Emotional Eating

If you are eating for emotional reasons, your weight loss goals will likely be challenging to achieve. Emotional eating is using food for feelings other than physical hunger. At times it is normal to eat for reasons other than hunger, but how much is emotional eating impacting your weight loss success? Are you eating to "fill up" something other than your stomach?

Are You an Emotional Eater?

Many people eat for reasons other than hunger. Obviously, I am not sharing anything new with this statement. Food is enjoyable and should be taken in as nourishment and pleasure as part of a healthful life.

If weight loss is your goal, however, then figuring out if you are eating for emotional reasons is one of the keys to success. If you are an emotional eater but do not realize it, then all the diets in the world will likely fail. You will follow a diet plan for a short time and, eventually, the emotional aspects of your eating will creep in and sabotage your plan. Then, you will be frustrated that you are not seeing results. Enjoying your food and eating foods that you love are different from being an emotional eater. This is an important distinction.

The quiz below will help you determine if you are an emotional eater. I encourage you to answer these questions as honestly as you can and see what you discover.

1. Most of the time, the reason I eat is because:

A. I am physically hungry.

B. I'm bored, anxious, or stressed out.

C. I have a headache and feel physically weak.

2. How often do you sit in front of the television and eat without realizing the quantities eaten?

A. Never.

B. Always.

C. Sometimes.

3. Have you ever eaten because you were angry or frustrated?

A. No.

B. Yes.

C. Hardly ever.

4. Do you ever get so excited or anxious that you need to eat or drink to calm yourself down?

A. No, never.

B. Yes, food often helps to soothe me.

C. I've never thought of food that way.

5. Do you ever feel unable to control how much you eat?

A. No.

B. Yes, sometimes I feel like that.

C. Not really, maybe at holidays like Thanksgiving.

Mostly As: You do not seem to be an emotional eater. You eat from physical hunger cues. For your weight loss success, you will want to focus more on the science aspects of weight loss.

Mostly Bs:  You seem to have some emotional eating issues. This is very common. For your weight loss success, you will want to focus most of your energy and time on the emotional aspects of weight loss. Once you have started to work through these emotional aspects, you can start learning the scientific aspects for best success.

Mostly Cs: You do not seem to be a strongly emotional eater, but you may be an UNCONSCIOUS eater. This isn't bad if you don't struggle with your weight and are fairly healthy. However, it cannot hurt to become more aware of WHY you eat. You will want to focus on both the emotional and scientific aspects of eating for your best success.

This is an original work authored by Karen Raden, MS, RD, CCN

Exploring Your Relationship with Food

Exploring your relationship with food may be a strange concept to think about. Relationship with food? "Food is just food...I do not have a relationship with it," many people will say. This is not the case. We all have a relationship with food. Just like our relationships with people, some of us have a healthy, good relationship with food while others have a dysfunctional, negative relationship. And some people are in between.

Asking yourself the questions and looking at your relationship with food is one of the keys to weight management success. If you find that you have a healthy, good relationship with food, then bravo! This is wonderful and you want to keep this up. If you find that your relationship with food is lacking and slightly negative (or very negative in some cases), then this is an area you will want to work on. Why? You may not be successful with your weight loss goals if you do not address your relationship with food. If you have a poor relationship with food, some of the factors that may be a problem could include:

  • Not wanting to think about what you are eating, which could lead to mindless eating
  • Feeling badly about yourself every time that you eat
  • Being unwilling to learn how to eat healthier
  • Using food on a daily basis to ease feelings that have nothing to do with hunger

Take this quiz to learn about your relationship with food.   

1.  Do you feel guilty when you overeat?   yes  or no

2.  Do you feel bad about yourself for eating foods that are thought of as unhealthy?  yes or no

3.  Do you watch what other people eat and use that to determine what and how much you will eat?  yes or no

4.  Are you afraid to eat certain types of food?  yes or no

5.  Do you fear eating foods with fat?   yes or no

If you answered "yes" to more than three of the above questions, you should explore your relationship with food further. You will want to focus on this area for the long-term success of your weight loss program. By focusing on building a better relationship with food you are also focusing on building a better relationship with yourself, which is a very good thing! Although it may feel threatening or scary to have a better understanding about your relationship with food, you can get the support you need to overcome emotional eating. We at How2connect.com can help you with regularly scheduled counseling and nutrition sessions. Emotional eating can be overcome. You just need support and the willingness to open up and allow for healing.  

If you answered "yes" to less than three of the above questions, it is likely that you have a pretty healthy relationship with food. For your weight loss success, you will want to focus more on understanding the science of eating. 

This is an original work authored by Karen Raden,  MS, RD, CCN.

What are You Hungry for?

Wait! Before you grab that piece of chocolate, ask yourself if you are really hungry. If the answer is an immediate “yes,” ask yourself if you are physically or emotionally hungry. It might sound strange, but this is a question that most people never ask before they eat, especially foods that are “not so healthy.” 

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Observing Your Own Behaviors

Unless you can see something, you cannot change it. If you are able to look objectively at your behaviors in making food choices, you will be able to make more educated decisions around what you are eating. Looking at the truth of what you are putting in your mouth is the beginning to food freedom!

Judgement: Letting Go!

Struggling with a weight issue can bring up a lot of judgment and self-esteem issues. Being overweight does not make you a "bad" person. You are more than what you look like. You are more than what you weigh. We can help you let go of the negative self-talk and start feeling better about yourself.

Food Journaling

The feeling that a food journal needs to be perfect can be a lot of pressure for some people. So can the idea that there is a right way to keep one. Neither of these is true. There are many different ways to food journal. Find the way that works for you, and stick with it. 

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Creating Your "Bliss List"

The Bliss List is one of my favorite tools to introduce to clients. The Bliss List is based on things that you love to do or think. The idea is that when you know that you are not hungry yet find yourself reaching for food, you can pull out this list instead of sabotaging your weight loss plan. The Bliss List can be your own personal concierge with ideas of fun things that you love to do.

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