How to Beat Emotional Eating

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I remember a time when I would almost defiantly say, “I’m an emotional eater.” Like it was a badge of honor or something.  I had control around food MOST of the time, except for when someone or something made me mad or upset.  Even when I learned the Thought Model, at times it was difficult to work my way through my thoughts rather than eat.  Then I started to ask myself, why am I eating right now?  An interesting thing came up.  I was eating to avoid feeling a negative emotion.  I believed that the pain of feeling the emotion would be too much for me to bare, so I had to eat to block it, literally stuffing myself to try to get rid of it.


Unfortunately, whenever that emotion came back, and it always did, I did the same thing, resulting in weight gain.  I then started to ask myself, what is so terrible about this emotion that I don’t want to feel it?  I began to realize that it’s just an emotion, it can’t cause me physical harm.  Pema Chodron (a Buddhist nun who swears, can you imagine?) talks a lot about learning to stay.  The act of learning to stay requires a deep commitment and love for oneself because sitting with the feelings are very uncomfortable, but they allow us to see and HEAL what is at the root of them (our thoughts) instead of harming ourselves with our actions (eating, drinking, overworking, etc.).


We are so used to our current way of being, that when you start this practice of learning to stay you may watch yourself catch the trigger and still use your coping mechanism, but at least you are aware.  It took me months to consistently be able to catch the trigger AND stop myself from eating. Even now I’m at about 90% and that’s good enough for me.


Most of the time, we have a knee-jerk reaction to everything and think we can’t control our eating when we’re sad or upset, but consider this.  You’re a work and your boss or co-worker says something to you and you get angry.  There is a thought that crosses our mind that you may want to curse them or slap them, but you don’t.  In that moment, you have a thought that would lead you to want to slap them and you refrain yourself because of the dominating thought, I don’t want to lose my job or go to jail.


The same thing happens with our food choices.  There is the first thought, I deserve this, I worked out hard or I’ve had a long day and you can create a secondary thought that helps you override this.  I am committed to my goal.  I will be able to eat it later when I’m hungry.  It will only temporarily make me feel better.  You want to create a thought that is so powerful for you that it stops you in your tracks, just like the I don’t want to lose my job or go to jail thought did.  This is called the Sacred Moment.



There is always a thought before the decision to eat and what we are seeking is the feeling we think we’ll get after eating relief, fullness, etc.  The next time you get the urge to overeat ask yourself, what thought caused me to want to eat? What feeling am I trying to avoid?


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