Do you sometimes find yourself eating "mindlessly"? You can acknowledge that you're doing it - but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll stop...or that it won't happen again.
Here's the deal: Twenty-seven percent of adults say they eat to manage stress and 34 percent of those who report overeating or eating unhealthy foods because of stress say this behaviour is a habit (more stats here). But just because it's common & other people are doing it - it doesn't mean that we feel any better about it. The good news is that we can indeed equip ourselves with the tools (& thoughts) to deal with emotional eating before...and YES: during, the incidence.
Let's give this some context to start: why are we even prone to emotional eating in the first place?! While the story is different for each and every individual, for many of us, it's a coping mechanism that was learned in childhood - often mixed with trauma.
"But I didn't have an eating issue when I was a kid!"
"But I wasn't overweight when I was younger!"
"But I didn't have a traumatic childhood!"
The answer can be yes, yes + yes to all of the above...and yet you still find yourself struggling with "food issues" today.
Food is a pleasurable break in life, and it may have (unknowingly to you at the time) been used to soothe your worries, calm a situation, or otherwise soften the discomfort in certain situations. Think: ice cream to the rescue whenever mom and dad have a fight!
While exact circumstances & events are unique to each of us, there's likely a chance that food was used as "something else" at one point in our life. See, food is ultimately fuel to nourish our bodies - that we have freedom to chose based on our own individual taste preferences. When food becomes "something else", that's when emotional eating, overeating, and mindless stress-eating habits can start to take away from our life (the exact opposite of what food is supposed to do...which is to give us energy for life!).
So, how do we deal?
Well, I prefaced this article with the root causes of emotional eating for good reason!
The first step is to detect WHY we are turning to food in the first place. What or where is it that we are trying to soften the discomfort in our lives? When there are food issues - there are life issues. Rather than turning to the food (or ingredient) as the root of all evils, instead, be kind (& realistic!) with yourself. Be open to exploring the underlying cause.
From there, you can start to put in practices, boundaries, and thought-patterns into your daily life that are supportive & in alignment with your value-based beliefs. It's a journey - not a quick fix, that you're missing. A journey back to your true self. It's about feeling the feelings, so you can FEEL them and move on.
You may have been using food to numb or otherwise mask these feelings. Allow them to bubble-up to the surface, and face them! The cool thing about feelings is that they are always in flow - if you allow them to move through. So it's a matter of letting them surface so that they can ultimately pass.
Stuffing your face with a donut (although a tasty distraction in the moment) unfortunately gets in the way of that beautiful release.
For an in-the-moment practice to help shift your habit head-on, give yourself 10 minutes. Get a craving? Grabbed the bag of cookies and about to dive in head first? Set a timer to 10-minutes and GO BREATHE. Chill out, and be patient. Just for 10 minutes, to ultimately FEEL the feelings - knowing that you have FULL PERMISSION to go and eat the cookies right when the timer rings. You may notice that you're not so fussed about stuffing the cookies down anymore - or at least, not as many, as quickly.
Emotional eating isn't a problem. It isn't your defect. It isn't your "thing to solve" or "get better at". It's simply a sign that something needs to be heard, felt, or shifted. Listen, feel, and let it flow. You are worthy.