E for Emotional Eating

reading time: ca. 4 min

hey there food friends
since i am taking the TOEFL test tomorrow (Test of English as a Foreign Language) i am super duper excited, nervous and a little bit of an emotional mess. Which brings me to today's topic: emotional eating (i sound like a news anchor, lol).

This is part of a little trivia series on the ABC of healthy food essentials that i started last year. In this series i share my knowledge of food and nutrition*. Click here for the previous episode.

Episode 5: E for Emotional Eating

You can also find a similar article that revolves around CRAVINGS over here.

First off, what is emotional eating?
The term is used to describe the emotional attachment of a person to the food they're consuming. It usually occurs when this person is under mental or physical pressure, experiencing stress, anxiety or trauma.

When it comes to stress as in being busy or nervous or despairing of a pile of paperwork, i am not a "stress eater" but rather a "stress skipper". However when we're talking about stress as in emotional struggle such as sadness, anxiety or loneliness - or simply boredom, to be honest - i find myself reaching for a snack bag even though i wasn't even hungry in the first place.
In these moments i catch myself turning to so called comfort foods. For me, these are quick and easy-to-digest carbs like white rice, oats, bananas, dates, nicecream (what's nicecream?) and basically anything that's sweet and soft and will make me "feel good".

me in Italy munching on a vanilla cream filled pastry :) that was 5 years ago!

Luckily there are other ways to feed your feelings. Here are some tips.

Don't use food as a reward. Instead, treat yourself with a bubble bath, a new piece of clothing, a trip to the cinema, a manicure or any other pampering object or activity.

When you feel upset, sad or confused, don't just eat away your feelings but take a moment to breathe. In and out, in and out. It helps to visualize your breath travelling down to the bottom of your stomach and all the way up through your nostrils. As a matter of fact oxygen calms you down, and the more calm and content you are, the less likely you are to eat from stress or emotions. Meditating, believe it or not, is a great way to replace snacking.

- What to do when you're about to binge -

When you're anxious, give someone close to you a call and talk it out. Or expend your nervous energy by dancing to your favourite song, squeezing a stress ball, or taking a brisk walk. If you feel like it, do a workout that will make you sweat and work off the stress!

When you're exhausted, treat yourself with a hot cup of tea, take a bath, light some scented candles, or wrap yourself in a warm blanket. Allow yourself to rest and let go.

When you're bored, find a distraction. Go for a walk and explore the outdoors. Tidy up. Do the dishes (yaay, fun...). Sort out your closet. Listen to music. Dance. Take a short nap. Read a good book. Watch a comedy show. Craft, draw, knit, play the guitar, do scrap-booking, just get active!

When you're depressed or lonely, call someone who always makes you feel better. Or snuggle with your puppy or cat. Or take a trip down memory lane, look at old photos and cherish some of your dearest memories. Have a good cry. I find it helps to just let everything come out. Express your emotions and release the tension!

That applies to any feeling: Whether it's misery, anger, desperateness, anxiety, hopelessness, loneliness, envy or whatever else - allow yourself to feel your emotions. Don't suppress. In fact, dive deep into those feelings, maybe image them being a dark mysterious pond that you are diving into, and you will see that as soon as you face those feelings they will no longer be so scary. Or imagine them to be a tiny, ugly, distorted little creature and give those poor little things a hug :) whatever helps you - face and embrace your emotions. Don't push them away, or they will strike back even stronger until they get your attention.

The key is mindfulness.

- What to do when you are already binging -

Set yourself a timer! Stop. Think. What is it that you're feeling? React accordingly, as listed above. Don't numb yourself with food. Call someone and share your emotions instead!

Record your indulgences. Write down what you are feeling when you start binging (are you feeling upset? depressed? bored?) and find out what triggers you to binge so you can overcome it in the future!

Do not punish yourself at the gym after a binging attack of emotional eating. Even if you are tempted to do so, please get rid of the mindset of "working off" the calories you consumed.

Practice mindful eating:

1) Prepare your food with love. Love your food so that it loves you back :)

2) Sit down and eat in a quiet, almost sacred, peaceful place. Make sure this isn't the same place as your working space, or otherwise you'll still be in "working mode".
Set the table beautifully, maybe even place some fresh flowers in front of you or light some candles, use dishes and cloth napkins. Take the time to "dine".

3) Slow down. Take the time to savour your food - and the company, if you have some. You don't need to pray before eating - i don't -, but take a few seconds to appreciate your filled plate that will provide you with energy and satisfaction. Eating slowly will give your stomach time to signal when you are full, preventing you from overeating.

4) Appreciate each bite and the taste of each bite. The textures, the smell, the colours... be conscious about it, and actually chew your food. Don't just gobble everything down (which i tend to do when i'm in the middle of studying or on a tight schedule to "get over with it", but this only leaves you bloated and unsatisfied at the same time).

5) Whenever you start feeling full, give yourself 10 or 15 minutes to let your fullness really sink in. If you're still feeling hungry 10 minutes later, you know that you can eat some more without getting stuffed or overdoing it.

6) Take the time to relax. Instead of letting stress drive you to overeat or eat mindlessly, breathe deep and relax. Do whatever you enjoy most - watch an episode of your favourite TV show, read a chapter, take a walk (especially after meals), listen to music, power nap, or spend time with people you enjoy to have around.

7) Eat in monomeals.
My favourite monomeal foods are melons, mangos, bananas, papayas, persimmons, peaches, nectarines and grapes. The benefits of monomealing (= eating a meal that consists of just one type of food) are that monomeals are very easy to digest in terms of food combination, and your body will clearly let you know when it is no longer hungry and when it is time to stop eating. It will do this by causing your taste buds to literally shift in a way that will cause the delicious foods that you are eating to become tasteless and unappealing, making it almost impossible to overeat. Usually you trick your body into wanting to eat more by using spices, salt or intense flavours that will re-stimulate your taste buds. 

Also monomealing is just a very simple and quick way to prepare your meals (talk about fast food!)
For example, as you might remember i had a melon monomeal (more or less) for breakfast on Wednesday. I then had a peach monomeal for my first lunch - and believe me, if you eat enough you will feel satisfied, even if it's "just peaches". Oh and i also had a sweet dessert of local strawberries and dates - yum!

On that note do enjoy your food - just keep in mind that it is not a replacement for joy. You know. 

Okay. That's it for now. Gotta go and dig into my lunch - it's a huge bowl of green grapes followed by a broccoli tomato avocado salad :)

Lots of tummy love ~

* note: i am not a nutritionist nor dietician. however over the last four years i did read up on nutrients, dietary needs, various forms of nutrition and eating disorders, and do consider myself quite an educated food friend. if there's anything i misrepresented or missed out, feel free to correct me.

Next up we got F for… fruit-rules-the-world?


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