Understanding emotional eating and food addictions

There has been a fair bit written in the press in the last week about emotional eating.

Even the local radio shows have been interviewing people from various different health organisations, who seem to be accusing GP’s of offering no real support to people who believe they are suffering from some form of emotional eating disorder.

They claimed advice such as “go for a walk”, was about as much help as these people were given.

On the surface, this may seem like pretty poor advice but if you think about it, taking a nice stroll along the beach or in the countryside, will help improve your immediate mental and physical state. You’d probably then be less likely to have a chocolate binge and it may offer some short term respite.

The problem is, it’s not always easy to drag yourself out for a walk when all you want to do is eat the contents of an entire biscuit tin. Having an understanding of the connection between your emotions, the food you eat and the physiological effects of “binge eating”, is far more likely to help you.

It’s not quite as straight forward as reaching for a slice of cake every time you feel down.

One of the first mistakes people make about emotional eating is assuming that it’s purely emotion driven. It’s not. There’s a very real physiological reason why food makes you feel better: carbohydrates, especially simple ones like sugar, work on your primary serotonin pathway.

Serotonin is one of the neurochemicals that helps you feel happy and gives you a sense of wellbeing. Fat doesn’t work this way. Protein doesn’t work this way. But eating carbs makes you feel better. I for one will only want pizza and crisps if I have had to many wines on the weekend.

Sugar V Cocaine – which is more addictive?

People sometimes equate chocolate with cocaine. They’re not wrong. In fact, they’re more right than they know. Lab rats given the choice between cocaine and sugar picked the sugar. So many books have been written about how the salt-fat-sugar combo is destroying our once healthy nation. It’s also abused by the food industry, day in day out and adverts that we see on television for ‘healthy breakfast bars’ yuck! avoid avoid avoid! They are nothing but a lump of sugar! Not sure what to eat, have a read of my blog about eggs.

We have emotion running through our bodies every day. We get butterflies in our stomachs when we’re nervous. We get tension headaches when we’re stressed. We get that anxious knots in our stomach and chest experiencing a heartbreak. There is no way to separate our emotions from our bodies and therefore, to some level, all physical eating is emotional and vice versa. So can it be helped?

Don’t try to switch off your emotions

What I’ve found is that emotional eating only goes wrong when you stop eating emotionally. It’s when you turn off your emotions and go numb (like in a binge) or when you tell yourself that your emotions are bad or wrong and that you “shouldn’t” be feeling what you’re feeling. Then eating is suddenly an act of rebellion.

When you start telling yourself that you’re a stupid fat slob or “Oooh this is so bad! I shouldn’t be doing this! I’m never going to eat ice cream again! (After I polish off this tub and vow never to buy a Ben and Jerrys again) – or have you found yourself in the ‘Damn The Man’ situation where you eat every sweet thing in the house to get over your heart break, then vow to go on a diet to look the slimmest you could ever look! Really??

Shed any Guilt

We’ve all been there! or maybe just me in my flat eating Ben and Jerrys lol.. no laughing now! lol. I guess it comes down to that old saying ‘all in good moderation’. So next time you reach for a biccy, don’t beat yourself up about it. Enjoy it with no attachment of guilt. Just don’t use it as a way to make you happy every day. I don’t think we need to stop eating emotionally. I think we need to stop eating rebelliously.

Food is not bad. You don’t need to fight it. Now step away from the biscuit tin and go make a chicken salad

Rebecca x

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