Updated: Nov 4, 2021
Are you an emotional eater? Then you will already be aware that your over-eating tends to go in peaks and valleys. There are some days you feel completely in control. Then days, when despite what you tell yourself, you can’t seem to stop eating, even though you are not hungry. As with most addictive behaviours, emotional eating stems from a need to numb emotions. It’s a temporary relief from feelings we don’t want to experience. Emotional eating is a coping mechanism driven from our unconscious mind to protect us or meet an unfulfilled need (even if we are not consciously aware of that need).
To overcome emotional eating requires an awareness and understanding of what is causing the subconscious to perpetuate the behaviour. This is an internal process best supported by a therapist/hypnotherapist.
There are, however, external factors that contribute to emotional eating and the peaks and valleys you might be experiencing.
Here are the top 3 common factors that contribute to emotional eating.
It sounds obvious. Right? You feel under pressure, overwhelmed, low on energy because you need to react to the constant demands. So, of course, you reach for food; it’s both a comfort and an energy source. But if you are under constant stress, that ‘hit’ we get from the comfort of food gets less and less, so you find you need more and more to feel the comforting effects. Not only that, but stress raises our blood sugar as our body prepares for fight or flight, so it sends signals to our brain that we need more energy resources. Our brains don’t know that a demanding boss or a screaming child is not the same threat as a tiger running at us. It’s no wonder stress has such an impact on our eating patterns. If you are an emotional eater, reducing stress will positively influence your ability to manage your emotional eating.
2. Lack of sleep
Sleep is healing, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s our bodies natural way to recharge and process experiences, thoughts and emotions from the day.
Stress has a direct link with our ability to get quality sleep, and lack of sleep contributes to our ability to cope with daily stressors. The likelihood, therefore, is if you are experiencing stress, your sleep will be affected and vice versa. For emotional eaters, stress and sleep management should be a priority. A lack of sleep affects the regulation of hunger hormones (ghrelin and leptin) so, the better quality sleep you can get, the more likely your hunger signals will normalise.
3. Environment Triggers
Our subconscious mind can process 11 million bits of information per second. If we were consciously aware of all that information, the overwhelm would be extreme. Our subconscious takes in information from our environment even if we don’t consciously see it with our eyes. Ever wondered why you get home from work craving a MacDonalds (or any other fast food of your choice)? It’s likely the several marketing posters you passed on the route. Despite the fact you didn’t think you noticed them, your subconscious did. Therefore our conscious choices for food are often overridden by our subconscious desires. Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about the amount of external advertising we are subjected to. However, there are stimuli in our environment that we can control with a little effort. Think about your home. There will be lots of triggers in your environment that subconsciously lead you to comfort foods. It may seem a little strange but try changing where you store food in your kitchen cupboards. This change will cause you to try to remember where the food is now, which results in you becoming conscious of what you are doing. This gives you that one quick moment to check if you’re on autopilot. Also, try a different route to work (if you’re not currently homeworking). If your daily habit is to grab something comforting from the local coffee shop on the way in, then a new route will make you more conscious of your actions – even a new coffee shop will, albeit temporarily.