be no reminder of us how flawed we are when it comes to food. So we eat it all.
So what to do? I would say that the first step is to try your very, very best notto feel guilty. Yes, easier said than done BUT… sometimes we overeat. Sometimes we binge. Sometimes we eat emotionally. It happens to us all. It’s like getting angry at yourself for crying during a particularly sad film.
So instead of using your energy feeling guilty about your lack of willpower and creating elaborate strategies how you’ll work off all those calories the next day — try using that energy to delve deeper into what’s going on in your life. Is there something missing from your life that you’re using food to make up for? Are there feelings you’d rather not feel? Are you missing sweetness from your life? Do you feel empty? What’s going on?
Because with emotional eating, there’s always something else going on. It’s just a matter of identifying it and figuring out what you need that you’re not getting.